Cook's Illustrated is responsible for America's Test Kitchen, arguably the most scientific show on TV. They tweak recipes until they get them just right with a lot of trials and controlled variables. Plus there's the nostalgia factor because it's a little like watching "The Anal-Rententive Cook" SNL sketch -- with a bowtie. The Science of Good Cooking (Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks) reads a little dry, but the knowledge in it is absolutely invaluable, especially if you want to be the kind of cook that can just wing it in the kitchen.
For the history nerd:
Salt: A World History is a pretty fascinating read that explores the cultural, chemical, and historical story of salt through time. It's less funny than Bill Bryson, but it still gives you the smug satisfaction from reading well-written popular non-fiction.
For the math nerd:
A must-read for any baker, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking simplifies the math of baking. The secret? Vodka.
No, really, vodka is the secret to a lot of baking, especially pie crust. It cooks off faster than water, leaving the flaky crust your dirty mind is adding apple filling to.
For the n00b:
Good Eats: The Early Years is hands down one of the best Christmas presents I've ever gotten. Pair it with Good Eats DVD sets and you're giving any nerdy foody the brain+mouthgasms that Alton consistently delivers. He's silly, smart, and empowering.
There's more: Good Eats 2: The Middle Years and Good Eats 3: The Later Years.