Say it with me: “Listicle.” We all know, from our BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog and Reddit perusals, that articles consisting of lists are pop-u-lar (quick, someone make a list of top 10 Broadway show tunes referenced in web ledes!). We also know that just because something is easy to read doesn’t mean it was easy to compile. This week, we offer two “lists of lists” with the strong flavor of a good cup of builder’s tea.
Frontlist: National Geographic London Book of Lists
Even one of the world’s most venerable institutions, The National Geographic Society, has been drawn in to the list trend. Its newest title, National Geographic’s London Book of Lists: The City’s Best, Worst, Oldest, Greatest, and Quirkiest by Tim Jepson and Larry Porges, proves Dr. Samuel Johnson’s remark “When one is tired of London, one is tired of life.” England’s capital city teems with people, history, culture, and ideas, and lots of those have made their way onto one or more of these pages. You might be a past or future traveler to London — or even just an armchair traveler — but you’ll find something juicy, useful, interesting, funny, or maybe even shocking in this collection of imaginative lists. The best Victorian gin mills? Here. Cockney rhyming slang? Here. (You thought you didn’t need it? How else would you know that cafes named “Rosy Lee” serve “tea?”) Fave dinners of the Royals? Here, and don’t say we didn’t warn you: The monarchy isn’t known for its epicurean palates.
Backlist: Schott’s Miscellany
Fortunately, our backlist title author, Britisher Ben Schott, has exquisite taste. His Schott’s Original Miscellany, first published in 2003 (he’s since written follow ups and add ons, including 2013’s “Schottenfreude,” for words which have no English equivalent), established a new standard in list quirkiness (note that word is in the National Geographic book’s subtitle). It’s deliberately a “miscellany” and not a “compendium;” many of Schott’s beautifully presented lists were things that could easily be found elsewhere (Ivy League colleges, e.g.), but were so much fun to find in juxtaposition to, for example, odd ways of death and little-known collection nouns that people snapped up the gorgeous little volumes with abandon. While the London Book of Lists might actually serve you well on a trip, Schott’s Miscellany simply is a trip, one which might be savored over a proper cream tea. Bon voyage, maties!