FROM her tiny office at Alfred Knopf Publishers in New York, Judith Jones edits literary giants such as John Updike, as well as culinary icons Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and the late James Beard. Cooking is Ms Jones' hobby and cookbooks are a passion. ''The purpose of a good cookbook is to teach,'' she explained years ago in an interview. ''It must go beyond a collection of recipes and teach about people and culture. ''Even a photo caption has to contribute more than a description. ''And a recipe, if it is well-written, teaches the way of cooking as well as the how-to.'' With Ms Jones' criteria in mind, we looked at a few books available now (or shortly) as summer reading suggestions. Curries and Bugles: Cookbook of the British Raj by Jennifer Brennan ($221 Penguin Books). This book is impossible to skim through, especially if the reader is a fan of Indian food, culture or just good writing. Brennan focuses on a by-gone era in British history and weaves it into a culinary memoir. The anecdotes are hers. The British-born food writer and illustrator was raised in Punjab and Mysore. The black and white photos of picnics, a proper tiffin, post-tennis match buffets and camel safaris harken back to the magic of Imperial India. The writing is colourful yet lean. In it, you can hear the crack of the polo ball, feel the refreshing coolness of the Karachi Club champagne cup and taste the salty-sweet edge of a warm chapati, drenched in butter and Scotch whisky marmalade. Her sources - turn-of-the-century household guides, letters, related literary works, including Rudyard Kipling - stoke the appetite for more reading. With the addition of a glossary and bibliography, this cookbook takes the reader beyond the kitchen. But the appeal of the 200 recipes will push the armchair traveller into the kitchen. Or the nearest Indian restaurant. Trucs of the Trade by Frank Ball & Arlene Feltman (Harper Perennial $142.50). The word ''truc'' is a noun. Translated from French, it means trick, gimmick or shortcut used in cooking. A real truc, according to editors Ball and Feltman, is genuinely helpful. And so is this paperback. The editors queried 49 chefs who responded with a favourite trick and a recipe demonstrating it. How to salvage scorched rice? Place a single layer of onion skins on top. The skins remove the acrid taste. The modern tomato needs all the help it can get. And Mexican expert Rick Bayless roasts his to make ''ordinary tomatoes good, and good tomatoes extraordinary''. Chill wine faster with salt added to ice cubes and water. Slice cheesecake with dental floss for a picture-perfect piece. Prevent boil-overs by plunging a whisk into the would-be eruption. Even if the recipes are never touched, the book delivers an entertaining ''why didn't I think of that'' type read. The 5 in 10 Cookbook by Paula Hamilton ($142.50 Hearst Books/William Morrow & Company). Hamilton meets a difficult challenge; quick and easy recipes that use five ingredients and cook in 10 minutes. The recipes bridge the gap between food kids like, dishes an office slave can whip up mid-week (like pasta puttanesca) and dishes sophisticated enough for guests (Caribbean chicken curry or glazed bananas over coffee ice cream). This gem fits the Hongkong lifestyle, where extra time is as rare for many as a home-cooked meal. Most ingredients can be found in any neighbourhood. The 170 recipes take advantage of fresh produce and some top notch-convenience foods and the microwave oven. The recipes created by this award-winning food journalist from California and her husband, a professional chef, won approval from their two children and one neighbourhood in Oakland, California. Loire Gastronomique by Hilaire Walden ($288.80 Conran Octopus). Come aboard a flatboat and cruise the length of France's longest river. With an appetite ready for regional foods and wine, Walden becomes a tour guide, a gastronomy teacher and an avid cook. The quality of the foodstuffs along the Loire goes without saying. In 1991, she reminds, the area downstream of Orleans alone collected more than 40 Michelin stars. So you don't want to make rabbit and herb terrine, tomato tart or pike with hazelnut sauce? Prospective tourists are introduced to favourite restaurants and vintners with photos, biographies, patrons' names, addresses and telephone numbers. The photos made me want to eat the glossy paper. Most helpful is the chapter ''A Visitor's Guide'', containing specifics on restaurants, markets, places of interest, festivals/fairs and vineyard visits. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook by Robin Leach ($237 Viking Studio Books) is the type of book you leaf through while waiting in a check-out line. Expensive bubble gum for the mind. At least, in book form, the reader is spared Leach's grating voice. What you get is little more than 200 recipes, glimpses of the homes of 53 stars plus host tips and entertaining trivia. Here's a sample. Guests at the nuptials of Liz and Larry dined on roast chicken with morel sauce (recipe included) and a five-tier chocolate mousse cake (sorry, no recipe). Joan Collins admits she has little time for cooking. But her spaghetti bolognese recipe looks great and easy. For her style of entertaining Australian model Elle Macpherson believes in plenty of champagne, no salt and a maximum of eight people - the number that can fit her table. How to keep dinner conversations lively? Never seat best friends together, advises Eva Gabor. The majority of the recipes, however, need a staff or a long weekend in the kitchen. And, no reader escapes host Leach. Even his chicken recipe calls for one bottle of Cristal champagne. The books above were supplied by Hongkong Book Centre.