I firmly believe that every kitchen needs a copy of Joy of Cooking:
I believe I have the 2006 edition. My mom has a newer edition and one that’s gotta be from the 70s, and it’s neat to compare the two (not to mention see which recipes/pages have the most food splotches on them – one of my favorite things about cookbooks). I use Joy mainly as a kitchen reference guide. I can’t remember going through it to find something to make for dinner, but I can think of a myriad of times that I’ve used it to look up a fact or technique I needed to know while cooking.
My favorite use of the JOC was when one of my college roommates got a few pheasants after her dad’s hunting trip and we had to break them down ourselves to cook! Ann got on the phone with her dad, and I’m sure one of us could’ve pulled out our laptop for more instructions, but I went straight to the Joy of Cooking and learned about the finer points of preparing fowl.
I also highly recommend the Moosewood cookbooks. I don’t actually own any myself, but I’ve spent a lot of hours copying recipes out of my mom’s onto 4×6 cards. Wonderful healthy vegetarian recipes – you can get a huge variety out of these cookbooks.
Lately I’ve gotten into checking cookbooks out from the library. Books I wouldn’t necessarily buy – like Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, or cookbooks from my favorite TV chefs like Giada and Ina Garten. I copy the recipes I want, and consider buying the book for myself if it’s full of a lot of winners. But more often then not, I just return the books after getting 3 or 4 great ideas. Gotta love the library system.
However, if I had tons of money to spend I would LOVE to have a huge cookbook collection. Just something about a wall full of possibilites, you know?