You really can’t go wrong with any Elizabeth Zimmermann book for a knitter. I think a beginner might be a little frustrated with her chatty, somewhat vague style but anyone willing to throw a few brain cells into the ring will get a lot out of it. My current favorites are the Knitter’s Almanac and The Opinionated Knitter. I enjoy simply reading them, even when I am not looking for a project to knit.
The Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques
by Nancie Wiseman
This is a book I come back to time and again. Many things are explained in a clear concise manner, such as different (and matching) cast ons/offs and increases/decreases. This book also contains the only written instructions for kitchener stitch that I have come across that actually make sense to my brain. There are also other helpful tidbits and great photographs.
The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns
The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns
by Ann Budd
These books are a great jumping off point when you have an idea for a hat or pair of mittens with a favorite stitch pattern or colorwork design. Do a gauge swatch, find the numbers, and add in your pattern. I used the glove pattern earlier this year to turn a sock cuff into a glove cuff by adding a hand and fingers using the numbers given for my gauge!
New Pathways for Sock Knitters
by Cat Bordhi
This is a mind-bending collection of sock patterns. It is amazing that the unusual construction methods all result in wearable socks, but they do! Another book to make you think, and produce some very unique socks. Probably not for the new sock knitter - unless you love a good challenge.
Knitting New Scarves
by Lynne Barr
Think scarves are boring? This book looks at them in a new light, with sculptural design elements and unusual textures. I really enjoy the eye-candy in this book. It is very inspiring and relaxing to me to page through and look at the pleasing photographs and layout. One thing however, the typeface is a little small when you are actually trying to use a pattern, and I find it helpful to make an enlarged working copy. Besides, you wouldn’t want to write directly in this gorgeous book anyway!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorites; they are the books I have turned to the most lately for help or inspiration. I think I will try to do a post of my favorite pattern books soon as well. There are some great ones out there.