By the numbers

Who can resist a good listicle? You could spend a lazy Saturday watching listicle TV, like VH-1’s “300 Most Profound Reality TV Moments,” or you could read the equivalent here on the Web.

Here’s a bunch of recent listicles that I found thoughtful, helpful, funny and/or entertaining. Books, maps, feminism, wonkery, UFOs, dinosaurs, Hitchcock, debt collectors, civil disobedience, toxic churches, living wages and cruel politicians — all enumerated for your reading pleasure.

101 Every Day Ways for Men to Be Allies to Women

CIA Acknowledges Existence of Area 51 Testing Ground

Alfred Hitchcock’s 50 Ways to Kill a Character

40 Maps That Explain the World

28 Favorite Books That Are Huge Red Flags

24 Books You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Change Your Life

23 Things That Debt Collectors Are Not Allowed to Do

20 Facts for the 20th Anniversary of America’s Family Leave Policy

20 Science Fiction Moments That Will Make Absolutely Anyone Cry

16 of Your Favorite Things That Climate Change Is Totally Screwing Up

11 Strange Science Lessons We Learned This Summer

10 Best Television Series Finales

Top 10 Weirdest Dinosaur Extinction Ideas

Nine Reasons to Run From a Church

Here are Eight Stupid Lies Fox News Keeps Telling About Food Stamps

Seven Guidelines for Civil Disobedience

Seven Ways the Drought in the West Really Sucks

Six Crazy — and Cruel — Things Said by Cory Booker’s New GOP Opponent

Five Reasons to Raise the Minimum Wage Right Now

Five Biblical Concepts Fundamentalists Just Don’t Understand

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  • quietglow

    Remember Scott Hayes, the guy who backed the “Kill the Gays” Ugandan laws and fomented anti-gay violence in various ways throughout his career?

    Now being tried for crimes against humanity. “This is the first known Alien Tort Statute (ATS) case seeking accountability for persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Motion to dismiss was thrown out.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Oh, god, the incoming cries of persecution if he gets convicted…

    Not that I think he shouldn’t. Far from it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Wow. the person who wrote the book article is…Kind of a pretentious butt.

    I mean, I agree with him on one or two points. People liking Ayn Rand is usually a flag, for example.

    On the other hand, I think he missed the entire point of The Giver.

    If you’re going to rant about The God Delusion and the people who “thump” it, it’s entirely hypocritical to not also mention the Bible and it’s people.

    I’d comment on the Harry Potter jab, but I think I’d be showing too much fangirl bias.

    And if you’re going to pick on the Narnia Chronicles, there’s a lot more depth there you could go to than “give swords to kids to kill the bad guys.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Dawkins-thumping nerdtheists

    And now I’m imagining him going LOLOLOL AM I NOT SO FUNEY EVERYONE????

    These are diverting but if your FAVORITE book is a glorified television
    show about a boy wizard written for 5-year-olds I’m going to wonder if
    you know where Afghanistan is.

    Bildungsroman, motherfucker. Do you SPEAK IT?!?!

    f you’re going to say this is your favorite book, you might as well tell
    the truth: The Bible is your favorite book, and no amount of Santa
    Claus giving out swords to children to slay infidels is going to change

    Atheist here, fuckface. I still enjoy reading the books, except #7.

    This guy sounds like he was going “HUR HUR I R SO WITTEY” through the entire thing.

  • LoneWolf343

    #7? I like that one, but I have to admit I think #6 is the best. It’s #1 I think is flat in comparison with the rest of the series.

  • AnonaMiss

    Really? I think #1 is the best of the lot, with the possible exception of #3. There’s a Roald Dahl quality to #1, and a level of scenery and atmosphere which becomes continually sketchier over the course of the series.

  • VMtheCoyote

    Agreed, in general – there were a couple bits on there that were a’ight, but… geez, Harry Potter is a pretty good series, and Narnia is a pretty good series, if you don’t mind allegory or can look past it – but yeah, if The God Delusion is on there, the Bible should be, too. Just in general people who feel it is absolutely necessary to answer that question with a sledgehammer of “THIS is what I believe!!!” should probably be backed away from.

    Also, Harry Potter was not written for five-year-olds, and I would assume anyone who thinks that has not read past the cover. Or possibly the first few pages of Philosopher’s Stone. It spanned a generation, and most of the kids who started reading it at ten or eleven are in their twenties now.

