5 Reasons I LOVE Lists

The October 27-28, 2018, Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal was their Lists Issue. Hurrah!

I was giddy before I even started reading it. With a steaming hot cup of Sunday morning coffee, I sat down to savor list upon list upon list.

Here is a list of my top 2 favorite lists:

  1. Blueprint for a Marriage - A list of “12 lovable qualities of architect Ero Saarinen’s would-be wife.” Watch for a writing recipe coming soon, based on this list. It inspired me and will make a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the beloved in your life!

  2. You Want Me To Live in That? - A list of “5 domesticated-animal homes that prioritize aesthetics.” My husband is allergic to cats so me NOT buying any of these would be one of my lovable qualities (see list #1 above!) since any cat using it could potentially send my beloved to the emergency room, but the designs are so cool, so Modern Museum of Art.

Yes, the lists were intentionally quirky. Can we say 8 Uncommon hotel amenities from the Pet Psychic at Your Service List?

Yes, half the lists include items that are not part of my reality due to ridiculous price-points. Can we say an $11,200 Louis Vuitton jacket from the list of 8 Chanel-ish jackets that aren’t by Chanel?

But the point I really want to make is that I still read each and every list.

And the question I want to ask is why?

Why do lists pull us in for a read even if what’s in the list is not applicable to our own lives?

Here are 4 reasons I want to know the answer to this question:

  1. A lot of my writing recipes are actually glorified lists. They are fast to write. Their success rate is high. I know folks try these the most.

  2. I am told that list blog posts get more clicks.

  3. There are websites devoted to lists. For example, see 52 Lists . Oprah even mentioned this site and viola, a book deal happened! Also, check out Penelope Loves Lists. It will make you swoon.

  4. There are lots of books written in list format. For example, anyone remember reading The Book of Lists by Irving Wallace? His kids have even updated the somewhat controversial 70’s original (go check out that list of the pros and cons of popular sexual positions!). And who can forget 1,000 Places to See Before You Die? There are so many spin-offs - 50 Places to Camp Before you Die etc. etc. A personal favorite of mine is Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Book of Eleven.


So, lists are clearly popular.


I did some Googling and found a great article in The New Yorker, written by Maria Konnikova in 2013, called “A List of Reasons our Brains Love Lists.” I figured this one had to be good because The New Yorker is an intentionally NOT listy kind of publication. They are so last century and use paragraphs and big long sentences with all the right grammar and punctuation, but since it was a list I decided I had time for the commitment.

3 Reasons We Love Lists

  1. Before we even start reading, lists promise a finite story. The certainty of a clear endpoint makes us happy.

  2. The mental heavy lifting is done for us already because the list takes care of our brain’s desire to categorize and compartmentalize.

  3. Numbers get our attention more than words.

Here’s 1 favorite quote, written by Maria Konnikova:

  1. Lists “create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption—a bit like sipping green juice instead of munching on a bundle of kale. And there’s little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data.”

Amen to effortlessy acquired data!

And can I get another amen for effortlessy created writing recipes that you can compose today with the few moments you’ve got to spare?

5 List Writing Recipes - super fast and super fun. Made just for you:

  1. Memories

  2. Random Autobiography

  3. How To Be

  4. I Always LIke Summer Best (you can do this for ANY season)

  5. Very Short Very True Stories

So, dear List-loving Writers, write some lists today that don’t have the following 3 titles:

  1. Groceries

  2. To Do

  3. Reasons Why I Don’t Pick up a Pen and Write

Always writing (lists!),