Whichever holidays you celebrate in the next month, gifts are often involved. And sometimes they are even if you celebrate no holidays at all.

We often gravitate toward giving gifts we love, meaning gifts we might like to receive.

People who cook often like to receive cookbooks, since some of them are big and expensive and we often tend not to spend that kind of money on ourselves.

If you don’t see your favorite cook using a cookbook, don’t let that slow you down. And don’t be afraid of giving a cookbook because you think it would be like giving an ironing board to a loved one.

Most of us read these books for the stories around the food and the lives of the author/chefs and occasionally use the recipes. Cookbooks usually make their readers smile.

So I made a tour of Sonoma’s cookbook sources: Readers’ Books, Sign of the Bear and Williams-Sonoma. They all recommend a different selection, so check them all out for your local choices. And, please, do shop locally.


Jude Sales, manager of Readers’ Books, recommends her favorites: “Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients” by the editors at Cooks Illustrated; “Appetites” by Anthony Bourdain; “A Recipe for Cooking” by Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell; “Food 52 – A New Way to Dinner” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs; “Stuff Every Cook Should Know” by Joy Manning; “Mozza at Home” by Nancy Silverton; “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen; and “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan.

Readers’ Books is at 130 E. Napa St. 939-1779 or readersbooks.com.


Sign of the Bear Cookware shop co-owner Laura Havlek says with her typical enthusiasm, “The best holiday cookbook thing we’ll have in stock is a whole team of us who love cookbooks and cooking and matching great, fresh, delicious, inspiring books to delight your particular dear ones. The best thing about cookbooks is giving an experience.” Havlek says they’ll have “the usual powerhouses”: Alton Brown’s “Everyday Cook”; “Barefoot Contessa’s Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten; Ayesha Curry’s “The Seasoned Life;” “Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook” by staff of Thug Kitchen; the standards from Thomas Keller; “The Girl & the Fig Cookbook” by Sondra Bernstein; or Janet Fletcher’s “Cheese Course.”

Sign of the Bear Kitchenware is at 435 First St. W. 996-3722.


Sonoma’s Williams-Sonoma carries signed copies of Ina Garden’s “Cooking for Jeffrey”; Alton Brown’s “Everyday Cook”; Mario Batali’s “Big American Cookbook” with photos ironically by Quentin Bacon; Ayesha Curry’s “A Seasoned Life” and Martha Stewart’s new “Vegetables” book. Sometimes these are signed on a page, sometimes they are signed on stickers placed toward the front of the book.

Williams-Sonoma is at 605 Broadway. 939-8974. Williams-sonoma.com.


Some of the fun books I like include Alex Prud’homme’s “The French Chef in America – Julia Child’s Second Act.” Prud’homme is Julia Child’s grandnephew who wrote her biography, “My Life in France,” and totally captured her voice. Also check out Marcus Samuelsson’s “Red Rooster Harlem” book, complete with playlists he serves with certain dishes and his unusual life story from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem.