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Listless abandon: In defence of our obsession with the end-of-year list

The annual deluge of December lists is upon us - and readers can’t get enough of them

It’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The high street resembles the contents of Joan Collins’s jewellery box, the shops have sold out of Rennies, Noddy Holder is getting his annual paycheque, and the end-of-year lists are coming in thick and fast: films of the year, heroes of the year, probiotic yoghurts of the year.

There’s nothing like a list to get people going. “Django Unchained higher than Before Midnight!!!!”; “How can you have left out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch? Are you STUPID?”

Of course the beauty of the list is it introduces you to new things, reminds you of stuff you’d forgotten about, and serves as an affirmation of your own good taste (“Yes! I’ve been banging on about Julia Holter’s Loud City Song since August and there it is at No 37 on Record Dork’s blog. I am so very cool”).

And although The Atlantic once remarked that the annual deluge of December lists is purely because “journalists are hard up for content around the holidays”, readers, it seems, can’t get enough of them. And they feel passionately about them. Scroll down to the comments section under an end of year list and you will find more bickering than in an episode of I’m a Celebrity! after they’ve been airdropped a crate of gin. People get very angry.

In 2011 National Public Radio ran a wonderful list called “The 20 Unhappiest People You Meet in the Comments Sections of Year-End Lists”. It included such gems as “The Person with the Imperfect Grasp of Obscurity”: “These are all completely obscure picks nobody has ever heard of. The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo sounds like a Dr Seuss book.” That was number nine on the list.

Happily, the readers went all meta and tore into the list, claiming the entries should have been ranked differently and pointing out the offenders they had forgotten.

Of course lists are all just subjective. They are merely one person’s (or group of people’s) opinion. Why does everyone care so much? Umberto Eco said: “The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it.” Embrace the list, enjoy it. Just don’t get your knickers in a twist if you don’t agree with it.

So here are my number ones for 2013:

Film: Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Album: 'Field of Reeds' by These New Puritans

TV show: Breaking Bad

Sandwich: Pret’s Autumn Pesto.