Like wine books, books about cheese tend to be encyclopedias of dubious use in an impractical format. Who thinks of cheese alphabetically? Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials, the author’s fourth book about cheese, is broad in scope, but the simple organization by style (fresh, semisoft, soft-ripened, surface-ripened, etc.) is terrific. Styles of cheese have a lot more in common with each other than cheese from a particular country or animal, so Werlin’s able to offer advice that’s general but useful. (How to store a hard cheese? Wax paper, followed by plastic wrap, with a damp paper towel in an airtight container.) Besides, most people encounter cheese at the cheese counter, and this is a great way to navigate your way around. If you’re game, she’s got some well-thought-out exercises to help you learn. (To understand what nutty means on a washed-rind cheese, she suggests a little tasting experiment with a variety of cheeses and nuts.) Recipes, too.

Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese (with 50 Recipes), $24.95

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