Z, my first honest-to-goodness longterm vegan friend, didn't cook from books. He did make fabulous roasted chickpeas though...
When I chose to be vegan a year and a half later, the first book I bought was 'How it all Vegan'. I strongly believe in cookbooks. As a girl I read 'The Joy of Cooking' and 'Fannie Farmer' voraciously; experience has shown that approximations and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cooking result in gloppy messes.
HIAV was a great start. The Curried Veg were fabulous, the pancakes scrumptious and I used the recipe for years, Benny's Breakfast an unusual success, the chocolate pudding a favorite of my folks, the tofu lasagna satisfaction, the chocolate pudding cake treaty goodness (after adjustments to the baking powder)...next I bought, with an Easter gift card from my beloved Auntie, 'Vegan Planet' by Robin Robertson...the African Sweet Potato stew was good, except it took my dear cousin E and I two hours to prepare, the breakfast casserole a good idea except missing something in execution...the baba ganoush was excellent, yet i found that the recipes relied on too many expensive, packaged faux products, weren't consistent, and lacked oomph and satisfaction.
Several specialty cookbooks followed 'The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook' by Joanne Stepaniak (noteable for its Gooey Grilled Cheese) and her sauce book (which I've only used twice).
I went through a long period where I didn't cook for myself. I was grumpy, cranky. It wasn't till I bought Vegan with a Vengeance by the beloved Isa that I began cooking again, and loving it. My beloved sausage and biscuits with gravy were back, and I adored the Tempeh-Mango salad sandwiches.
The gold standard, which I bought last year, while omni, is Veganomicon. I've made over 20 recipes from VWAV and well over that from Veganomicon. As for cupcakes, VCTOTW has that covered.
I've lost steam. Perhaps I'll edit this tomorrow