Saturday, December 13, 2008

Best Books of 2008

Another year has passed and that basically just means that more books have been published and many more are on the way. This was obviously an exciting year for me with my venture into the world of publishing and this list is a tip of the hat to projects that made me envious. Each exhibits strengths that make them destined for a long shelf life and educates as to the potential for book-making. Certainly I have missed many other great titles that have slipped past my radar but here are my picks for 2008. Check them out and enjoy.

1 Invaze 68 by Josef Koudelka (Torst/Aperture) Many weren't too sure of this one but I love it. I prefer the Torst Czech version with the recycled paper cover but need the Aperture edition for the texts.

2 101 Billionaires by Rob Hornstra (Borotov) The biggest surprise of Paris Photo. Missed out on his first but won't miss out on future ones.

3 Pretend You're Actually Alive by Leigh Ledare (PPP Editions) Great first book (even with the misshapen slipcase) from this young artist and I hope he keeps making 'em with the same intensity.

4 A New History of Photography by Ken Schles (Schaden/White Press) Inventive, witty, smart and great book craftsmanship and concept.

5 Beaufort West by Mikhail Subotzky (Chris Boot) My very first impression was not favorable...needless to say it has grown on me...and grown on me...

6 Sent A Letter by Dayanita Singh (Steidl) Delicate, quiet and very interesting.

7 Wonderland by Jason Eskenazi (De.Mo) A long time coming and well worth the wait.

8 Solitude of Ravens by Masahisa Fukase (Rathole) a reworking of an old masterpiece.

9 South East by Mark Steinmetz (Nazraeli) The second in what will be a trilogy. Mark is well due his moment and this is another that shows why.

10 A Road Trip Journal by Stephen Shore (Phaidon) Way too pricey to the point where I might say it isn't worth it but I like it too much.

Runners Up...

11 Living with War/Protest the War by Judith Joy Ross (Steidl) OK, it's two books but they seem inseperable.

12 Avenue Patrice Lumumba by Guy Tillim (Prestel/Peabody Museum).

13 Secrets of Real Estate by John Gossage (Sheldon Art)

14 Bird by Roni Horn (Steidl) Almost too short to be wholly satisfying but still a favorite.

15 Peru by Robert Frank (Steidl)

Last year I caught a lot of grief from friends who joked that my 'best of' list totaled 35 books so this year I am keeping it to just 15. It's a bit easier on your wallet.

Feel free to make your own Best of 2008 list and contribute it to the comments section. I want to know what I missed.


Anonymous said...

Endorsed the five photo books from Asia in 2008



2. Yang Yan Kang-Buddhism in Tibet

3. Li Qiang - Homeland Xanbei


4. Deng Nan Guang - Deng Nan Guang

5. Shen Chao Liang -Yulan

Anonymous said...

Jeff, thanks for all the interesting book reviews over the year & best wishes for your publishing venture. I've been spending my money on travel the past 12 months & only bought a few photo books, e.g. the latest printing of The Americans.

Looking through the sample images from your best of, these are the ones that appeal most to me
Dayanita Singh
Jason Eskanazi
Masahisa Fukase
Mark Steinmetz
John Gossage

Michael W.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, from your top ten list i only missed Solitude of Ravens and Wonderland (i'll check them out). Sent a Letter, no thank you.
Invaze Torst cover, feels way nicer. Leigh Ledare, genius. Beaufort West definetely a grower. South East, another silent masterpice. Ken Schles, fantastic but very expensive (talk about cutting on costs Rob Hornstra is the real deal, although mixed feelings about 101). Secrets of Real Estate, great photographs, poor edition even for on-demand (and very Schadenly expensive)
What about: Oxbow Archive, Olmsted and/or New Mexico?!
Controversial personal choices: Fireflies and Baghdad Suite.
Best 5B4 posts: Errata Editions in China.

Anonymous said...


Thanks...I have a review in waiting for Lee's New Mexico. Oxbow was a strong contender for sure. Fireflies I thought was released last year but I also though PIG 05049 by Meindertsma was too which I would have included for sure. Maybe I should have stuck with my top 35 best list ;)

Baghdad Suite (not to be confused with Baghdad Calling) would be there too.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for keeping China and Taiwan in the mix. Drastically under-represented here at 5B4.

