Choosing the right wine book can be as hard as picking the right wine. Actually, it's harder, since the former can directly determine the latter. Nevertheless, I've found five books I'd definitely recommend buying this season--and one I'd go a long way to avoid.
Most of us who bought The Oxford Companion to Wine ($65; Oxford University Press) by Jancis Robinson five years ago thought it would easily see us through to the next millennium. But with 500 new entries (from Asia to Zymase) and revisions to most of the existing 3,000, the 1999 version leaves the first edition behind. Though Robinson still gets star billing, the book is produced, once again, by a Cecil B. deMille-size cast of experts. It's a great gift for oenophiles who think they know it all (but don't) or for the novice.
For a more practical (and portable) selection, I recommend Overstreet's New Wine Guide ($40; Clarkson Potter) by Dennis Overstreet. A California wine retailer for 25 years, Overstreet has been at the front line long enough to understand exactly what consumers want to know. His book offers sharp assessments and opinions, tips about buying, storing and drinking wine and great anecdotes. For example, a hilarious story about Mick Jagger ordering 10 cases of Cristal for a backstage bash and having to buy 100 cases of Roederer's cheap stuff in order to get it perfectly illustrates today's ridiculous allocations policies.