Even for those of us who enjoy annual Top 10 lists, it's still a drag to read every critic tiresomely disown the activity they are taking part in. Here's Manhola Dargas today, in an especially egregious example:

The whole point of a Top 10 list, a friend recently scolded me, is to number them. (I was declining to do so.) My friend was wrong, but only because Top 10 lists are artificial exercises, assertions of critical ego, capricious and necessarily imperfect. (I have a suspicion that the sacred 10 is meant to suggest biblical certainty, as if critics are merely worldly vessels for some divine wisdom.) More than anything they are a public ritual, which is their most valuable function. I tell you what I liked, and you either agree with my list (which flatters us both) or denounce it (which flatters you). It’s a perfect circle. [Italics mine]

Yikes. And that italicized sentence must count as perhaps the most pompous thing written all year (I should compile a Top 10). For the best case against these lists, however, here is Louis Menand from a few years ago.

--Isaac Chotiner