Anonymous said...

Yo !
Where is your review of Solitude of Ravens?
Surely it can't be in your top ten books of the year without a revue?
Cue revue :

Thanks for all the great blah.

Anonymous said...


It is written and due in the next couple days.

Anonymous said...


1. Kayo Ume - Grandfather
じいちゃんさま (ペーパーバック)
ISBN: 4898152392

2. Eiko Hosoe
ISBN: 4896250885

3. Takashi Homma: Tokyo
ISBN: 1597110590

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic list of mostly scholarly, relevant, and somewhat obscure out-of-the-mainstream titles meant for those of us who appreciate the smaller dealers and niche publishing houses. Unlike the last years' lists whose books were pounced upon by all the Amazon listmania nutjobs and EBay sellers, this list provides actual thinking and appreciation and research by photography lovers, and won't be capitalized and profited on by these same dealers. Thank you so much...I hope this is the future course of photography books. It's the work that matters, not book as commodity.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Thanks for the year's eclectic and informed reviews. As a struggling student I went without bread and milk (and textbooks) to buy some of your top-of-2008 titles, Shore and Ledare being notable omissions for the obvious reason of price. For what it's worth, here's my pick for the year, in no particular order:

-Blue Room /Richards (Hugely evocative)
-Oxbow Archive /Sternfeld (Almost as if his work had all be done, the artist wanders off into the fields)
-Beaufort West /Subotzky (Yes, multiple viewings recommended)
-Transparent City /Wolf (It's strange how us humans are now more insular than ever, yet reside behind so much glass!)
-Library of Dust /Maisel (Heavy stuff, like watching Waiting for Godot without an icecream in the interlude)
-America /Strauss (An edgy book, critical, unreserved)
-South East /Steinmetz (I agree with you, he his under-rated. Nazraeli never did seem that good in promoting their stars)
-Asakusa Portraits /Hiroh Kikai (Reservation here: could it be these are just Kikai's mates in fancy dress havin' a lark?)
-Wake /Jeppesen (Tangible insomniac restlessness in this book)
-French Kiss /Petersen (A valedictory work from the master of carnival? Hope not)


Anonymous said...

Wake and French Kiss as well, yes.

a mind with no ceiling said...

Oddly I was just looking today at the original of "Ravens" at a library and I've convinced myself to try and get a copy... if they're still affordable. What a book!
"Wake" was my personal discovery of Paris Photo.
Wasn't "Fig" by Broomberg & Chanarin published this year too? I would definitely add this title to the list, they are such an inventive and intelligent photographic team, and to me it's their best book so far, far removed from the (too) editorial aspects of "Ghetto" for example.
Also, "Meanwhile" by Shirana Shahbazi is very challenging.

Anyway, thanks again Jeff for all your work in 2008. Hope it goes on for another fruitful year!

Anonymous said...

was Lars Turnbjörks Vinter published this year, if it was it's on my list and it was also great that they published 2nd edition of Esko Männikkös Female Pike. I also had high hopes of Ed Templetons Deformer but was a bit disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Wake I liked but don't have. Vinter was last year as was Fig. which incidentally was on my list this year but I had to remove it because it isn't 2008. I also had Malick Sidibe's Chemises but that was last year too.

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised?

Anonymous said...

You are right, the retail price of that Stephen Shore book is ridiculous! Great book though...

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you're right, Fireflies wasn't published in 2008. 2006 actually.
I'd definetely had Malick Sidibe's «handle-with-care» Fondation Zinsou retrospective.

Anonymous said...

Some mainstream commodities:

Michal Chelbin: Strangely Familiar
Ray Metzker: Light Lines
Eugene Richards: Blue Room
Paul Fusco: RFK

BC said...

I think this was a good list, but quibbling with the choices is part of the fun. One of my personal favorites that seemed to get very little attention was Mark Ruwedel's Westward: The Course of Empire.

Sven said...

Meindertsma's Pig 05049 is a fabulous book. It recently won the Dutch Design Award, and is already in second edition. It's definitely one to have.

JS said...