    I inadvertently stumbled on a different test of “Do I want to continue speaking with this person,” a while back, while talking to a guy on campus about Game of Thrones. We got on the subject of favorite/least favorite characters. I assumed Joffrey was his least favorite character – nope! Sansa. Sansa is the most detestable. He found Joffrey understandable.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yup. I grew up with Harry Potter.

    The books didn’t really start getting “dark” until Order of the Pheonix, but it has some things as early as Chamber of Secrets that I wouldn’t let a 5 year old near alone.

  • P J Evans

    They were never intended for five-year-olds. At ten, a kid might get them.

    Also, WTF ‘Pride and Prejudice’?

  • Kirala

    Somehow I get the feeling that the person started making a list, then thought, “Oh noes! I sound prejudiced against certain groups! I shall show my UNBIAS by being willing to challenge even the most popular of books!”

    Which, if you’re going by Adult Literature which is Widely Approved/Respected, P&P might be a good choice.

  • AnonaMiss

    I am profoundly disappointed by the mischaracterization of the plot of Pride and Prejudice as “waiting around for Mr. Darcy.” The story’s been adapted and readapted so much that the version that’s been absorbed into pop culture is completely unlike what actually goes on in the book.

    Elizabeth doesn’t wait around for Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth would rather be single, with the poverty that implied in that day, than refrain from speaking her mind. While excessive adaptations have turned out a legion of “Darcy” fangirls who don’t understand the basis of his original appeal – the fact that he valued a woman for her mind, and was attracted to her outspokenness, not repelled! – there is room for an intelligent and especially a historically-grounded love of the novel.

    (It’s not my favorite, but I’m grumpy because it’s not at all what the five thousand adaptations have turned it into, and it attracts a lot of flak for the vapidity of its adaptations. 9:1 odds the list-author only ever skimmed P&P, because Chick Lit Isn’t Serious Literature Amirite.)

    (My favorite is probably A Doll’s House. Though I will admit that I don’t read much literature these days. Most of my reading is here, dear Slacktivist.)

  • stardreamer42

    That puts you squarely into his final category of “I do most of my reading online.” :-)

    I had the same feeling about P&P — even though I’ve never read it myself. But I have a lot of very intelligent friends who have, and what he described doesn’t sound one bit like what they talk about when they’re discussing the book. If it’s that obvious even at second hand, he’s got a problem.

  • Alix

    That’s the thing – for me, anyway, what matters isn’t what your favorite book is (with a few glaring exceptions), but why it’s your favorite. I have a friend whose favorite books are true-crime novels about serial killers – because they’re like mystery novels, with an edge of horror from being real life (her explanation). If she liked them because, say, she found the killers heroic exemplars of humanity, she’d … probably not be a friend of mine.

  • Amaryllis

    That’s what so irritating about that list; it’s the assumption that he knows why a favorite book is a favorite. It’s a long, long time since I waited for Mr. Darcy (if indeed I ever did; it’s too long ago to remember) but Pride and Prejudice is still one of my favorites. (I’m not good at picking an absolute favorite of anything.)

    And, since we’ve all got our glaring exceptions and our personal “he’s right about” book, I admit that I probably would run screaming from anyone who admitted to favoring Tucker Max without waiting for further elucidation.

    ETA: edited to give discredit where discredit is due: I’d originally typed “Tucker Carlson.” Who gets a different kind of discredit, but you can see where the confusion arose.

    I don’t in real life actually know anyone named “Tucker.”

  • Michael Pullmann

    Quoth George Carlin: “Fuck Tucker, Tucker sucks.” He meant the name, but I haven’t met a person who disproved the sentiment yet.

  • fredgiblet

    The Mountain man, The Mountain. Joffrey’s a spoiled brat who’s power-mad, The Mountain is just evil.

  • VMtheCoyote

    Oh, I dunno. Certainly The Mountain is evil, but Joffrey’s not just a power-mad spoiled brat, he takes pleasure from hurting people. How many times did he order his men to beat Sansa up? How many times did he try to pick the thing to say that would hurt her the most? He’s not just a brat – and maybe it’s possible that he could’ve been different, say if Tyrion had been in charge of him, or Robert had taken more of an interest, but as it stands? He’s pretty danged evil.

  • Amaryllis

    The thing is, there’s a lot of room for detestation in GoT– what about that pirate– one of the Greyjoys? — who’s trying to out-evil the evilist pirates ever– or those Boltons, so evil that they’ve become almost banal about it– or the disgusting Peter Littlefinger– and lots of others.

