5 List Obsessed Books

5. Created In Darkness By Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category, edited by Dave Eggers, Kevin Shay, Lee Epstein, John Warner and Suzanne Kleid (Knopf). This collection of short comic pieces from McSweeney’s magazine and Web site features such lists as "The Ten Worst Films of All Time, as Reviewed By Ezra Pound Over Italian Radio" and "Actual Academic Journals Which Could Be Broadway Shows If They Had Exclamation Points Added!" and concludes with "Alternate Titles Proposed for This Book." The book’s final section, "Lists," is a 31-page compilation of names, terms, trends, phrases and observations both ridiculous and inspired.

4. The Disinformation® Book of Lists, by Russ Kick (The Disinformation® Company, Ltd). No list of list-obsessed books would be complete without at least one book inspired by list-making’s Old Testament, David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace and Irving Wallace’s 1977 The Book of Lists. This compendium of "subversive facts and hidden information in rapid-fire format" delves into intoxication, religion, magic, sex, malign corporations, the names given to U.S. nuclear tests, the last meals of executed prisoners, and the people and bands who are the subjects of FBI files.

3. The Preservationist, by David Maine (St. Martin’s Press). Drawing on one of the oldest and greatest list-driven tales of all time, Maine’s debut novel about the man known here as "Noe" is an irreverent and inventive addition to contemporary Noah’s Ark accounts. From Noe’s pre-deluge mental list, which begins with "1. Need wood," to a list of a day "simplified to its most basic elements" made in the midst of the 40-day delirium, the lists here encapsulate Maine’s vision of a man and his family struggling to collect their own thoughts even as they collect all the animals of the world.

2. Fears of Your Life, by Michael Bernard Loggins (Manic D Press). Handwritten and illustrated by Loggins, an artist at a San Francisco center for artists with developmental disabilities, these candid and imaginative lists detail the fears that nag at us every day and those that threaten to overwhelm us. Divided into two categories, "Things that you are very fearful of" and "What fears can do to you," the book’s ongoing phobic inventory summons up images and moments that encourage us to exorcise our dread with laughter.

1. The List: The Uses and Pleasures of Cataloguing, by Robert E. Belknap (Yale University Press). The list-obsessed book of the year embraces both the philosophical and rhetorical indulgences of the list. "Lists are adaptable containers that hold information selected from the mind-deep pool of possibility," writes Belknap in his scholarly and immensely readable exploration of the form. Examining the features and functions of lists in literary works like Emerson’s Nature, Whitman’s Song of Myself, Thoreau’s Walden and Melville’s Moby-Dick, the author plumbs the ecstatic accumulations and poetic incantations, the contents and constructions of list-making. Belknap expands the study of the list so that we more fully appreciate what goes into one and what might be taken from it, or as he puts it in his preface, "Lists are personal constructs that invite different interpretations from different readers."


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