In a year when home cooking enjoyed a renaissance, albeit by necessity, books in a variety of flavors offered something for all tastes. Our food writers selected their five faves, and there also are local books and kids' books you'll want to add to your collection, too, because you can never have too many cookbooks.

Rick's 5 Favorites

"The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food," by Marcus Samuelsson

Although it has been 17 years(!) since he closed Aquavit, his downtown Minneapolis restaurant, it still feels as if Minnesotans can claim the gifted Samuelsson as one of our own. And we should, with pride, because Samuelsson's seventh cookbook (if you don't own "The Soul of a New Cuisine" and "The Red Rooster Cookbook," you should), written with Osayi Endolyn, is a fascinating, deeply researched journey into the primary role that Black foodways plays in American cooking. Readers are introduced to a rich talent pool of contemporary Black chefs, and their diverse work comes alive in nearly 150 recipes. It's the kind of cookbook that's equally at home on the nightstand and in the kitchen. (Voracious, $38)

"Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings" by Susan Spungen

The time will come when friends and family will once again gather around the table, and when that happens, this thoughtful beauty will be an inspiring resource. Spungen once ran the test kitchens at Martha Stewart Living, and she channels that magazine's clean, contemporary ethos into a bevy of shareable starters, entrees and desserts. Spungen's approach is, well, approachable; no well-rehearsed photo stylist techniques, fancy equipment or deeply stocked pantries are required to turn out Instagram-worthy dishes that will quickly become dinner party centerpieces. (Avery, $35)

"How to Dress an Egg: Surprising and Simple Ways to Cook Dinner," by Ned Baldwin and Peter Kaminsky

All of this practical cooking know-how could serve as an informal syllabus for a culinary school curriculum, but it never comes across as Educational with a capital "E." After years as an avid home cook, Baldwin's avocation became his profession, culminating in New York City's Houseman Restaurant, and that trajectory makes him an ideal translator of commercial kitchen shorthand into the language of the home cook. Collaborating with Kaminsky, the longtime cookbook guru, Baldwin focuses on 20 dinner basics — shrimp, eggplant, cod, pork roast and, yes, hard-cooked eggs — followed by a handful of can't-miss recipes that place those ingredients in the spotlight. (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

"Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France," by Melissa Clark

Legions of New York Times readers have become better cooks due to the insight, enthusiasm and support that Clark folds into her weekly "A Good Appetite" column. When she opens this invaluable book with the words, "I can't really speak French, but I cook in French," she's speaking for countless American Francophiles. Along with offering foolproof formulas for tarte flambée, brandade, brandied chestnut soup, cheese soufflés, salade Niçoise and other classics, Clark doesn't shy away from playfully twisting tradition (witness croque monsieur casserole and ratatouille sheet-pan chicken), and her straightforward approach to recipe writing works for both novice and experienced cooks. (Clarkson Potter, $37.50)

"East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes From Bangalore to Beijing," by Meera Sodha

"Vegan constraints are a catalyst for creativity," writes Sodha in this user-friendly collection of recipes from her vegan cooking column in the Guardian newspaper, and then she spends the next 300 pages proving her point. Sodha introduces her audience to faraway places but she never loses sight of what's available, ingredients-wise, in everyday supermarkets. Anyone looking to discover the possibilities lurking inside the wonderful world of vegetables will find Sodha to be an encouraging and knowledgeable guide. (Flatiron Books, $35)

Sharyn's 5 favorites

"In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers From the Eight African Countries That Touch the Indian Ocean," by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen

Matriarchs get their due in this gorgeous primer on East African cuisine and the culinary wisdom that grandmothers from that region hold. Chapters focus on eight countries, each with a border on the Indian Ocean. Somalia is one of them; that's where chef and author Hassan was born. To share the flavors of her childhood, she turns to the bibis who maintained recipes across time, colonialism, war and emigration. Each chapter begins with interviews with grandmothers, including one Somali woman who lives in Minneapolis. Make the fragrant Somali spice blend xawaash and throw it on everything. (Ten Speed Press, $35)

"Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Aperitifs, and Café Traditions of France," by David Lebovitz

