Top 10 reasons to love (or loathe) top 10 lists

This eight-to-10 day period, depending on who’s counting, falling between just before Christmas Day to Jan. 2 or 3 is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy the usual pleasures, of course. Families coming together, gifts given and received, religious and secular celebrations, holiday music, abundant food and drink, and the calming sense of a break from the rest of the year’s hullaballoo are the major reasons for the holiday season. But I personally enjoy a couple of secondary pleasures as well. Top 10 lists, for example.

During these final few days of the calendar, top 10 lists are as ubiquitous as fruitcakes (and sometimes just as hard to swallow). This is an obvious time of the year to publish a summary of the past 12 months, and media folks can’t really be faulted for going for an obvious story once in a while, especially when they have their own food, drink and holiday revelries to enjoy.

Top 10 lists can be a ranking of the most popular, the most important, the best, the worse, the most successful, or the least successful. They can be very subjective (The Tastiest Desserts of 2014), or quite objective (Top 10 Google Searches of 2014). They can be as serious as a list of the top ten political decisions of 2014 that will affect our lives, or as lightweight as the top ten red carpet fashions worn by Hollywood celebrities.

Ten is a good number for items on a list. Maybe it’s just me, but a list of “The Top Eight Movies” or “The Top 11 Most Popular Girls Names of 2014” just doesn’t have the same ring. There are Ten Commandments; we have ten fingers; our math and money system are both based on 10; two Indiana school are members of the Big Ten Conference (which has 14 members, but never mind). Indiana native David Letterman owes at least part of his career to his long-running Top Ten List comedy bit which I’m arguing wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if he had 13 jokes on his lists.

Although it has been debunked by scientists, a popular myth has it that we humans use only 10 percent of our brains. I have been reading some of Googles’ 2014’s “Trending” searches and am fascinated to see what people find interesting enough to search the Internet for details. I have learned, for example that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were No. 1 on the “Celebrity Weddings of 2014” list while Ellen Degeneres’s selfie taken at the Oscars was No. 1 on the “Selfies” list. It make me wonder if that 10 percent brain usage figure might be a little high.

But I’m not being fair. As I think about it, why should I care if people want to track the top 10 celebrity weddings or selfies or any other top 10 list that I don’t have any interest in following? Isn’t one of the wonderful things about America the right to read what you want to read? To occupy your mind and interest as you choose? (“The Top Ten Wonderful Things about America” would make a good list.) Really, your favorite lists are none of my affair. If I ever compose a list of Top Ten Ways to Get Along in Life” I would include “Mind your own business” up near the top.

I’m looking to a few more days of end-of-the-year top 10 lists before January drags us back to reality. But now I need to wrap this up. It’s New Year’s Eve, after all, and I have some food, drink and holiday revelry to enjoy.