Shenasnameh by Amak Mahmoodian. I was involved with this one in several ways, but the story and the form come together in this beautifully deep and poetic book which was designed by the mercurial Alejandro Acin and launched at Photobook Bristol. It looks simple but it's a layered and complex book. Read my interview with Amak here.
Discordia by Moises Saman
I think Discordia is the World of Wartime Interiors and that is part of what makes it so great and so terrible. This is what I said in my review of Discordia.
'In Discordia, there is no war; instead there are a multitude of wars going on. It gets beneath another kind of rhetoric and because of that you can add it to the list of great war books. Here, war is shown on the ground, in the streets, in back offices, derelict mosques, concrete alleyways, and rubble-strewn streets. There is no distance here. Death, mutilation and torture takes place at close quarters and everybody who takes part or is taken part on is connected to the places where death happens.'
Stray by Paul Gaffney.
It's a small, expensive, handmade edition and it's an absolutely gorgeous book object, a continuation of Gaffney's explorations into the psychology of the land. Again, it's the book form, the material form combining seamlessly with the subject to take us on a journey through the night time woods (and into Gaffney's mind too). Simply wonderful!
The Castle by Federico Clavarino: This is symbolism writ large! Clavarino on Kafka. Fabulous! This is from my review.
'So we see borders, barriers and fences throughout the book. There is a sense of blockage that mirrors the defensive architecture both of Europe's urban centres and its outlying edges. There are symbols of surveillance, of somebody, something seeing but not being seen, and this is compounded by the constant layering of images throughout the book. They hint of someone looking out but at the same time trapped.'
Semper Augustus by Mary Hamill
This is the simplest book of the list, a very direct manifestation of a fundamental project, the record of 12 of Mary Hamill's periods through beautifully photographed images of blood-soaked tampons. It's a record of being a woman and it's very direct and very simple. And very difficult.
Out of the Blue by Virginie Rebetez
This is from my review of the book here.
'Out of the Blue by Virginie Rebetez is the latest book that focusses on a crime scene (the massively influential Red Headed Peckerwood, Watabe Yutichi's visually brilliant A Criminal Investigation and Jack Latham's excellent Sugar Paper Theories are three more. There are some really bad ones as well).
The book tells the story of Suzanne Lyall, who disappeared (Out of the Blue) in New York in 1998. It consists of a series of images from police and personal archives, mixed in with contemporary portraits of the area. There are personal recollections, psychic reports and police sketches to add to the mix (and you can read an interview from the artist's perspective here).'
The House of the Seven Women by Tito Mouraz
A lovely book that tells the story of the Portuguese landscape and life through images and stories that reek of the superstitious, the supernatural and the super-black-and-white. A rich and evocative book. Read my review here.
Golden Days Before They End by Klaus Pichler
A simply fantastic book with fantastic photographs and a story that is of its time about the death of Vienna's local bars. It's a real story of what is happening to our high streets and to the communities that inhabit them. It's local but it's universal. It's the story of the destruction of a way of life.
Come to Selfhood by Joshua Rashaad McFadden
More books that present a three-dimensional view of life, but are still about justice, need to be made. This is from my review.
'This is a book which looks at black masculinity, at fatherhood, at how you can be a black male in America.
The idea for the work began with the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012, and gathered pace with the slew of police murders of black Americans. The question then is what does it mean to be black in a country where people are allowed to kill you. If you can't look to the law, or the nation, or abstract ideas of justice to create a grounding for you, where do you look?'
Got to Go by Rosalind Solomon Fox
A really ambitious and imaginative use of text to contextualise Fox's fabulous photography. I'm still puzzled by it, but in a good way. This is from my review.
'Essentially, the picture is a realisation of Rosalind Fox Solomon herself because the book is an autobiography of sorts, both of her life (Is it though??) and of the history of women (again, is it though??), and the story of a mother's life and a relationship to a daughter (is it though??).
It has words that convey her sentiments as a woman, and the ideological bombardment that accompanies that status, combined with pictures that encompass her career and mirror the stages of her life in various ways. Or is it all about mother, in the more oppressive sense of the word?'
Astres Noirs by Katrin Koening and Sarker Protick
Again, here's a book where the material makes the difference. It is one of the most beautiful books of the year, This is from my review.
'The printing quality with its silvers shimmering against the black pages also adds something, with the images bouncing off the page into a cinematic space that offsets what could have been a drift into the arts-and-crafty and downright cheesy.
Ania Nałęcka, the photobook designer, described a good photobook as being like a picture where you don’t draw lines. Instead you draw dots and you leave it up to the viewer to make the connections. That’s true of Astres Noirs, a book where the dots are stars and how you join them is left to the viewer.'
So there you have it, the definitive list of the best books of 2016 (and you can include all the books in the posts that came before this one - they're part of my Best Books too, For sure!)
There are others that could or should be in there but they're somewhere else or I haven't seen them or something or other.
There are still lots of great books about then, it's just that sometimes price, edition size, genre or snobbery mean they don't get about as much as they might.
So long live the book!