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What's the ultimate cookbook? If you can only pick one, you can't go wrong with How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  This is the book you give someone when they first move out on their own.  It is also something you give yourself if you're tired of searching for recipes on Pinterest and want a one-stop resource of yummy meals and foolproof techniques.

If you want to be truly  inspired about cooking?  Check out Cooked: a Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan.  I love the way Pollan writes about food.  He can make the art of breadmaking seem like the secret of eternal bliss.

All of the cookbooks below are on my kitchen shelves.  They're grease-splattered and wine-stained.  I use at least one of them every week.  Together they make up my cooking library of great reference books, as well as specialized cookbooks for low carb, paleo, grain-free, vegetarian and autoimmune disease.  Food is alchemy!  Let the kitchen be your workshop and your laboratory!  Mostly, let these books take the mystery out of cooking and bring joy to your meal making.