    But Sansa? What’s so detestable about her?

    Rhetorical question, really; apparently some people find girlish– schoolgirlish? — naivete more horrible than torture and slave-trading and murder and all the rest of Mr. Martin’s characters’ “gritty” little foibles.

  • Amaryllis

    And now it belatedly occurs to me to wonder if I misinterpreted the question. Maybe it wasn’t which character is more unlikeable as a person, but which is more unlikely as a character?

    Maybe it’s possible to think that Joffrey, although a nasty piece of work, is a believably-written character, while Sansa is unconvincing?

    I wouldn’t make that argument myself, but maybe someone would?

  • J_Enigma32

    My list of red flags would’ve made more sense:

    Atlas Shrugged
    Left Behind
    The Northwest Front novels
    The Turner Dairies…

  • general_apathy

    Yeah. Did he even read The Giver, Narnia, Lolita, Pride and Prejudice, etc.? I’ll give him Atlas Shrugged and The Alchemist, though. Two of my least-favourite tomes of pretentious, manipulative nonsense. Oh, and this:

    26. Finnegan’s Wake
    You’re lying.

    made me laugh.

  • MikeJ

    He didn’t say that those weren’t good books. His comments were much more about the type of people who declare any of those to be their favorites and not really about the books themselves. And he was mostly right. 90% of the people who have read the bible won’t bother you about it. 117% of the people who have read Dawkins will make sure you know they’ve read it, and that you’re an idiot if you don’t unquestioningly accept it with no reservations.

    The depressing list was the 24 you’ve never heard of. Really? I wrote papers on a fair number of those. Is he just overly pessimistic about what people don’t know? I mean, c’mon, Babbitt?

  • Baby_Raptor

    Do you have any proof for these numbers? Because I can already assure you you’re wrong. I’ve read Dawkins, and you didn’t hear about it from me until you started talking about it, nor am I calling you an idiot for your attitude about it.

    Also, your 90% number is way too high. Or you’re using a *very* loose definition of “bother.”

  • Alix

    I’d never heard of about half of them. That translation of Meditations is my favorite, and I like the Cyropedia, and Ambrose Bierce ranks as one of my all-time favorite authors. Some I recognize the name of, but have never read.

    Others, though, including Babbitt, I’ve never heard of before that list. So. But I also tend not to read much stuff focusing on America or the last few centuries in the first place; that list is heavily skewed.

  • general_apathy

    I… didn’t say he said they weren’t good books. But the points he makes against them were really odd. The Giver can’t be a favourite because it was written for children. Nobody could possibly enjoy Narnia if they weren’t secretly religious, or Lolita if they weren’t a pedophile (where to begin). The Metamorphosis can’t be your favourite Kafka, because it’s not the best of Kafka… And yeah, he’s being flip, but “dismissive” isn’t exactly a punchline.

    The 24 books one wasn’t so bad, really. I only knew nine. (Only read three. Ouch.) Worst case scenario, someone gets introduced to a book that is less-than-totally obscure.

  • Alix

    Heck, a lot of my favorite books are either kids’ books or YA. Discounting a book because of its supposed age range tells me exactly how shallow that person is – it’s not like good storytelling is something only for adults.

  • general_apathy

    The Hobbit, Watership Down, Robinson Crusoe, a fair bit of Dickens and Twain… you’d be missing a lot of classics if you just went by the target audience.

  • christopher_y

    Just so. The target audience for Robinson Crusoe was aspirational business people in the early 18th century. So since the target audience is all dead, nobody should read it at all?

  • caryjamesbond

    Also, the points about some of them were spot on. The comment on “Fight Club” in particular was spot on. And “Catcher in the Rye”. And “Eat, Pray, Love” which is basically “white person finds adorable other cultures to be SOOO TOTALLY CUTE!”

    And, I think a lot of the point is- FAVORITE book. If you’ve honestly dipped even a toe into the endless ocean of written material, and you’re saying your absolutely favorite work of literature you’ve ever encountered, the experience that will never leave you, is Harry Potter….yeah. Or On the Road, which I also love. Or Gatsby. A lot of those books are on that list, I think, because claiming them as your OMG FAVRIT BERK EVAR is a huge red flag that you actually aren’t much of a reader. Like someone whose favorite Beatles album is “1”

    Maybe even a red flag that you’re the worst sort of person of them all. The sort of person that uses…..sparknotes.