Great list. Of the few 2008 books I own, Ravens and Light Lines are favorites. What is the story on Wonderland? Nobody has it in stock. Is it sold out, or pending release?

Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed reading all these lists. For me I would have added the Gossage book, the Hiroh Kikai book and Ad Van Denderen's 'So Blue, So Blue'.

I would also like to mention the courageous/crazy publishing project by Japanese photographer Sanai Masafumi who has produced 4 self published books this year called 'Furoh', 'Dust','Trouble in Mind' and 'Arca'. The first two came in perspex covers but for me 'Trouble in Mind' is the gem. He has another two books planned for the new year.

Anonymous said...

where can i get those books???
thx please give me advice

marc from france

Anonymous said...


Which books? the Japanese ones mentioned above or my list.

Anonymous said...

Just want to let your readers know that the Strand just got in a small quantity of Jason Eskenazi's "Wonderland" and that we will be re-ordering Masahisa Fukase's "Solitude of Ravens". We still have a few copies of "Bukubuku" for $99.95. Our shipping rates internationally are very reasonable ($6.99 for the first book, 3.99 each additional). Hope this helps...

Anonymous said...

the ones mentioned above i already got your list
thank you marc

Anonymous said...

To Charlie at the Strand,
Great prices and great service in the Strand but you guys just can't pack books worth a damn for shipping. I don't have an intact book corner off ANY order I have received from the Strand. The boxes/packaging you use are a joke.
Using bits of brown paper as padding is fine for airport reading/paperback thrillers but when you shell out a fair amount of cash for a photography book it is really disappointing to receive it battered and wrecked. How much does it cost to invest in some bubble wrap?
Please, please, please improve your packaging and you'll get a lot more business!!!!!!!!!
Rant over! Apologies if this is an inappropriate place for it.

Anonymous said...

I have just become aware of a glaring omission in your best books listing. A got a package today of 4 books that raise the level of commentary on books of genius in our field.The 4 books from errata edition deserve a high ranking on your list of best books of the year.

Go Jeff and Ed


Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Gossage for the kind words. I do enough shameless promotion of them here already to be so obvious but you guys didn't notice the subliminal message in my 'best of' choices and how they spelling out 'B-U-Y E-R-R-A-T-A B-O-O-K-S'?

I need to grow the company so we can be eligible for a bailout. All Errata employees have been furloughed for the next month.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the subliminal messages talking, but I would echo John Gossage's comments - I was extremely impressed by my copies of the Books on Books I received. Outstanding work and a great concept. Congratulatons to all involved for a job well done.

Anonymous said...

Let me add a few names to that list :
1. Solve Sundsbo, Perroquet. A wonderful photobook by a rising star of fashion photography, who shot a colorful perroquet as a top model.
2. Terry Richardson, Bright Shiny Morning. The hardcover version, with Richard Prince. A future cult book, as many Richardson titles.
3. Wolfgang Tillmans, Lighter. The most clever monography/ artist book of the year. Tillmans takes photography into unchartered (abstract) territories.

verninino said...

Most of the new photography books I bought in 2008 were from published in 2007. I probably bought twice as many old books. But there are a few postmarked '08.

Being a sucker for Magnum and Aperture, Susan Meisalas's NICARAGUA re-release is up there as is Paul Fusco's RFK.

The expansive MAGNUM MAGNUM tome is now the crown jewel of my Magnum anthology collection-- not so much for the images as its peer-review biographies.

Chelbin's STRANGELY FAMILIAR's in there too.

I usually can't stand the meticulous studio preciousness of contemporary art-school photography, but Erwin Olaf's eponymous work had enough nostalgia and camp in its hyper-real studio productions-- equally evoking, for me, Norman Rockwell to Gregory Crewdon-- to make my collection.

I closed out the year with the long-awaited Errata Editions' four titles.

To neatly close out with ten, I'm betting when I finally sink my claws into SOLITUDE OF RAVENS it's going to make the list too.

April Alvarez said...

I am dying to see the Ravens book, thank you. What did you think about Robert Frank's Peru book, why is it on your list? Did you do a review already?

Anonymous said...


If you use the search bar at the top left corner of your browser frame you'll find my Frank Peru review. I did Paris and Peru in the same one.

Thanks for reading.