One of the reasons I started making lists was to figure out what movies to watch, music to listen to, and books to read. There is so much out there and more gets produced every year. How do you decide how to spend your limited time and energy? My primary goal was to increase the likelihood that I would be getting high-quality material and reduce the chances that I would be wasting my time with dreck. I also wanted to avoid getting into a rut of sameness – I wanted to explore new artistic visions, not just those I was familiar with already. I concluded that the best way to achieve my goals was to collect lists made by critics, academics and other experts of what they considered the best in each category. I might disagree with any particular individual’s taste, but if a consensus of critical opinion formed around a book, movie, recording, or any other work of art, then there was a good chance it was worth spending my time and money on it. This process has worked very well for me for nearly 20 years now. I still have my disagreements with the critics and my own personal preferences, but going through the lists has given me huge rewards – intellectually and emotionally – and has exposed me to works of art that I never would have discovered on my own.
As I have made this journey through the arts, I found myself wanting to keep track of my progress through the meta-lists I had made. So I put together giant lists in four categories: (1) literature; (2) visual art and architecture; (3) music; and (4) film. This lists are aggregations of various other meta-lists on the Make Lists, Not War website. Then I began checking off the books, stories and poems I’d read, the works of visual art I’d seen, the music I’d listened to; and the movies I’d seen. I couldn’t figure out how to do an actual checklist, so instead I just highlight the items I’ve seen/heard/read in blue. I keep a running tally at the bottom of each list. The lists for books, movies and music get longer every year as I do my end-of-year meta-lists. I don’t think I’ll ever finish any of these lists – that’s not the point – but it’s fun to keep track of what I’ve already checked off.
Here are the links to my checklists. I’ve also included the total number of items, the number I’ve checked off so far and the overall percentage:
My Checklists – Film Total: 2,012. Seen: 1,195. Percentage: 59.3%
My Checklists – Music Total: 2,001. Listened to: 1,152. Percentage: 57.5%
My Checklists – Literature Total: 3,520. Read: 1,427. Percentage: 40.5%
My Checklists – Visual Art Total: 2,897. Seen: 391. Percentage: 13.4%
You can use these lists too. All you have to do is cut and paste the list, get rid of all the blue highlighting and start to go through the list on your own. Make sure to keep the items numbered to make it easier to do a tally of the ones you’ve checked off.