The constant stream of best books of 2011 lists that have appeared in the past couple of weeks got me wondering whether there are any books that are getting all the plaudits. I have pulled together 52 lists in total (the final update to this post was made on 29 December), including my own, (the sources are listed at the bottom of the post). Some contrarians like Blake Andrews included books that weren't published this year, but for this statistical exercise I have only included books that were published in 2011. After compiling the results (I gave 1 'vote' to any book that was on any of these lists) one book has risen to the top of the pile with 19 votes. And the winner is...
1st Place (19 votes) - Redheaded Peckerwood, Christian Patterson (Mack)
2nd Place (14 votes) - A Criminal Investigation, Yukichi Watabe (Xavier Barral/Le Bal) - Illuminance, Rinko Kawauchi (Aperture)
3rd Place (10 votes) - Paloma al aire, Ricardo Cases (Photovision)
4th Place (9 votes) - Gomorrah Girl, Valerio Spada (Self-published)
5th Place (8 votes) - A, Gregory Halpern (J&L Books)
6th Place (7 votes) - Series, Enrique Metinides (Kominek Books)
7th Place (6 votes) - Photographic Memory: The Album in the Age of Photography, Verna Posever Curtis (Aperture) - A New Map of Italy, Guido Guidi (Loosestrife Editions) - The Suffering of Light, Alex Webb (Aperture)
8th Place (5 votes) - The Place we Live, Robert Adams (Yale University Press) - Salt & Truth, Shelby Lee Adams (Candela Books) - In the Shadow of Things, Léonie Hampton (Contrasto) - The Brothers, Elin Høyland (Dewi Lewis) - Permanent Error, Pieter Hugo (Prestel) - Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide, Pieter Hugo (Oodee) - Magnum Contact Sheets, Kristen Lubben (Thames & Hudson) - Animals that Saw Me, Ed Panar (The Ice Plant) - Redwood Saw, Richard Rothman (Nazraeli Press) - The New York Times Magazine Photographs, Kathy Ryan (ed.) (Aperture) - First Pictures, Joel Sternfeld (Steidl) - Is this Place Great or What, Brian Ulrich (Aperture) - Visitor, Ofer Wolberger (Self-published)
9th Place (4 votes) - C.E.N.S.U.R.A, Julián Barón (Editorial RM) - Dirk Braeckman (Roma Publications) - People in Trouble, Laughing, Pushing Each Other to the Ground, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin (Mack) - Fragile, Raphaël Dallaporta (Editions GwinZegal) - The Unseen Eye, W. M. Hunt (Aperture) - Pontiac, Gerry Johansson (Mack) - Seacoal, Chris Killip (Steidl) - Koudelka: Gypsies, Josef Koudelka (Aperture) - Lang Zal Ze Levan, Anouk Kruithof (Self-published) - Iraq / Perspectives, Ben Lowy (Duke University Press) - History's Shadow, David Maisel (Nazraeli Press) - pretty girls wander, Raymond Meeks - Believing is Seeing, Errol Morris (Penguin Press) - Mom & Dad, Terry Richardson (Mörel Books) - The Heath, Andy Sewell (Self-published)
10th place (3 votes) - La Creciente, Alejandro Chaskielberg (Nazraeli Press) - Abendsonne, Misha de Ridder (Schaden.com) - Chromes, William Eggleston (Steidl) - Films, Paul Graham (Mack) - Mexico Roma, Graciela Iturbide (RM Editorial) - Sunday, Paul Kooiker (van Zoetendaal) - On Thin Ice, In a Blizzard, Paula McCartney (Self-published) - You and I, Ryan McGinley (Twin Palms) - One to Nothing, Irina Rozovsky (Kehrer) - 83 Days of Darkness, Niels Stomps (Kominek Books) - A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, Taryn Simon (Steidl) - The Bridge at Hoover Dam, James Stillings (Nazraeli Press) - Les Amies de Place Blanche, Christer Strömholm (Dewi Lewis) - Abstract Pictures, Wolfgang Tillmans (Hatje Cantz) - Photographs, Penelope Umbrico (Aperture) - Interrogations, Donald Weber (Schilt) - Conductors of the Moving World, Brad Zellar (Little Brown Mushroom)
11th place (2 votes) - Half Life, Michael Ackerman (Dewi Lewis) - Unmarked Sites, Jessica Auer (Les Territoires) - Candlestick Point, Lewis Baltz (Steidl) - A Guide to Trees for Governors and Gardeners, Yto Barrada (Deutsche Guggenheim) - One Day: Ten Photographers, Harvey Benge (Kehrer) - Tibet: Culture on the Edge, Phil Borges (Rizzoli) - War Primer 2, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin (Mack) - Eden is a Magic World, Miguel Calderón (Little Big Man) - The King of Photography, Tiane Doan Na Champassak (Self-published) - Double Life, Kelli Connell (Decode Books) - A Falling Horizon, Heidi de Gier (Fw:) - Subway, Bruce Davidson (Aperture) - The Latin American Photobook, Horacio Fernández (Aperture) - The Vanities, Larry Fink (Schirmer/Mosel) - In the Picture: Self-Portraits 1958-2011, Lee Friedlander (Yale University Press) - Color Correction, Ernst Haas (Steidl) - Astronomical, Mishka Henner (Self-published) - No Man's Land, Mishka Henner (Self-published) - Afterwards, Nathalie Herschdorfer (ed.) (Thames & Hudson) - Celebrity, Kenji Hirasawa (Bemojake) - Playground, Jeroen Hofman (Self-published) - Safety First, Rob Hornstra (The Sochi Project) - Sochi Singers, Rob Hornstra (The Sochi Project) - In Almost Every Picture 9, Erik Kessels (Kesselskramer) - A Head with Wings, Anouk Kruithof (Little Brown Mushroom) - The Sea, Mark Laita (Abrams) - Pilgrimage, Annie Liebovitz (Random House) - Tooth for an Eye, Deborah Luster (Twin Palms) - God Forgotten Face, Robin Maddock (Trolley) - Street Photographer, Vivian Maier (Powerhouse) - Carnal Knowledge, Malerie Marder (Violette Editions) - 7 Rooms, Rafal Milach (Kehrer) - Mark Morrisroe, Mark Morrisroe (JRP Ringier) - Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan by John Burke and Simon Norfolk, Simon Norfolk (Dewi Lewis) - Hard Ground, Michael O'Brien (University of Texas Press) - As Long as it Photographs, It Must be a Camera, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs (Self-published) - Core Curriculum: Writings on Photography, Tod Papageorge (Aperture) - Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present, Peter Pfrunder (ed.) (Prestel) - Photographs 2001-2009, Ken Rosenthal (Self-published) - Oculus, Ken Schles (Noorderlicht/Aurora Borealis) - Hurricane Story, Jennifer Shaw (Broken Levee Books) - Subscription Series 3, Mark Steinmetz (TBW Books) - Summertime, Mark Steinmetz (Nazraeli Press) - Dessau, Bill Sullivan (Kaugummi Books) - Nomad, Jeroen Toirkens (Lannoo) - Self Publish Be Naughty, Various (Self Publish Be Happy) - Chinese Sentiment, Shen Wei (Charles Lane Press) - Waikiki, Henry Wessel (Steidl) - The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott, David M. Wilson (Little, Brown & Co.)
So there it is. The meta 'best of' list. A few points worth noting. I have only included books that got more than 1 vote. There were 313 books nominated in the 52 lists that I used to compile this meta-list. It's fascinating to see that there is so little consensus on the 'best' books of the year and that there is such a broad playing field. There are books on here that were printed in editions of several thousand copies and books that were printed in editions of less than 100. Some artists even managed to get nominated for several books produced in the same year. I'd like to leave you with a final recommendation: remember, these rankings are totally subjective, meaningless and even nonsensical. It's hard to resist looking at these lists (although if I see another list at this stage, I will probably have to take my own life), but remember that there are hundreds of other books that are just as good if not better than these.
Sources: Brainpickings, The 11 best photography books of 2011; Sean O'Hagan (The Guardian), Photography books of the year 2011; American Photo, The best photobooks of 2011; Alec Soth, Top 20 photobooks of 2011; Rémi Coignet & Maria-Karina Bojikian, Livres de photographie: notre sélection 2011; Le Monde, Ouvrages de fête à savourer (Photographie); Jörg Colberg, My favourite photobooks this year; Tom Claxton, 2011 photobook highlights; Corey Presha, Favorite Books of 2011; Bridget Coaker, Photography Books of the Year; Yannick Bouillis, Favorite photobooks; Bart Peters, 10 favourite photobooks of 2011; Claire de Rouen, Xmas Top Ten; BJP, The best photobooks of 2011; Blake Andrews, Photography Books; Conor Donlon, Favourite Books of 2011; Sebastian Hau, "books that engaged me the most"; Larissa Leclair, The Best Books of 2011 (self and indie published); Willem Van Zoetendaal, Favorite Books of 2011; Rob Hornstra, Top Photo Books 2011; Marcel Du, Best of 2011 photobooks; Photobookstore, Our favourite photobooks of 2011; Elizabeth Avedon and friends, 2011 best photography books; NY Times Photo Department, Our Top 10 Photo Books of 2011; Time, Best of 2011: The Photobooks We Loved; Photo-eye (26 contributors), The Best Books of 2011; Laurence Vecten, 7 livres photographiques du moment, à feuilleter au coin du feu; Me, Another best books of 2011 list.
Before I sign off this post, it is worth remembering that there is also another way to cut this 'best photobook' cake and that is sales. This is how the list ends up looking based on sales (according to this article by PDN):
1. Simply Beautiful Photographs (National Geographic) 2. The Great LIFE Photographers (Little, Brown & Co.) 3. The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (LIFE) 4. One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001, 10 Years Later (Little, Brown & Co.) 5.Portraits of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House (Abrams) 6. In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits (National Geographic) 7. The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office (National Geographic) 8. Decade (Phaidon) 9. Edward S. Curtis: Visions of the First Americans (Chartwell) 10. Wonders of LIFE: A Fantastic Voyage Through Nature (LIFE)