Go Ahead, Make a List for Your Readers

We’re at a listy time of year.

You know, top-10 this and that and the other thing – songs, events, movies, books. Santa’s list, of course, and children’s.

You should consider creating your own.

If you’re building a platform for your ideas, you’re already developing an engagement with your audience. And if you’re engaging in conversation with your followers, then you’re already on the way to trust. That is,  your opinion matters.

Your audience would love your opinion on subjects where you’ve become expert.

In your field, you can certainly weigh in on either significant developments, or books related to your area of expertise.

If you can’t find 10, then choose five. Make up the list, and then give your readers a précis of what the book or event was, why it mattered and why you chose it. You can have fun with this. There’s no need to be super-serious, even if you’re writing about serious matters.

Lists are ever-popular because people read lists. People like lists. Lists might not be the most in-depth way of dispensing information (a term for the kinds of articles that rely on lists, and little else, is “listicle” – these often appear in monthly lifestyle magazines). But they do grab attention.

I’m going to be offering my own list in a future column about things I thought moved the industry this year.

In the meantime, here’s a brief list of three books I’ve read or re-read this year, and what they meant to me in (in no particular order).

  • The most long-winded book, and also the most entertaining: James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson. This classic, first published in 1791, it recounts the life of that great 18th-century man of letters, Samuel Johnson who, among his many other achievement, created an influential dictionary of the English language. What’s remarkable about the book is its depiction of Johnson as a man who tries to live morally, where everything is weighed in terms of how just or true it might be. The book is replete with conversation – mainly dating from the time when Boswell met Johnson and began recording what the older man said. It skimps a bit on Johnson’s youth, but no matter: Johnson was a legendary conversationalist, raconteur and moralist, and what he says about how a person should act still has resonance more than two centuries later. And all in just over 1,200 pages.
  • A French novel about an unfortunately timeless subject: Eugénie Grandet, by Honoré de Balzac. This 1833 novel, Balzac’s first major success, recounts the story of pretty Eugénie Grandet, a naïve provincial girl, and her miserly father, and how the sins of the father play out in the daughter. Greed is not good here: Balzac shows the worship of money is the sad addiction of a deluded soul whose life is ultimately worthless because he denies the value of others, who are, after all, priceless. And he never realizes it.
  • A prophetic book about the way we lived then and what that means for us now: Pendulum [link to], by Michael R. Drew and Roy H. Williams. I know the authors. But despite that personal relationship, I’m including their book because it says something important about how society changes and what that means for everyone from marketers to artists to the person on the street who wants to better understand the world. If you want to know why we’re more concerned these days with a sense of working together than we used to be way back in the 1990s, read Pendulum.

See? Try making your own list, and see how people respond.

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  • TheBookZine

    Good idea Bob – never thought of this time of year being a good one for lists but it sure is! Note to self: Use lists every Dec!

  • Anonymous

    Great idea! Love it.

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