Surely the most popular cookbooks these days must be the ones that transport you to another place. This one will send you right to a Parisian sidewalk cafe. Lebovitz, an American chef living in Paris, is a go-to resource on modern-day French food culture for English-speaking audiences. In "Drinking French," he helps home mixologists re-create almost anything one could get at a Saint-Germain-des-Prés corner cafe, from the dense and deeply warming chocolat chaud to the bright and fruity rhum arrangé. Even more satisfying than the recipes are his writings on cafe culture, including the hilarious admission that even a fluent French speaker struggles with anxiety when trying to order a glass of wine. (Ten Speed Press, $28)

"Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings," by Yossy Arefi

Who knew there was a term for the slow nibbling one does every time they amble past a cake on the kitchen counter, slicing small slivers like it never happened, until the cake gradually disappears? Not that we needed Arefi's permission, but it helps to have a book that approves of the way we slyly peck away at baked goods. "Snacking Cakes" not only acknowledges it, but gives us the tools to do it. It's stuffed with easy, one-bowl recipes for cakes, with lots of flavor variations and tips on using whatever size pans one has on hand. Just try not trimming off another tiny piece of powdered doughnut cake, we dare you. (Clarkson Potter, $24)

"Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews," by Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin

This cookbook with a splash of irony offers the culinary secrets of a San Francisco deli, but in the style of "Bar Mitzvah Disco" — the seminal, nostalgia-fueled ode to 1970s Jewish coming-of-age parties. Open it for the classics from Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, such as brisket and babka. Stay for modern updates to bubbe's food, fun illustrations and comedic essays on all kinds of Jewish rites of passage. There's even a chapter on cooking for non-Jewish in-laws, and a tribute to the Chinese food many Jewish families order on Christmas — cold sesame noodles with everything bagel chili oil for the win. (Chronicle, $30)

"The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies," by Erin Jeanne McDowell

This is not a cookbook. This is a master's degree in pie. McDowell, a New York Times and Food52 contributor, spells out every possible path one could take in the kitchen to end up in the same place: fabulous pie. While one recipe will send you on a choose-your-own-adventure journey through the book to get the instructions for filling, dough ingredients, mixing options, fancy edges and more, you'll come out the other side a much smarter baker. Her blueberry swamp pie is an instant hit, but don't skip over the savories — Reuben pie on pumpernickel crust is next on our list. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35)

Shop (and read) local

"100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen," by Sarah Kieffer

This is a must for anyone interested in baking and eating cookies (isn't that everyone?). Kieffer, an enterprising blogger with a devoted following, has obviously captured a moment, because this recently released title is selling like gangbusters. And with good reason: Kieffer crafts enormously appealing recipes, starting with a series of should-be-patented formulas for thin, wrinkled, crispy-chewy "pan-banging" cookies, with versions that range from chocolate chip to toasted sesame to Snickerdoodle. There are tons of gotta-bake bar cookies, too. There's seemingly no end to Kieffer's talents, because she also knows how to use a camera. (Chronicle Books, $27.50)

"The 30-Minute Paleo Cookbook," by Stephanie Meyer

Along with overseeing a Minneapolis-based meal planning company and maintaining a nutrition-focused cooking blog (, Meyer has produced this user-friendly gateway to the Paleo diet, which avoids most dairy, sugar and wheat, emphasizing the hunt-and-gather foods from the Paleolithic era. Her uncomplicated recipes — a hash brown skillet dinner, a potato-caramelized onion frittata, fish tacos with roasted pineapple, orange-beef-broccoli stir fry and 90 or so others — target a wide range of appetites. Cook your way through it, and you just might find yourself going the Paleo way. (Rockridge Press, $16.99)

"Fig," by Michelle Courtright

Fig & Farro, Courtright's plant-based Uptown restaurant, sadly did not survive the pandemic, but this strikingly photographed effort (the work of Ellen Hughes) is a memento of that enterprise. The book is a valuable repository of some of the restaurant's signature dishes, including blueberry cinnamon rolls, wild mushroom ravioli, Buffalo cauliflower and biscuits with mushroom gravy, and its handful of essays serves as a welcome reminder of the restaurant's intentional approach to sustainability and climate advocacy. ($28)

