So here are some book titles that cater to new or inexperienced cooks and don't assume you already know what they're talking about:
Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics: Learning to Cook with Confidence (Betty Crocker) by Betty Crocker Editors (Spiral-bound - Sep 16, 1998) Highly rated and praised for not assuming anything when teaching beginners how to cook.
I Don't Know How to Cook Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can't Mess Up (Paperback)
by Mary-Lane Kamberg
The Absolute Beginner's Cookbook: or, How Long Do I Cook a 3-Minute Egg? (Hardcover)
by Jackie Eddy (Author), Eleanor Clark ---Note, though this got mostly five stars at Amazon, at least one person said it had terminology that the absolute novice might not understand and it doesn't define those terms, terms like "dice" (she was confused about what size the vegetables should be when cut) "saucepan" (she was picturing something shallow like a skillet and so did her sister--cultural difference maybe?) and "simmer." I would agree that a glossary of terms is a good idea because beginners come at all different levels--some of us heard and watched good cooks and picked some of that up, others didn't.
Everyday Cooking for Beginners: Break that kitchen in! (Paperback)
by Vineeth Subramanyam (Author) This got good reviews as well and has some international recipes and Indian fusion recipes. I may get it just for that!
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cooking--for Guys (Paperback)
by Tod Dimmick (Author) I was thinking of both my husband and a friend's husband who needs some help learning basic cooking techniques. My husband is a reluctant cook and only makes one thing. I am reminded of the article I read about how widowers decline faster than widows because they often don't know how to take care of themselves around the house. I think everyone should be able to do some basic cooking as a survival skill. This was highly rated.
The Healthy College Cookbook: Quick. Cheap. Easy. (Paperback)
by Alexandra Nimetz (Author), Jason Stanley (Author), Emeline Starr (Author) also highly rated, might make a good gift for a child leaving home whether for college or just getting their first place. Good for both carnivores and vegetarians--sections for each. There's also a series called "Starving Student" and one of those is for vegetarians.
Where's Mom Now That I Need Her?: Surviving Away from Home (Paperback)
by Kent P. Frandsen (Author) One reviewer said this title was a bad marketing choice and that there is also a strong market for the new stay-at-home mom trying to stretch her budget and cook for a family for the first time. She swears by it. Others also gave this five stars.
Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat. by Katie Shelly http://www.amazon.com/Picture-Cook-See-Make-Eat/dp/1612432344 Amazon blurb: Over 50 homey recipes are distilled into their most basic components, each rendered step-by-step in enchanting line drawings like nothing ever before seen in a cookbook. Including a visual tutorial on knife skills, illustrated metric conversion chart, and an index especially organized for various dietary needs.
Glossary of Cooking Terms:
Finally, a blast from the past, the comments for it are hilarious--this is a video for yesteryear about a new housewife's very first effort to bake a cake for her husband, who is coming home for lunch.