So what were your top ten books of the year? You haven’t published your list yet!

It’s all getting to be too much: you can’t turn around these days without somebody else bombarding you with yet another list of the best books of the year. I even got a list of the top ten books borrowed from New York Public Library. (Number 1 was Michelle Obama’s Becoming.) This list-bloom happens every year of course, but the fact that we’ve survived another decade is adding to the pile. I must be getting these notifications at the rate of more than one a day. Just got a notification of a list of the best books of the decade as selected by first-time authors. I await the century’s best from left-handed authors with blonde hair.

Just because it’s a pretty color, here’s an infographic showing the 16 best sci-fi books of all time. (The decade be damned.)

In protest against this proliferation, here’s my list of the Best Making Book Posts of 2019.

I quite liked Letterspacing 5, worth the price of entry for the interviewer’s reaction in the gobsmacking video, and The Shed at Dulwich has to be seen to be believed. Stanford University Press deserves a nod. Selling Encyclopedias gets in on the sentimental ticket. Sheep touches on an important topic. Slipcase also struck me as a nice one. V and U represents a type of post, and a post of type. Biography of a book suggests a new line in subject matter — I am keeping my eyes open for similarly meaningful copies. I was a bit harsh about some of my former colleagues in the jaundiced Pitt Building, Editorial, but I really did have a great time there. I guess Ch-ch-changes? was perhaps worthy. Ten’s enough — ten’s maybe too many.

My best books of the year? This category suffers, for me, the fatal flaw that I don’t just read books published during the year: in fact I surely didn’t read ten of them. Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries was published in English in 2018. This immense and hypnotically narrow-focussed New York novel was originally published (in German) in the early 70s, and is now triumphantly translated by Damion Searls. Uwe Johnson’s one of our own: from 1966 to 1968 he worked as a textbook editor at Harcourt, Brace & World and lived with his family at 243 Riverside Drive where the novel is set.

Richard Powers’ Overstory (also 2018) takes a while to get going but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded richly, and inspired to redouble your environmental efforts. The Portable Faulkner, the volume featured in the “Biography of a book” post referenced above, cannot but be one of the best books of any year in which you read it. Lyall Watson’s Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind is full of fascinating facts. It was originally published in 1984.

After Life and Fate one would naturally expect Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad to be a considerable achievement: it’s another masterpiece, and might actually count as a book first published in 2019 as this translation by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler restores chunks of the manuscript excised by Russian censors, or just left out of earlier editions, so this is a newly published complete edition. The book is supported by comprehensive apparatus at the back.

However, the book which most knocked my socks off in 2019 was one I’d read a couple of times before. This time I found Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) an amazing triumph of tone.