Another season, another crop of books to help us all grow as home cooks. Now is always a good time to try something new.

Cookbooks sometimes are big, heavy tomes with beautiful photography that we browse, ooh, and aah, but never use when we’re in the kitchen. That’s OK. That use of cookbook is just as valid as books that inspire action and practicality. My grandmother, a wonderful home cook for almost 80 years, would snuggle into her living room reading chair with a cookbook for reading. A good food book can inspire dreaming as you lounge on the porch or by the pool.

Other books are chock full of tantalizing, not-too-crazy recipes that stir you to whip out the mixing bowl, and that’s great.Check out how Chowhounds weigh in on the cookbook of the month, every month.

These books were released in time for your summer menu plans, offering multi-cultural meals, salads, burgers, sweets, and vegan dishes.  Go forth, read, gaze, and cook.

Smoke and Pickles | Buy Now


Chef, restaurateur, and author Eddie Lee embodies all the latest trends in one person by just being himself. Both the renaissance of Southern cuisine and Brooklyn DIY emerge in this book detailing curing, smoking, pickling, and fermenting. Not only that, there’s the Korean craze too. It’s comes honestly: Lee was raised in Brooklyn by Korean immigrant parents and he lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he runs his multiple James Beard-nominated restaurant, 610 Magnolia. A former Top Chef competitor, he stuffed 130 recipes in this book, such as miso-smothered chicken, collards and kimchi, and braised beef kalbi with soft grits and scallions. Buy it here.

Mighty Salads | Buy Now


The Food52 editorial team created another beauty with this salad book, published by Penguin Random House in April. Sure, you can toss a few items in a bowl and have a fine salad, but with these recipes, you can create a meal that’s as filling and tempting as a taco feast or pasta extravaganza. Salad is just the platform for all sorts of crazy combinations, such as a mushroom and mixed grains salad with carrot-harissa vinaigrette, which yes, does have a leafy green in it — Swiss chard. Besides grains, the salads can be heavy with meat, while others are light. Several recipes don’t contain any leafy greens. For summer, the fresh corn cakes with crab-tomato salad sounds particularly refreshing. Buy it here.

The World is Your Burger | Buy Now


Now is the time to grant your friend who’s berserk over burgers this 432-page encyclopedic book with 250 illustrations detailing this dish’s history and culture, from White Castle to Daniel Boulud. Juicy burgers grilled over charcoal outdoors are arguably the best way to make this meaty main. So summer will get the reader in the mood even more. Author David Michaels has been obsessed about burgers since he was a boy. This is not so much a  cookbook, although there are 12 recipes in there, plus details on how to select and create all the fixings. Buy it here.

NYC Vegan | Buy Now


Summertime can be too hot to eat a heavy, meaty dish, and you want something a little lighter. Published in May, this book by Michael Suchman and Ethan Ciment can be the answer, especially if you are totally vegan already, and you want to enjoy all the iconic dishes that New York City has to offer. Make New York-style bagels, knishes, classic New York-style pizza, latkes, Brooklyn egg creams, New York cheesecake, black-and-white cookies, and dishes inspired by immigrants from all over the world, because no American place is more of a melting pot than this city. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this book, but it may inspire you to cook more meatless meals when you see how filling and creative you can be without animal products. Buy it here.

Bakeless Sweets | Buy Now


We were won over by two words: Nutella fluff. That’s all it took. Plus, we can’t have a round up of our favorite books without including at least one selection devoted to dessert. What better sweets cookbook during hot weather than one that requires no cooking? Bakeless Sweets by Faith Durand, executive editor of The Ktchn, tempts us with 125 recipes, from butterscotch pudding and panna cotta to icebox cake and cookies that don’t need to go in the oven. Most of the recipes are gluten-free, too. Score! Buy it here.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at
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