Urban Cottage Bookshelf ❄︎ A Baker’s Dozen of Cookbooks for Gifting & A Giveaway

A Little Poolside Reading |© Urban Cottage Life.com

I love cooking and I love reading, so it’s no surprise that not only do I have a lot of cookbooks, but I read them like novels. There’s something about cozying up with a cup of coffee or tea and reading a new cookbook. I like the glimpses into the author’s life and kitchen, and their philosophy when it comes to cooking and baking.  I read it all: the resource sections, the header notes for the stories, and the full recipes to see if they appeal to me. Sometimes I even cook from my cookbooks, but not always — often I use them just for inspiration, comfort and enjoyment.

If there’s someone in your life who likes to cook, or someone who would like to learn, or maybe even someone that you hope will learn to cook, there just may be something on this list for them (or you!). I had a hard time limiting myself, so for the most part I stuck to recently published books and left off the ‘big names’ like Ina Garten (even though I have and love all her books).

As I sit here with a big stack of books next to me, I’m getting a little thrill from just how many of these authors I actually know through my membership in Food Bloggers of Canada. I get to rub shoulders with some truly talented people, and I’m happy to introduce some of them to you if you don’t know them already.

Disclaimer: I’m including links to these books at Chapters Indigo, but I receive no compensation for doing so; just making it easier for you to find them! With the exception of two books that I received as conference ‘swag,’ I purchased all the books myself. I’m under no obligation to anyone to include anything on this list.

Books by Canadian Food Bloggers

The Canning Kitchen by Amy Bronee

The Canning Kitchen Book CoverI had the pleasure of attending a launch event for Amy’s book in Guelph last summer. Reading the book got me all fired up about preserving, something I haven’t done much of. There are so many simple yet inventive recipes, both sweet and savoury. The clear instructions and chapters on Canning Kitchen Basics and Canning Kitchen Equipment put me at ease. I made Amy’s Blueberry Lime Jam (delicious!) and I’ve got my eye on Bing Cherry Barbecue Sauce. The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes

The Messy Baker by Charmian Christie

MessyBakerCOVER-500I reviewed this book last year, and it’s still one of my favourites. In fact, I featured the Cherry and Lemon Macaroon Meringues in the post celebrating the rebranding of this blog as Urban Cottage Life. I bought one to give a friend for Christmas this year, and I’ve got one to give away to a lucky reader! The Messy Baker: More Than 75 Delicious Recipes from a Real Kitchen

The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

Oh She Glows Book CoverEven if you’re not vegan, I think everyone should have at least a few vegan recipes in their repertoire. This cookbook has received high acclaim and I can see why: the recipes and photos are tempting and there’s a lot of helpful information. I gave a copy to my cousin who is vegan and she loves it! If you’re looking for a gift for a vegan, or someone who would like to explore vegan cooking, this is definitely one to consider. The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out 

Gatherings by Jan Scott & Julie Van Rosendaal

Gatherings Book CoverThis is a real-life guide to entertaining at home. Practical and accessible, with all sorts of party tips and recipes. With Jan and Julie by my side I think I could even face throwing the dreaded (for me) kid’s birthday party! The book is organized by type of event like Weekend Brunch or Snow Day. I made the Roasted Potatoes with White Cheddar for Easter brunch last year, and what can I say, my family raved! Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food

The UnDiet Cookbook by Meghan Telpner

The UnDiet Cookbook Book CoverIf you’re looking for a health-oriented cookbook that doesn’t advocate for any one way of eating, you’ll want to check out this one. The book is chock-full of information and written in a lively voice. The recipes are plant-based and gluten free, with flexible options for any diet. There are also chapters on beauty care (the Blind Me With Your White Teeth Whitener is now my go-to for sparkly teeth), entertaining and travel. The UnDiet Cookbook: 130 Gluten-Free Recipes for a Healthy and Awesome Life

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

Brown Eggs & Jam Jars Book CoverThe commitment to the concept of urban homesteading shines throughout this family-centered book. But no fear, you don’t need to keep chickens in your backyard to appreciate the principles behind Aimée’s wholesome and heartfelt approach to food. There are lots of tips for involving children in cooking, too. The book celebrates the seasons, and it’s given me a new appreciation for the magic that is maple syrup. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites

