Monday December 11, 2017

Jane Farrow on why lists are anything but trivial

Jane Farrow is the co-editor of The Book of Lists.

Jane Farrow is the co-editor of The Book of Lists. (Zoe Gemelli/Knopf Canada)

Listen 2:23

In 2005, Jane Farrow helped create the first Canadian edition of The Book of Lists. She returns as the co-editor, alongside CBC producer Ira Basen, for the 2017 version The Book of Lists: Revised and Updated and Even More Canadian

Reading lists

"The Book of Lists is a classic. One of the best places to encounter it, in my mind, is the washroom because you have time to contemplate the genius of these little micronarratives. There are other books with lists, but the original by Wallace Wallechinsky writing team is about a tightly focused narrative. It's not just a 'best of' or 'favourite' list."

For the listless

"We had to think, 'What do we have to bring to the table now that BuzzFeed is all over this and listicles really prevail?' Back in 2005, the internet was in its infancy and it was pretty new to get a list. Now they are everywhere. There are fantastic chapters that combines this with my interest in words and literature — chapters like Gregory Scofield's 'five favourite Cree words' and Margaret Atwood's '10 annoying things to say to writers.'"

Collecting thoughts

"What we were looking for in a list was something out of the ordinary. That's what defines this book — lists of cats that came back hundreds of miles and fascinating facts about beavers. We also incorporated lists from individuals who had an enticing take on the world like Becky Mason's '12 favourite rivers to paddle.' The book is a collection of lists that have an edge." 

Jane Farrow's comments have been edited and condensed.