Each fall, beginning in September and October, the editors of American Photo begin sifting through and poring over the avalanche of photography books being released in time for the holiday season. It is an agreeable ritual, but far from effortless. The number of such books brought to market increases on an annual basis, and the range of art they represent is extraordinary. Our job is to help readers find the new entries that are worth a look -- and, in some cases, worth a considerable price. In picking the 10 most important volumes of the year, our staff, led by executive editor Russell Hart and managing editor Jack Crager, judges each book on several criteria: We look for a wide array of subject matter; we consider the significance of the photography showcased by the book; and, last but certainly not least, we evaluate the book itself as an object. Great photography books aren't mere collections of art; they put pictures in context and, in one way or another, through brilliant design and brilliant editing, add to our understanding and enjoyment of photography. Here we present the new photo books that, we believe, achieve such lofty goals.