Journalists Love Their ‘Best of’ Lists

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By: Charles Bowen

We journalists are hopelessly in love with lists. When we don’t have our new Academy Awards and Grammy albums of the year, our Pulitzers and Nobel Prize winners, we come up with our own lists. The 100 best science fiction books. The 100 funniest American movies of all time. The 25 greatest electronic music recordings of the 20th century.

And now a new sweetly irreverent site on the Web, maintained by Yahoo! programmer Bill Turner, helps feed our obsession by providing “a one-stop shop to find all the ‘best of’ books, music, and movie lists.” The material is collected from various sources and added to several lists created especially for the site.

In an online statement, Turner said he was inspired to create the list after deciding to attempt to read all the books on the Random House “Best 100 Books of the 20th Century” list. And there’s some great pickings here. For instance, the music section offers such goodies as “The Guardian‘s Alternative Top 100 Albums Ever,” “Album of the Year” Grammy Award Winners, and Rolling Stone‘s “Readers’ 100.” The book section features some 20 lists, including “The 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Novels,” “Sports Illustrated‘s Top 100 Sports Books of All Time,” and the Hugo Award Winners list.

To get started, visit the site at http://www.listsofbests.com, where a simple home page provides links to Books, Movies, and Music. Also at the top of the main page is a handy search box. I entered “Bob Dylan” and was instantly told that five Dylan albums were referred to on various lists. Clicking one one of the albums gave me more information, that, for example, “Blood on the Track” is included on three different “Best of” lists (No. 7 on The Virgin Top 100 Albums, No. 39 on Rolling Stone‘s “Readers’ 100,” and No. 40 on “Q Magazine‘s Greatest 100 Albums of All Time”).

If you’re more in the mood for browsing, scroll the introductory screen, where sections devoted to books, movies, and music have direct links to the latest top lists (such as, under books, the Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction and “the Random House Modern Library 100 Best Books of the 20th Century: Fiction”). Also under each category is a “View all our book (movie or music) lists” link. Click any to find a page of relevant hyperlinks.

The site also has a commercial side, linking users to Amazon.com, where they can buy specific books, music, and music, some proceeds of which go to the site itself.

Other considerations for using the Lists of Bests site in your writing and editing:

1. If you write about the site in your Internet features or news columns, you might want to alert readers to the site’s “collections” feature. This is an option that enables users to easily gather books, movies, and CDs into specific groupings. Once a collection is created, you can add titles from the details page of any items. There’s no limit to the number of items. See the site’s FAQ section (which can be reached from options at the top of any page in the site) for details on how to create a collection. Users need to register with the site to use this feature. A “Register” link on the front takes the information. Registration is free.

2. For details on the latest lists to be added to the site, click on the “News” link at the top of any page. At this writing, the latest additions were the Orange Prize for Fiction (the U.K.’s largest annual literary award for a single novel), the Giller Prize (awarded to the best Canadian novel or short story collection) and The Chronicle “Western 100” polling readers for the best fiction about or from the Western United States.

3. If you need to communicate with the site, a “Feedback” link among the options at the top of any page lets you send an e-mail to the site, along with a comment or question.

You can read the last 20 “Reporter’s Digital How-to” columns on our index page. Subscribers may access previous columns from our archives.

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