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Posted at 2:45 PM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Top ten reasons you can't avoid reading this top ten list

By Alexandra Petri

10. The form is like quicksand. Top ten lists are the 21st century's only true contribution to literary form. Unlike all other types of literature invented in recent centuries -- modernist novel? spoken-word poem? -- the top-ten list format is both reassuring and tantalizing. This makes it literally impossible not to read. You never see a link that says, "Limerick Explaining Why Your Sink Is Liable To Turn On Your Baby At Any Moment." And if you did, you wouldn't feel compelled to click on it.

9. You think there might be a slideshow. The only thing people enjoy more than top ten lists are slide shows. This accounts for the perennial popularity of the Huffington Post, since it features things like Top Ten Slideshow-Reasons That What You Are Doing In The Workplace Isn't Working For Megan Fox in a Bikini -- which is, frankly, unfair.

8. The title was sort of ominous, implying that if you failed to read the list it would result in harm to your career, health, and love life, and that bears might eat your children.

7. It will quickly give you information about something you have been saying you cared about at cocktail parties, like Seeming Emotionally Invested In Other Humans, Impressionist Painters, Underrated Films of the 90's, Sports Players Who Were Better Than Other Sports Players, or Reasons Your Metropolitan Area Is Superior To Other Metropolitan Areas.

6. You are studying for Family Feud

5. You think you might be on the list. The title of the list is a phrase that you have always secretly used to describe yourself, like People With Rich Inner Lives You Might Overlook On The Bus, or People Who Deserve Your Sympathy Because of the Difficult Break-Ups They Are Going Through Right Now, or Ten Most Humble Individuals Ever.

4. You are hoping that your favorite thing will be number one on the list, which will make you feel warm and vindicated. Usually, it is number four. You angrily continue reading to see what gosh-forsaken waste of space the listmaker selected as number one instead. It's probably Citizen Kane.

3. The list's title involves sex in some way. Based on the contents of most of these lists, an anthropologist from another planet would assume that the only thing uniting millions of human beings is the vague sense that we might be doing it wrong.

2. You have read the rest of the list, and you might as well keep going, even though you sense that the listmaker was beginning to lose steam and really only had eight items in mind when he or she started. Besides, you can't abandon the list mid-stream, because what if the Number One is totally wild and surprising? Alternatively, what if it was a total cop-out?

1. Citizen Kane.

By Alexandra Petri  | January 7, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Only on the Internet, Petri, Top Lists  | Tags:  Cosmopolitan, awareness, lists, parody  
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Next: Of course John Edwards isn't engaged to Rielle Hunter. I hope.

Comments

I always enjoy your "Top 10" columns. Someday, you should do a Top 10 Top 10 columns column.

At the Top of this Top 10 Top 10 columns column would be: "Top 10 reasons Christine O'Donnell might be a real witch." And the Top reason is:

"She says she's a common-sense conservative who is part of the real America. She promises to make government smaller, not raise taxes and bring values back to Washington. That would require magic. If she says she can deliver on that promise, then -- witch!"

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/compost/2010/09/top_10_reasons_christine_odonn.html

Posted by: divtune | January 10, 2011 1:23 AM | Report abuse

In fact David Letterman’s Top Ten lists -- which were far from being the first of that genre -- originated during his tenure at NBC, well before the 21st century. So this current century will have to wait for another “only true contribution to literary form”. I would instead suggest the non-apologetic apology (“If anybody was offended that I referred to Democrats as ignert stinking basterds, I apologize.”) which is so endemic to political and media statements uttered in insufficiently vetted moments.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | January 10, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Alexandra Petri in regard to Megan Fox in bikini, which should give people a lot to gossip about and I wanted to say something else people are talking about where you can make new friends any time of day or night while using your skills / luck at GameOn247.com in a free Black Jack Tournament to declare a Daily BJ Champion.

Posted by: nancydsouza3098 | January 12, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

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