Which books would you pick up if the house was burning?
I love these books and all for different reasons. If you are starting out cooking Thai I would recommend the out of print top 100 Thai dishes by David Thompson. You can often find copies on Ebay. It explains everyday street food in a simple way and all the recipes work really well.
Cracking the coconut is good for beginners wanting to delve deeper into the mysteries of Thai food and it gives a good understanding of the complexities from the bottom upwards. I don't agree with everything in it because it's not quite purist enough for me in some ways but it's a good start.
The Taste of Thailand is also out of print but it was the first Thai cookbook I bought over thirty years ago and it inspired me so much to find out more.
The absolute bible of cookbooks is Thai Food and if you were only to buy one guide to really authentic ancient Thai food I would buy this. David Thompson really started a revolution with this one. His Thai Street Food follow up is marvellous too and you can spend all day looking at the photos by Earl carter. But be aware that these cookbooks take time and dedication to cook and learn from they are not for the feint hearted.
Now two recent works I love are The Food of Northern Thailand and Pok Pok. These cover more regional complex food and I especially think that Austin Bush's book is inspiring. He is an amazing photographer and researcher and it has some really great food history coverage.
I can't possibly comment on Mae's Ancient Thai food as I wrote it - but thats why it would leave the house with me in a fire!
If you want any more advice on books to buy please let me know.