For the no-nonsense cook: Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Knopf, $35)
A PBS cooking show star, restaurateur, prolific cookbook author, not to mention having some 40 years of experience cooking for family and friends, Lidia Bastianich has a down-to-earth style that gives cooks confidence and guarantees success. This book, written with her daughter Tanya, is geared for cooks who want to keep it quick, economical and easy, but without sacrificing any of the comforting goodness and big flavor we associate with home-style Italian cooking. Think pleasing pasta dishes like Penne with Ricotta and Mushrooms.
For those who like to pay it forward: Hedgebrook Cookbook: Celebrating Radical Hospitality by Denise Barr and Julie Rosten (She Writes Press, $24.95, available at cookbook.hedgebrook.org)
If you like your money to help a good cause, consider this worthy book. Hedgebrook, founded in 1988, is located on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, and provides two- to six-week residencies for female writers from around the world. The women are given the solitude to focus on their work during the day, but in the evening they gather in the farmhouse kitchen to share a home-cooked meal. This book is a compilation of some of the best-loved recipes for gatherings from Sunday brunch to dessert, including a lovely Banana Cardamom Bread spiced with rum-soaked currants and walnuts.
For cooks who love Old World-style traditional cooking: The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking by Elisabeth Luard (Melville House, $35)
New York Times writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman calls this "the best cookbook no one's heard of" — but not for long. First published in 1987 and reissued this year, this definitive collection of more than 500 traditional recipes from 25 European countries is gaining new admirers for award-winning British writer Elisabeth Luard. Luard, whose interest in peasant food began during a childhood spent abroad with her diplomat parents, calls this collection "the mother-recipes from which all European cookery springs." Recipes run the gamut from Spanish grilled prawns to English cottage pie to Romanian chicken pot roast. The snippets of history included with each recipe are a bonus.