So, I've been asked (again) what books I recommend for brewers. This isn't really an easy question, as there are so many books out there, and so many brewers, with so many systems, and so many different levels of experience. I'll give a rundown of what I'm telling people lately, and you can make up your own minds...
First and foremost, there's John Palmer's How To Brew. This book is an absolute must. Yes, I know a version of it is available online; do yourself a favor and buy the hard-copy (there's an amazon link off to your right...). Palmer goes through all the steps of brewing, starting with a simple extract brew, then leading you up through extract-with-grains and partial mash to going completely all-grain. It's very informative, explaining why the different steps do the things that they do, and which things exactly you'll want to do with which brewing style. There are recipes. There are some quite interesting nomographs, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. There are even descriptions of how to make some of your own gear (much like what I've built, although certainly there are others out there who can make it look prettier). If I could only have one book on brewing, this would certainly be in the running for 'the One.'
The second one in my list is by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer, and is called Brewing Classic Styles. This one doesn't really tell you much about how to brew, but it certainly will help you in deciding what to brew. It gives (at least) one proven recipe (in extract and all-grain versions) for every style of beer listed by the BJCP. I've brewed a half-dozen or so of these, and thus far they've all turned out fantastically. The recipes give a good starting point for recipes--by which I mean, if you're trying to brew a particular style, you need only 'tweak' the recipe to fit your setup; if you're trying something new, you can find a recipe that's close, and build on it from there. Once you have your brewing system pretty well established, and are comfortable with brewing beers, pick this one up--you'll be glad you did.
Third in the 'Grand Triumvirate' is Ray Daniels' Designing Great Beers. This one again is for the more advanced brewer, not so much for the beginner. It goes into many of the styles in pretty good depth, analyzing a bevy of award-winning brews from each style. It was from this book that I first learned of the "bittering to gravity ratio" concept, which has actually informed some of my brewing decisions for the last several years (although I haven't really mentioned it much). It's not exactly a smooth read, being slightly technical, but if you want to improve your brewing, it's certainly worth the time.
That's all I have time for at the moment; I'll cover some more of my favorite books in later posts.