  • VMtheCoyote

    and you’re saying your absolutely favorite work of literature you’ve ever encountered, the experience that will never leave you, is Harry Potter….yeah.

    No offense, but I saw Harry Potter on the list and was immediately reminded of Mark Oshiro, who first came across the Harry Potter books as a follow-up project to “Mark Reads Twilight,” a painful and incredibly depressing thing he had embarked on. JK Rowling’s depiction of bullying and abuse struck home to him in a way no literature had before, if I’m remember his words right. He’s enjoyed a lot of books since in his journey, but Harry Potter has probably stayed at the top or near it, because it was such an experience.

    …and anybody calling Mark Oshiro immature or not worth talking to or any other dismissive phrase should probably just stop. Just… stop.

  • mistformsquirrel

    I disagree to be honest.

    A favorite thing need not be the best example of that thing; only something with personal meaning to the person in question.

    For instance – a favorite song doesn’t need to be the best example of music in it’s genre, or even a good example for that matter; it’s someone’s favorite because of what it means to them. Maybe it reminds them of a lost love, or a missing pet, or maybe of better times; maybe it pushes them to fight harder for what they believe in or even just really pumps them up to get things done. Maybe it’s even as simple as “I just like the beat.”

    The same is true of any media – some of my favorite books are on the rather soft end of science fiction – Battletech novels, Star Wars novels, that kind of thing; I don’t pretend they’re examples of great literature or anything, but they mean something to me because they were where I went for comfort growing up.

    Calling something your favorite is not the same as saying “This is the pinnacle of whatever”.

    Not saying there aren’t people who don’t confuse the two – there are, but not everyone; or even most people.

  • stardreamer42

    Yeah — I’m really tempted to go look for Twelve Years a Slave now, because it sounds painful but fascinating in much the same way as Black Like Me.

  • caryjamesbond

    I’d say that first, we need to define “bother.” Evangelical behavior by religious types is, frankly, pretty normalized by society. If there was an atheist group regularly going out and actually shouting at people on streetcorners, with a bullhorn, holding signs saying “religious people are fools” I give you ten to one it’d make the national news.

    And yet the group down the street from my college who did the exact same thing about Jesus don’t get a second look.

    I’d say, overall the percentage of people that evangelize in an irritating, pushy way (I’ve no problem with POLITE evangelism*) about the god delusion and the people that evangelize about the bible in the same way are about the same.

    *One of the most interesting conversations of my life took place on the steps of the Edinburgh University library. It was between me the atheist, a Scotsman just as fundie as any Mississippi Baptist and a Muslim woman from the mosque across the street. The weird part was that at no point were voices raised, or insults hurled. Just three people talking peacefully about their religious beliefs and acknowledging when the others made a good point. Wonderful thing.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Actually, surprise! I’ve read Dawkins. Now go ask anyone around here if I’ve ever gone around shoving it in their fucking faces.

    Answer: Zero.

    Good DAY, SIR!

  • Turcano

    I do enjoy the song, though.

  • general_apathy

    The song is why I misspell “Finnegans Wake” every. Time.

  • stardreamer42

    Indeed. Somehow I have managed not to acquire any version of this in my CD collection. This must be rectified — it’s a natural for the playlist I’m compiling for my own wake!

  • D Johnston

    It’s amusing that none of the people here complaining about that BuzzFeed list realized that it might be a touch facetious (Your first hint: It’s on BuzzFeed).

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Sometimes, humor falls flat.

  • LoneWolf343

    Buzzfeed has all the depth and perceptiveness of a coloring book.

  • Alix

    Hey! Some coloring books are quite perceptive! ;)

  • LoneWolf343

    Okay, Atlas Shrugged.

  • Launcifer

    There’s a colouring book version of Atlas Shrugged? Damn it, now I want this…

  • LoneWolf343

    Of course not! Children are parasites, constantly demanding charity!

  • VMtheCoyote

    There’s some good stuff on there! But like every human endeavor in the history of human endeavors, it’s not going to be perfect all the time. Like this time.

