I am a good cook who happens to love working out of cookbooks. What I have found over time is that the difference between a good and bad cookbook is just about as wide as the difference between a good and bad cook. My favorite cookbooks include a lot of recipes I think sound appetizing, which are not too complicated, yet always have good results.
For the past couple of years, I have made Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking my bible. I use it 3 or 4 times a week. I also like Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa books and have an old Marcia Adams book, Cooking from Quilt Country that I sometimes use.
The other night I went to a friend's house and had a wonderful meal she cooked using a recipe in Sunday Supper at Luque's. I was excited to buy it because she spoke highly of it, but when I looked it up on Amazon, the reviews seemed to say that, while the results are excellent, most of the recipes require a lot of work, which is not my thing.
I'd love suggestions of cookbooks you love with great recipes (I am trying to steer clear of pure Italian, since Marcella already has that space covered, but mediterranean influence or straight "American" is fine), many of which are not terribly labor intensive, that usually turn out good if you follow instructions.