Let's get holly jolly! Here are the books I think you N E E D to buy! Some are new, some are old. But all of them are well worth owning. You can trust me when I say this. I actually don't like owning a lot of books, and every 6 months or so I purge. But all of these, I consider keepers!
They are listed alphabetically rather than in order of preference.
By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
All of the cookbooks by the BAKED boys are excellent. But the first is still my fave: with Oprah's favorite brownies, perfect chocolate chip cookies, and more, this is an excellent baking book with tried and true recipes.
By Andris Lagsdin and Jessie Oleson Moore
Full disclosure: I co-wrote this book. So I am definitely keeping it! But you should buy it too, and not just because I co-wrote it. You should buy it because baking on a slab of steel really can up the ante of your homemade sweets and savories and deliver restaurant-caliber results.
By Ann Hodgman
I know that this sounds like a funny thing to say, but you should buy this cookbook even if you never intend on making a single thing from it. Because while the recipes are great (read: PACKED WITH BUTTER), what really "makes" this book is the headnotes and writing style, which is incredibly hilarious. Like, bust a gut laughing. I want to be best friends with the author every time I flip through it. It's available with different cover art; I pictured the version I own.
I know I said I wasn't playing favorites, but this is probably my favorite cookbook, yes, in my entire collection. There's just something about this book. The recipes are simple and sweet and old fashioned, and perfect. It's where I found the recipe for bonbon cookies, still one of the most popular cookie recipes on this site. Bonus points for the technicolor photos that harken to another era. If you can, try to find a copy from the original printing in 1963 (not hard to find on eBay or Amazon).
By Stella Parks
Everything Stella Parks touches turns to pastry gold. She's a superstar! This book is brilliant, and you can nerd out or keep it simple with her serious but inclusive approach. It's the #1 seller on Amazon for a reason. Buy it and see for yourself how amazing her recipes are!
By Christina Lane
Christina is the blogger behind Dessert For Two, and this is her first book. I love the simplicity and small scale of the recipes, but I also love her clever wit. You'll find yourself halfway in love with her by the time you've read the intro, but the recipes will really seal the deal. Already have this great book? Good, you should. Now, buy her other books; here's her author page so you can browse.
By Dorothy Kern
When I featured an excerpt recipe for sugar cookie dough stuffed white chocolate cups from this book on my site in 2014, it went bonkers on the interwebz. People loved it! That's a testament to the creative and incredible Dorothy Kern (also the blogger behind Crazy For Crust), who masterminded this volume which every fun-loving baker should own.
by Erin Gardner
So, Erin is an incredible cake baker and decorator with a stratospheric internet following (check out Erin Bakes, please, right now). But in spite of her otherworldly creations, this book truly is perfect for the cake decorating newbie. Erin breaks it down from start to finish, from making the perfect cake canvas to adorning it in the most beautiful and magical ways possible. BONUS: THERE ARE LOTS OF UNICORNS IN THIS BOOK.
A classic! Everyone should own this book, in my opinion. For best results, scour Amazon or eBay for an older edition; bonus points if it comes with some handwriting or flour on the pages!
Oh yeah, I adore this book. When I am trying a new recipe or making something new that I've never baked before, I always go to this volume first for ideas. More times than not, it has a recipe for the Thing In Question or points me in the right direction. A solid and reliable volume; no wonder it won a James Beard Award!
by Dini Kodippili
If you follow Dini's blog, The Flavor Bender, then you know what a creative powerhouse she is, both with baking and with cocktail-making. This book is a love letter to cake, with a robust cheesecake chapter and plenty of surprising "reveal" cakes with clever fillings.
by Deb Perelman
Everyone loves Smitten Kitchen! Myself included. There are plenty of reasons to love this book, as well as every other one she's written. It's anecdotal, not preachy, and yields great recipe results. What more could you hope for? See for yourself what all the hype is about.
Am I going to include my own new book on this list? YOU BET YOUR BOTTOM DONUT, BABY! But it's not just because I wrote it. It's because I honestly believe that it's a special book that will add magic and delight to your day. Truly!
by Robert Sharp and Nicole Weston
OK, so you probably know Nicole as the talented baking wizardess behind the Baking Bites blog. She has a bunch of ice cream and baking books, which you should definitely buy (here's her author page to find those). But one of my personal favorites is the tiki drink book she co-wrote. I love learning about the history of food and drink, and there are plenty of interesting stories in this book. Plus, the tiki drinks are just so pretty and HAPPY! There are plenty of tiki fans out there; if you know one (or if you are one), you need this book!