  • banancat

    Quite frequently authors will pretend to be facetious while declaring their true opinions, but with plausible deniability when called on it. “It’s just a joke!” has never been an acceptable excuse, and when you start from a position of power and facetiously criticize something, it’s not really much different than the schoolyard bully teasing someone about their clothes or hairstyle. It’s still intended to just be funny, but at the expense of others rather than the author. I guess my point is that even funny things can still be offensive, like that Onion article I once read that was basically just declaring that women with anorexia are hideous and unlovable.

  • Jamoche

    I bounced off Gatsby a couple of years ago when I actually wanted to read it; I can’t imagine slogging through it in high school, willingly or as a school assignment.

    And I know one of the top experts in James Joyce. Not sure which of his books is her favorite, but if the implication is supposed to be “if you’re really that good at grokking the ungrokkable, cure cancer” then we’re getting back to the “people can be really smart in one area but not others” discussion.

  • P J Evans

    I have to admit a lot of ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ went by me when I read it, but the multi-lingual puns were fun to try understanding.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The S.E. Hinton book “Rumble Fish” is full of inferences that I still to this day do not fully understand, because the reader has to deduce them from what Rusty-James experiences, and he’s… decidedly kind of on the dumb side, so his interpretation of what people say and do is not always correct.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Gatsby was mentioned my senior year, but we did the Canterbury Tales instead.

  • Alix

    We did Gatsby in high school. (Want to say junior year, but I am honestly not sure.) I hated it. Stuff setting out to encapsulate the feel of any given time period/cultural milieu in America is really not my thing, especially when it’s all about how hard it is to be rich. :/ (Or like the other books we had to read, about how haaaard it was to be a teenager. Gah.)

  • LoneWolf343

    I get a hipster vibe off of that article. “How dare you like popular books?”

  • Michael Pullmann

    I would say “pompous” rather than “pretentious”, but yes, he is an ass.
    He also either didn’t read Fight Club, or dind’t understand that Pahlaniuk agrees with him.

  • stardreamer42

    I do agree with his point that there’s a difference between liking a book and calling it your favorite book of all time, and the latter is what he’s thumping on. I like a lot of books that various people would consider problematic (different people for different books), but I don’t consider them my all-time favorites.

    In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to name an all-time favorite book, but my fallback position is Lord of the Rings — which some people consider problematic because of the institutionalized racism.

  • themunck

    “Top 10 Best Television Series Finales”.
    No mention of “Goodbyeee” from Blackadder Goes Fourth? For shame.

  • VMtheCoyote

    The list of “24 Books You’ve Probably Never Heard of” is pretty awesome. It goes on the bookmark list; if I don’t find a job other than cleaning up grounds for the summer, it’ll be a good time to start.

    (…that said, I get the guy’s point but I take some umbrage to the fact that 12 Years a Slave is becoming “a movie Brad Pitt/Benedict Cumberbatch/Michael Fassbender is/are in/doing,” because that misses the point in the most infuriating way possible.)

    Also, the “Nine Reasons to Run from a Church,” er… hah. Yeah. The church I grew up in checked off seven and a half of those. The church I just started going to struck down any suspicion of any of the eight within… what, two weeks? Maybe three. It is unbelievably awesome to have somebody say “Oh, you disagree with this reading/me/this passage? Why?” and actually mean it. I doubt I could ever go back to a church that wasn’t enthusiastic about questions.

  • Katie

    On that note: Read _12 Years A Slave_ I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it since I read it for a class. Its amazing and heart wrenching. And while you’re at it, read _Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl_ by Harriet Jacobs. Which is also a book that will stay with you.

  • connorboone

    I have not read 12 Years a Slave, but I have read Incidents. It was pretty rough going.

  • Shay Guy

    Still following the AP Stylebook’s rules for numbers, I see. :)

  • Jamoche

    The Man Without a Country: “Released in 1863 during the height of the Civil War, the plot’s simple: an innocent man caught up in Aaron Burr’s treasonous conspiracy stands trial for his actions”

    So that’s the backstory. I think I read it around 2nd grade and I missed that part of it.

  • christopher_y

    Odd fact: “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun was Lenin’s favourite novel. None of his other books are anything like it, or so I’m told. He wasn’t a Nazi sympathiser when he wrote it, because Hitler was one year old at the time.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Oh god, WE3. If you can get through it without crying, then you have no soul.
    And Pirate the rabbit has possibly the greatest final line of any character in any comic, ever. If you haven’t done so, find it and read it. NOW.

  • Michael Pullmann

    “The name on your collar was Bandit. U R Bandit.
    “Run, Bandit! Run far!”