If you are at all interested in cooking, especially Italian cooking, I would highly reccomend the book "Heat" by Bill Buford. The author spent a year apprenticing in Mario Batali's NY restaurant & Italy and writes about the experience. However, if you think Mario Batali is a cuddly lovable guy and want to keep thinking that as you watch him on Iron Chef, then don't read it. The most amazing part of the book for me was that Mario Batali & one other person actually consumed a whole case of wine (12 bottles) in one evening. That blows my mind.
But the best parts were when the author went to Italy to apprentice. That's definitely something I've always dreamed of and I am glad I had this hit of reality to know what it would actually be like and how many thousands of foreigners come to Italy each year to do that. They even have a special visa to allow you in the country to work for Italian restaurants for free. So many professional chefs are there working for free, its actually quite difficult to get positions.
I have been immersed in gourmet cooking books lately, between "Heat" and "The Man who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten. (Who is a judge on Iron Chef. Notice a trend here? His book is great too.)
It really makes me want to cook, which of course I have little time for. But the other day I grabbed a container of baby artichokes and followed the recipe to make "baby artichoke saute" as a sauce for ravioli and it was absolutely disgusting. Sigh. So much for my culinary adventure. Stubbornly, I still want to try the marinated baby artichoke recipe, I just didn't have the 2 cups of champagne vinegar the recipe called for the other day.