Other Cookbooks

Back to Baking by Anna Olsen

Back to Baking Book CoverThis is a comprehensive baking book, updated to include dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free and low-fat/low-sugar baking along with traditional recipes, developed for both novice and experienced bakers alike. I purchased my book at a charity fundraiser in London last year, and was happy to have the opportunity to chat with Anna as she signed it. My granddaughters would be jealous — they’re fans of her show, Sugar, just like Nana. Back To Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy

Real Sweet by Shauna Sever

Real Sweet Book CoverIf you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been drawn to using less refined sugars lately, like here and here. Not to mention here. So I was excited when this book exploring alternatives to refined white sugar was published earlier this year. I like Shauna’s writing style — she shares so much information in a friendly and accessible way. Her recipe for Toasted Coconut-Almond Meringue Bark was the inspiration for my Pomegranate Coconut Meringue Bark. Real Sweet: More Than 8- Crave-Worthy Treats Made With Natural Sugars

Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Vintage Cakes Book CoverHere’s a book that proves how much I like reading cookbooks: I bought it on vacation in Florida a few years ago and read it poolside. What? Doesn’t everyone do that? I loved reading about cakes and other baked goods that were popular in yesteryear, many of them still around today. I haven’t actually made anything from it yet,  but I think I’ll flip through it again later today. Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth

Thug Kitchen

Thug Kitchen Book CoverFirst things first: this cookbook is full of profanity. In fact, the subtitle is Eat Like You Give a F*ck. So, it won’t be for everyone. But it’s also full of kickass vegan recipes and rock-solid information. It was one of the hottest cookbooks of 2014 and may be perfect for someone on your list! In shameless namedropping mode, I’d just like to say that I had a drink with the two authors at the 2014 Food Bloggers of Canada conference. I’m so cool. Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

My Wishlist

There are two more of the many books by Canadian food bloggers that have caught my eye but haven’t yet made it onto my bookshelf (hint, hint!).  Seven Spoons: My Favourite Recipes for Any and Every Day by Tara O’Brady (on the Globe and Mail’s best cookbooks of 2015 list) is highly acclaimed for both the writing and the expanse of recipes across flavour profiles. Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce by Mairlyn Smith is the first cookbook using only Canadian-produced ingredients (Mairlyn’s unique combination of humour and serious knowledge is not to be missed!).

My Kitchen Year Book CoverFinally, I would also like to find Ruth Reichl’s new book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life under the tree on Christmas morning. I seriously love her writing, and I think I need to hear the story she tells about getting through a tough period in her life through cooking. This book is also on the Globe’s best cookbooks list this year.



The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, Amanda!

I have a signed copy of The Messy Baker by Charmian Christie to give away to one lucky reader from Canada*. Here’s what you need to do: leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite cookbook is, or which one you would most like to add to your collection. Simple, right? Be quick, the contest closes Monday, December 21 at 7 pm EST. I’ll randomly select the winner using random.org and will email you. You’ll have just 24 hours to respond with your mailing address and correctly answer a skill testing question (just keeping it legal). So, keep an eye on your inbox for mail from me! (It will be from Veranda Editorial, my business address since I’m having some trouble with my blog email.) If I don’t hear from you in 24 hours, I’ll move on to the next person on the list. I’m sure hoping this is all wrapped up before Christmas!

*With apologies to my readers in other countries, but shipping is expensive and my blog is a labour of love and not exactly a for-profit enterprise (more the opposite). So, I’m limiting this giveaway to readers with Canadian addresses. If someone from London wins, I just may deliver your book in person!



  1. Over the years I’ve managed to collect a wide variety of cookbooks. For space reasons, I donate those I can somewhat reluctantly part with – it’s difficult letting go.
    My favourite is recently acquired: “Make it Ahead” by Ina Garten, whom I love as well. It’s the 1st one of her books I just had to have. I now have my eye on “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof”. I’d also like Back to Baking by Anna Olsen. The date square recipe you highlighted, Marlene, is in competition with my mother-in-law’s reputation as her son’s favourite. Finally, I know it’s a long list but would love to add a signed copy of “The Messy Baker” to my wish list.
    Thanks so much for the opportunity…

    • I have “Make It Ahead” on my night table right now for evening reading, Sharon. I have all of Ina’s books (we’re on a first name basis, lol) — I love how she talks about entertaining and how she expresses her love for her husband. Good luck — maybe The Messy Baker will be next on your shelf!

