A List of the Greatest Lists in Literature

Some of us live and die by the list—and it seems we're in good company.

[optional image description]
AP Images

This week, we were reminded of one of our favorite moments in Joan Didion's The White Album: when she lists her packing list, incredibly simple and yet so revealing. Lists, of course, are no rare thing in literature, and have many uses, from adding quirk to showing off knowledge, and have storied positions in classic texts like The Faerie Queene (so many different kinds of trees) and The Illiad (200+ lines of Greek chieftains). Inspired by Didion, we spent some time thinking about our favorite lists in literature, from short to impossibly long, from lists that catalogue items to those that follow the train of imagination. Check out the literary lists we think are the funniest, most revealing, most interesting, or flat-out strangest, and if we've missed your own favorite, tell us about it in the comments. And yes, it does not escape us that this is a list of lists. Meta is the way we like it.


This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Emily Temple is an editor at Flavorpill.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

Just In