Get to Know People Through Their 'Lists of Note'

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

People make lists for all kinds of reasons. I would be lost without my lists. To do lists, packing lists, work lists, project lists, pros and cons lists, shopping lists, and oh-so-many lists to organize our homeschooling. I’m not alone. We all make lists, to bring order to the chaos, to focus our attention. People have always made lists, and now there is a new book that brings us many fascinating lists through history, all packaged up together.

Last year, Shaun Usher published Letters of Note, a compilation based on the blog by the same name, but with plenty of extra material. I reviewed it at the time, and I continue to be moved whenever I crack open the book to a random page. The importance of the letters, or the writers, or the events, all continue to impress upon me. If you’re already familiar with Letters of Note, maybe what I’m about to say won’t be news to you. But either way, you’re in for a real treat.

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

Usher’s newest masterpiece, Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience, is now available. Also a large, high-quality hardback complete with ribbon bookmark, this is another book that will sit in my bedside bookcase, at the ready to inspire.

Filled with 125 list entries, there are lists formal and casual, ancient and new. They stretch from reasons why Ancient Egyptian workers missed work to a list of gifts given to Queen Elizabeth I to Kurt Cobain’s list of items needed to make the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video. We learn of Johnny Cash’s romantic side, Pablo Picasso’s handwriting style, and what chemist Robert Boyle wished to be discovered by science. We see copies of the original lists, as possible, along with transcriptions of them. For those written in other languages, we are offered a translation. We can read predictions for the future, and find out how many came true (Robert Heinlein’s list is particularly interesting). We can learn to decipher a bit of Jive Talk. We get an intimate look at Charles Darwin’s thinking as he makes a pros and cons list about whether to propose to his eventual wife. And we learn the Art Department rules from Immaculate Heart College. That list of ten rules, alone, is worth the price of the book.

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

How do your lists compare with those in the book, lists of interest to people generations, and sometimes centuries, later? Don’t worry if you feel your lists are mundane. Today’s grocery shopping list is tomorrow’s anthropology lesson.

Lists of Note is now available. Just as wonderful a read as Letters of Note, Lists of Note will intrigue you and likely get you to start making some of your own lists, if that isn’t already your habit. I know I’m inspired.

Note: A copy of the book was provided for review purposes.

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