Cookbooks 2009

By Bonnie S. Benwick

What makes any cookbook a good bet for giving? The ones with celebrity-chef authors, low-fat recipes and coffee-table finesse often fill the critics' top-10 lists. But in the Food section's holiday cookbook guide this year, we're offering 32 titles that, while they may not have made a splash on Amazon, are full of dishes you'll really want to make.

Among the trends for which we give thanks: Baking books were out in especially large numbers in 2009, which accounts for the hefty field of options listed below. Cookbooks that offer cuisines of the world are getting increasingly adept at providing sources for ingredients and recipes that are streamlined. And no one should feel guilty about curling up with a good cookbook instead of a fiction bestseller at bedtime; the following choices tell stories, relate history and can change your life, one meal at a time.

Photos: By Bill O'Leary and Jonathan Ernst for the Washington Post, and courtesy of, Ten Speed Press, URJ Press, Storey, Clarkson Potter and Sterling Epicure.

Web designer: Noel Smart; Web editor: Sarah Marston