  2. Marlene, I would most like to have the Vintage Cakes cookbook added to my collection! My favourite one that I use is from one of the churches that I grew up in that has all of those tasty recipes that our grandmas made!

  3. I always buy myself a cookbook to read on vacation! Oh I have so many and so many I want to add to my collection…. But I would have to say Nigella Lawsen books are my favourite “reading” cookbooks

    • Yes, Trish, I like reading Nigella’s books, too. “How to Eat” was such an eye-opener for me when I read it 15 years ago or so. I have How to Be a Domestic Goddess with the black and gold cover — it’s such a gorgeous book!

  4. Oh my God… Choosing my Favorite cookbook would be like choosing a Favorite child! I gave so many, and I collect them like they are going out of style. My all time go to book is the Gisslen Professional Cooking, I turn to that because, well, I’m a chef and that’s the book I learned from. I would live to have the 8th edition of it under my tree! (I have the 3rd edition.)

    • I know, J0-Ann, I love how Charmian’s humour shines throughout the book, as well as her love for her mother and her knowledge. As for the Vintage Cakes book, it really made for great vacation reading — such a lovely book with wonderful, nostalgic recipes.

  5. I’m a cookbook hoarder! I have soooo many and the thought of giving one up always tortures me. That one in one out rule doesn’t apply to cookbooks. Right?!
    I also like to read cookbooks back to front if there is a good story or I know the author. The last cookbook is “read” was the chef I completed my apprenticeship with, Jamie Kennedy. Great read, chef and cookbook.
    Favourite cookbook would be hard to choose…….depends what I’m looking for technique or inspiration.
    But I do have a couple of your picks on my wishlist. Ruth’s and Mairlyn.

    PS sorry I didn’t really answer the question….LOL!

  6. Vintage Cakes would be my pick, I love planning and making creative and fun cakes for all the birthdays in my home.

    • Sounds like a good choice to me, Adrienne. I wish I could get more into making birthday cakes … these days I seem to do more cupcakes. Cakes just don’t seem to go over big with my family – go figure! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I would love some cookbooks. I don’t actually have any. All my recipes are handed down from my Mom or I search online.

    • You can find pretty much recipe online these days, but to me there’s something about a cookbook in my hands that’s so satisfying. And instead of reading just one recipe, the whole book creates a story. A bit like listening to one song or the whole album, I suppose. Thanks for stopping by … maybe you’ll have your first cookbook on the shelf soon!

  8. I’ve borrowed Oh She Glows from our local library more than once – such a great cookbook! And any cookbook by Julie VR – she writes like she’s in the kitchen with me.

  9. Hi there, so hard to choose! They are all books is like to find under my tree! I’m a huge fan of Marilyn smith , so I’d love to get my hands on Homegrown! Anna Olsen is another one of my favs. I’d love to explore into some vegan recipes. Any of these books would be a joy to read.

    • BEJJ is a wonderful book, Amanda. I love how Aimée’s philosophy shines throughout the book but she never preaches about it. So many cookbooks are about converting readers to a specific way of cooking or eating. I’m going to do a more in-depth review of it sometime, maybe with a giveaway! Thank you for commenting.

  10. I love my cookbooks the same as you – they are friends and inspire me often. I love anything by Anna Olson yet I am intrigued by Vintage Cakes. Thanks for this opportunity.

  11. What a great collection of cookbooks, Mar. I’ve resorted to buying ebooks, for lack of shelf space. Besides, i can read one wherever I am because I’m never without my phone. It sure beats carrying a book bag. 🙂

    • I like ebooks for when I’m travelling too, although unless I’m going far I usually just take a library book. I rarely take a cookbook with me when I travel though, but I will buy one when I’m away as a memento of my trip. Beats an ashtray made out of a seashell! (Not that I even have any ashtrays, but there’s an allusion to travel souvenirs of old, lol.)

  12. And I thought I was the only one who read cookbooks like novels. I see that I am not alone! My current favorite is “Real Food – The Contemporary Mennonite Cookbook by Agneta Dyck. However, any new cookbook to read over Christmas would be great, Marlene.

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