Oh yeah, inspiration is critical. I have a bunch of Jan Messent books for that reason. The odds are that I will never knit a fantasy story or a garden (complete with tiny cabbages and monks tending the vegetables!), but I think it's very cool and inspiring that someone has.
Okay, now I know I should have given some input before.
Any knitter who doesn't have Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook in their library is really missing the boat. No patterns, but it's filled with nearly every technique you can imagine, and many you can't. This is the one book to have so you'll be able to teach yourself anything you need to know about knitting.