"Land of 10,000 Plates: Stories and Recipes From Minnesota," by Patrice Johnson

One of many reasons to pick up this just-released title is the way it views the state's iconic Tater Tot hot dish through the prism of Hmong and African viewpoints. As she enthusiastically explores food cultures from around the state, Johnson, a Minnesota native and the author of 2017's "Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions," also shares entertaining stories and compelling recipes from her own culinary heritage. Spam-topped lefse pizza, anyone? (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $24.95)

"Camp Cocktails: Easy, Fun and Delicious Drinks for the Great Outdoors," by Emily Vikre

Plugged-in tourists headed to Duluth — those over the age of 21, anyway — know that a visit to Vikre Distillery is a must. Vikre, who owns the Canal Park destination with her husband, Joel, funnels her considerable expertise into a useful mixology-under-the-stars handbook, with libations tailored to backpacking ("Flask Vieux Carré") and congregating around the campfire ("Pontoon Life"). The photos (also by Vikre) will make you want to pitch a tent and reach for a cocktail shaker, and the book is packed with practical tips for bartenders who have left their tools of the trade at home. (Harvard Common Press, $26.99)

Rick Nelson

Books for kids of all ages

"Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks," by Melissa Clark and Daniel Gercke

If getting your kid (or spouse) to put their phone down during dinner is a challenge, just embrace it. Clark, a food writer for the New York Times, leans in to the must-document-everything impulse in this cookbook for advanced young cooks, with tips and tricks on how to get Instagram-worthy shots of their creations. (Hint: Use natural light and clean your lens.) The book also has a nice selection of recipes, giving it the dual purpose of increasing culinary literacy by demystifying terms like beat, toss, whip, scrape and knead. It helps that the finished results — like a "levitating" Dutch baby — look great in photos, too. (Penguin Random House, $24)

"Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie: A Thanks­giving Celebration," by Jack Bishop

Thanksgiving has passed, but there's a universality in this illustrated story about a young picky eater who decides to be a little more daring. Guests who come over for the holiday each bring a pie, and they offer a little history behind them: ruffled milk pie, chess pie, millionaire's pie. Bishop, the chief creative officer of America's Test Kitchen, wrote the story, and he clearly mines ATK's recipe database to introduce Peyton to the versatile dessert. When she finally takes a bite of her mom's apple pie, it's almost as triumphant as the finale of "Green Eggs and Ham." There's a bonus recipe, too. (America's Test Kitchen Kids, $17)

"Every Night Is Pizza Night," by J. Kenji López-Alt

If you've ever turned to López-Alt for his expertise on pizza-making, you might see a bit of the author in this illustrated story's protagonist, Pipo. She's a young chef whose one and only dish is pizza, because it's the "best" food. But in a bout of surprising maturity, she decides to explore other people's "best" foods, and discovers bibimbap, tagine, dumplings and more throughout her apartment building and neighborhood. The book introduces budding food lovers to a world of cuisines, and comes with a pizza recipe at the end, just in case. (Norton, $18)

"Milk Bar: Kids Only," by Christina Tosi

Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar bakeries, rose to fame by re-creating desserts that hark back to childhood, when cereal and rainbow sprinkles were practically food groups. It only makes sense that she'd distill that wonder for box cake and Rice Krispies Treats to actual kids. The recipes are easy — many of them don't require a flame — but don't dumb down technique or flavor. Yes, there are treats nodding to her famous "compost" cookies (try it in the form of pancakes), and hidden bananas are a fun and gooey surprise in her yummy "monkey in the middle" muffins. (Clarkson Potter, $23)

"My First Cookbook: Fun Recipes to Cook Together," by America's Test Kitchen Kids

The littlest hands can make kitchen magic with a little guidance — and helpful visual tutorials of every step. This collection of recipes from America's Test Kitchen are for the youngest cooks just starting out, with some parental assistance. Melt chocolate and dip banana slices into it. Roll up no-bake energy bites. Or get a little more advanced, baking chicken tenders or flipping pancakes. Any kid (and even some adults) will gain new confidence in the kitchen with these straightforward, photo-based guides to cooking. (America's Test Kitchen Kids, $20)

Sharyn Jackson