I love this idea from Winston’s Dad so much, I’m joining in the fun!

Now that we’re down to the final three in X-factor 2010 and the winner being crowned tonight, the timing is perfect for me to unveil my top 3 wow-factor books. Wow being a factor based purely on design – not that I’m suggesting for one moment that the content is inferior in any way – as chance has it, that is most definitely not the case. But without further ado, here’s my shortlist for the 2010 most beautiful books.

3) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet – David Mitchell (Sceptre – Proof)
When I opened the envelope containing this shiny golden beauty, it was definitely wow at first sight! Sceptre certainly pushed the boat out to the delight of their advance readers. I suspect cost came into the equation when printing the official first edition, which was not as glitzy and probably more tasteful. You don’t want to be detracting from the content too much.  

2) The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore (NYRB)
I know I’ve highlighted this cover before but I’m obsessed with it. Besides being stunning, the mood is perfectly attuned to Judith’s desperation. Perhaps I should just give in to my lust and acquire it. But I already have a Bloomsbury Classic edition. I have no space for duplicates. Besides I can use this one example of self-control to prove that I occasionally conquer my CBPS (chronic book purchasing syndrome).

1) A Life In Pictures – Alasdair Gray (Canongate)

However,  CPBS definitely had the upper hand at the book launch held at Oran Mor, a converted church on Glasgow’s Great Western Road, which has been decorated by Alasdair Gray himself. Besides being an author, Gray is a remarkable artist, having illustrated all his publications and decorated many a building in Glasgow. I went to the launch simply to see an example of his handiwork for myself, this being an objective of mine ever since I read Lanark. The interior was amazing and the perfect place for the book launch. Psychologically effective also, my resolve not to buy the book lasting about 10 seconds. The book, my most expensive book purchase of 2010 (no 50% discounts available at the launch), is a luxury object if ever I possessed one. Peppered with photographs, sketches and finished artwork, it is in Gray’s own word an “autopictography”. The biographical text is restrained; personal details included only in so far as they are needed to explain the inspiration behind the pictures. If you’re looking for something to explain the man, best refer to the recent biography written by Rodge Glass. However, for spending a couple of hours here and there appreciating Gray’s distinctive artwork, it doesn’t get much better than this.

There’s a great taster of the book here


Which books get your design of the year award?