One of the most essential things in the kitchen is your knife. It's also a great investment. You should have a good set of kitchen knives. With proper care, they'll last a lifetime. But what kind of knives should you get? First, you a want a brand that guarantees the quality of their knives and feels good in your hand. You should be comfortable with your knife. You should be confident using it. You should also be careful.
My personal choice was Global. I love the design. The weight and the balance of their product are just right. Those fancy dots on the handle are not just for show or grip. They are originally holes in the handle that they slowly fill with sand until the balance between blade and hilt are perfect. They are one piece of steel. Asian-style knives also have a different sharpening type compared to Western knives. They're sharpened on both sides and to a taller angle, which is said to help maintain sharpness longer.
They're works of art, really. A great starter kit is this 3-Piece set with a paring knife, a 5" chef's and an 8" chef's. It's the gateway set. Once you try these you'll want to obtain more to have a perfect collection.
The next most-used knife in my kitchen is the serrated. I suggest an 8" bread knife and 6" serrated. They're preferred for cutting things with soft interiors and tougher exteriors. Bread, tomato, oranges, etc. You could get away with these 5 knives if you're an everyday cook. They'll handle just about any situation.
Now it's time to care for your knives. They need a good home. You need a knife block. You could opt for a magnetic bar as well, but crazy sharp blades hanging on the wall when you live in earthquake country got me to go with a block.
Either way, obviously you're going to want one that looks good in your kitchen. I chose a modern looking one but it should be able to accommodate your knives, have room to grow and also hold the next important part of your set, the sharpening steel. You should have a good one and use it every single time you use your knives. Well, not really on the serrated ones. Get a good one. Sharpening every use alone will help extend the life of your knives.
For full maintenance, you can grab a sharpener. I don't personally use one, but if that's what you go with, make sure it sharpens at the proper angle. Global has the Asian-style edge. The majority of knives have a Western edge.
I choose to sharpen with a whetstone. It takes a bit more effort and concentration, but it's also a calming thing for me. I like sharpening with a stone better. There are different grains; fine, coarse, etc. Some even have one on each side of the stone. Make sure you learn how to properly use it--and again--sharpen at the proper angle for your knife.
That's your basic set. Global makes a ton of other types for more specialized uses. I chose a filet knife for my next addition, but you can select whatever fits your need. They make cleavers, santoku, boning, vegetable knives and more. Even fishbone tweezers.
Now that you've started the knife set of a true pro, go take a knife-skills class. You don't want to look amateur when using them or cut yourself. Be very careful. They are not to fooled around with.