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I'm living a blessed life. I grew up with an amazing mother that cooks amazing food. I was fortunate that in 2008 I was able to attend a culinary arts program through my high school in Texas. I was even more fortunate to have gotten to attend Culinary School at Johnson & Wales University. Formal culinary education and work experience in kitchens was lead to 60% of what I know about cooking. 10% would be from media and the rest-- Cookbooks. I LOVE cookbooks. Throughout my career as an 8-12 dollar an hour cook in restaurants, I've spent my spare cash on cookbooks. I'm just gonna drop 2 here that I recommend that can really get your creative pumps pumping and they're so simple:
These are the 2 books that I open the most of my entire collection. They are reference books that catalog details of ingredients and tells you what they pair well with, how they can be prepared, and other great information like seasonality and usage tips. The original has meat and fish whereas the vegetarian reference has more comprehensive coverage on plant-based foods. The Flavor Bible(s) also include dish examples and ingredient commentary from renowned chefs in their restaurants. They are both amazing reference guides and are vital toward developing your understanding of ingredients.
If you can learn technique and combine it with these reference guides, you've unlocked a door toward creative freedom in cooking