When I was at Makers Faire, Rachel Hobson, of Craftzine, told me about her favorite book: The Stitches of Creative Embroidery by Jacqueline Enthoven, ISBN 0-442-11087-1. After a quick look, I hauled out my Iphone and placed an online order for it (fortunately the Faire had open wifi for easy access). The book arrived a few days later and I've been enjoying the book ever since (just a bit late on blogging about it).
This is one of those books that if you could only take 1 book which one would you take -- this one! Jacqueline has over 200 stitch diagrams, but to me that is not what makes this book valuable. It has a bit about how to use the stitch and how it was used historically; including pictures not just diagrams. While she does look at stitches in families, she is one of the few that I think successfully makes the case of how each stitch relates and builds on the prior stitch. She also shows via diagrams how groups of the stitch might relate or how different sets of stitches might work. The only real draw back of this book is the lack of color in the pictures of the historical items, but with museums putting more of their stuff online, this is not a serious issue since she does site sources.