Hi BC boy!
Here's the first thing you need: Passion...if you truly love food, eating and appreciate flavours everything you read will stick (most of it anyways).
I don't have my red seal but have been cooking for as long as I can remember, so here is a partial list of all the books I've read and the ones I own :Escoffier, Le grand Larousse Gastronomique(in French), Professional Chef (Culinary institute of America), Professional Cooking (Gisslen), Encyclopedia of cooking, Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking, Time Life series: Foods of the World and Cuisiner mieux and then slews of books...cooking books, books on wine, whiskey, preserves, baking, butchering, various cultures, food rites and rituals, street foods, books that specialize in herbs and spices, pasta..Also, online I have found sites with recipes that date back as far as the 14th century...very interesting and a very different look at food.
You need to cook for the right reason, passion for food, passion for eating. But for me this has a moral implication and this is why I try and honour the foods that I use: an animal gave it's life(probably not willingly) so that I could live and with this, I always want to honour that creature/food source by doing the best that I can at all times. I run a small restaurant of 25 seats and have less than 1% food waste.
There are a lot of aspects to this business, hope I've been able to help you a bit?!