Elf Dalia, by Maja Daniels, Mack, RRP£30

Isolated by forests and lakes, where its people speak the near-extinct language of Elfdalian, the Swedish valley of Älvdalen is a land of myth and faery tales. Daniels’s book combines abstract and atmospheric photographs with those in a more traditional documentary style, alongside an uncanny archive of images from the area collected by Tenn Lars Persson (1878-1938), to offer an odd glimpse into a land and people “with a dark, insular spirit”.

The Pillar, by Stephen Gill, words by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Nobody Books, RRP£45

A wooden post in a field near Gill’s house in Sweden is the unlikely starting point for one of the most enthralling photobooks of recent years. Gill set up a motion-sensor camera and although the background remains the same, the cast of feathered characters that contort, preen, shriek and take flight on the post are constantly changing. Where someone else may see monotony, Gill finds profundity.

The Coast, by Sohrab Hura, Ugly Dog, RRPINR3000/$68

Winner of the 2019 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook of the Year award, The Coast will leave you dizzy. Shot at night along the Indian coastline, Hura’s latest work is full of violence and fury. The images keep repeating throughout, and the cumulative effect is powerful and hypnotic.

Parliament of Owls, by Jack Latham, Here Press, RRP£40/$50

Latham’s latest work of investigative documentary takes a deep, large-format, black-and-white dive into a conspiracy theorist’s fantasy world that combines an exclusive members club, Alex Jones, Twin Peaks and some beautiful portraits of owls. The book itself is fantastically produced; its uncut foot and fore edges force you to peer and squint between pages to read transcripts and attempt to make sense of what really happens at Bohemian Grove.

Howling Winds, by Vasantha Yogananthan, Chose Commune, RRP€45

In this, the fifth chapter of Yogananthan’s epic retelling of the Ramayana, the animals are called in to help Hanuman stage his daring rescue of Sita. It’s perhaps the most playful of Yogananthan’s series to date, combining his pastel-palette, lightly desaturated photographs, with acrylic hand-painted images that dance off the page, full of energy and humour.

Josh Lustig is the FT Magazine’s deputy photography editor

Books of the Year 2019

FT commentators, critics and guests select the titles of the year that you need to read. Explore the series here.

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below.

Join our online book group on Facebook at FTBooksCafe. You can listen to acclaimed novelist Ben Lerner discuss his newest book, The Topeka School, on the FT’s culture podcast Culture Call. Find it on the FT, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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