Selecting the best of the best of 2017

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Going through 600 books in three days time, deciding which 14 qualify for the Most Beautiful Books in the World in 2017. Such was the mission I shared with 6 highly esteemed book makers in Leipzig last week. I was a great and horourable pleasure to work and learn with them during these couple of days.

I was rather surprised when I received an invitation to join this jury, back in November of last year. What would be my contribution, in a group of experts in a field that I know so little about? Lots about my own book, definitely, but hardly anything about any other.

On the train to Leipzig, I wrote down a couple of questions – a strategy that helps me create space beyond the reach of what I know (or: what I think I know). In this case, they were the following:

– How will I find my role?
– How will I share in organising the process?
– How will I recognise skill and love materialised in the books?
– How will create an overview?
– How can I complement the expertise of the other jury members?
– How will we reach consensus?
– How will I deal with the cultural differences among us?

The easiest answer to all questions turns out to be: I did. And the most important ingredient seemed to be present, available, curious and grateful for the experience.

The process
On the first day, we individually selected 7×14 favourites, including some du- and triplicates – which brought the selection from 600 down to 60. On the next day, all 60 books were defended by their respective adoptors and then voted to stay or go. That took the selection down to 30, which we the considered the shortlist of nominees.

Our next step was to agree which 14 books would make up the final selection, looking both at the individual publications and the diversity and coherence among them. Some books were tough to let go with, but we were all happy with the 14 remaining on the table. Which we then each ranked individually to then calculate the aggregated order. To then check if we agreed on that – decide what to do with 2×2 book that ended on par. To then have a final list of the 14 most beautiful books, in the right order from Golden Letter to Honorary Mention.

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Another next step that I have appreciated a lot, was our shared wish to stand for the selection we made. We looked at every book individually to determine, and classfy what made it even more special that all of the 600 books we started off with.

What I looked at in particular, was how each book related to the broader developments in the world. What invitation by the authors it extended, and how relevant and compelling – or liberating – I deemed these invitation to be. The books that qualified, matched such relevance with a corresponding design and appearance and the many conscious choices to support this correspondence. In the colours, paper types, fonts, format, use of images, binding method, production method, credits… All you can think about when it comes to books.

What I enjoyed most about this process was the elegant match we managed to create between our personal preferences and backgrounds – and the mission at hand. How we listened and shared. Learned. Aimed for consensus, reached consensus and together felt like we had done a great and enjoyable job.

The winners will be announced in March during the Leipziger Buchmesse.

I would like to thank the organisers of this election – Stiftung Buchkunst (Katharina, Ines and Regina) – for their invitation, hospitality and guidance to the process, and my fellow jury members (photo below) for so freely sharing their expertise and together making this a memorable experience.

 

schoenstebuecherausallerwelt_2017_jury

Left to right: Demian Bern, Tom Mrazauskas, Mariko Takagi, Andreas Töpfer, Federicca Ricci, myself, Lars Fuhre

UPDATE 9 Mar 2017: Here’s the 14 winners!

14SchonsteBucher2017

Goldene Letter: Ornithology, Anne Geene, Arjan de Nooy (NL)

Golden Medal: Palimpsest, Petr Jambor (CZ)

Silver Medals:
Bugs‘ Book, Zhu Ying Chun & Huang Fu Shanshan (CN)
(un)expected, Peter Dekens (BE)

Bronze Medals:
UP UP – Stories of Johannesburg’s Highrises, Nele Dechmann e.o. (DE)
Bernhard Chadebec – Intrus Sympathiques, Olivier Lebrun and Urs Lehni (FR)
Eva Hesse – Diaries, Eva Hesse / Barry Rosen (DE)
Withheld due to: Christof Nüssli (CH)
DWARS VERS, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay (NL)

Honorary Mentions:
Falsche Fährten, Peter Radelfinger (DE)
Ink Rubbing by Leng Bingchuan, Leng Bingchuan (CN)
VERDADE?!, Bernardo P. Carvalho (PT)
Encyclopedia of Modern Sport, Toshio Nakamura e.o. (JP)
Plötzlich Funkstille, Benjamin Courtault (FR)

Congratulations to the winners and their project partners!

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Over Bruno van den Elshout

Kunstenaar en strategisch conceptontwikkelaar
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