Facebook Books challenge: 5 ways to make sure you have the 'right' list

If you’re still stuck on the ALS challenge, we just suggest that you put the ice-bucket down and check your News Feed to see which way the viral trends are going. The "10 books' list" challenge is here and you’d better be prepared for this one.

Like the ALS change (which admittedly was fun to watch, even with the whole “oh no we’re wasting water” debate), this one too works with the nomination format. You list 10 books that have left an impression upon you, in no particular order, and then at the end, you nominate people who will repeat this process.

As one friend observed in all seriousness that the 10 books' list is much more worthwhile than the ALS challenge (never mind that the challenge raised over $22 million in donations for the organisation). If worthwhile means a new way to waste time on Facebook, then sure, it certainly is.

But before you hurriedly start putting down ten names, pause and do note that much like Alia Bhatt’s Genius of the Year video, this too is a PR exercise. Of your intellectual credentials. The objective of the list-naming: Spew the most heavy-duty names in the world of writing you can think of.

And judging by the names on the 10 books' lists that are floating around, English-reading India is a haven of intellectuals. Authors like Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Haruki Murakami are popular picks. Chetan Bhagat can keep his full-page advertisement and ‘simple english’ because Indians love their Kafka and Murakami. Well at least on Facebook.

Since this is probably the most important list you’ll be making in sometime to come, here are some tips to ensuring that you don’t falter.

1.Forget pulp, think deep

Harry Potter and Jeffery Archer aren’t going to win you any intellectual brownie points. Yes, you’ve read Prisoner of Azkaban a thousand times, but it’s best to put it lower in the list or better still don’t admit to it all. The point of the 10 books' list is not to seem normal, but to seem hyper intelligent. Marquez, Camus, Kafka and Murakami are handy authors you can use. Just throw in phrases like misery of the human soul to describe their works and you’ll be fine.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

2. Theorists with foreign names that have complicated spellings

Baudrillard, Foucault, Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Habermas, Marx — the dead white male philosophers are your best bet to look impossibly smart. If you've just got the spelling of their names right, you’re already winning the game. Chances are the other people on the list haven’t really read them and will nod along at the sight of these names. Or they could roll their eyes at your ‘pseudo’ list, but hey you’ll get some points for trying.

For instance, one friend first joked about Fifty Shades of Grey being in her list, but redeemed her reputation by quickly putting out a real list with JS Mill on it. Also remember Paulo Coelho doesn’t count in this list of philosophers.

3. Mix and match, but carefully

Coming across as eclectic is essential when making lists like these. However, be alert to the implications of the literary cocktail you're concocting. One list I encountered included Bhagvad Gita and all six volumes of World War II by Winston Churchill. Clearly the list-maker was thinking that combining Noble prize winner with spiritual cool would make them look magnificent. Churchill may have got the Nobel for his epic work, but no one is going to believe you've actually, willingly read all six volumes unless you were in solitary confinement with nothing but World War II for entertainment.

4. Revealing your inner child

This comes within the mix and match category but of a different kind. It’s fine to add Western philosophers, books on gender politics, and Murakami to the list, but it can’t all be such heavy duty stuff. Make sure you occasionally throw in a childhood favourite or else everyone will think you’re a fake.

It’s okay to put in Enid Blyton's works but remember the world now sees her as a racist and sexist. So we suggest sticking to the books that are still acceptable like Asterix, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts. You can forget about mentioning the Nagraj and Dogra collection.

5. Turn the tables by messing with the list

If you can’t join them, mess with them. Forget the books, get people to tag and create lists of other things. For instance one friend has been tagging people on Facebook to put down a list of top ten sleazy songs. (Sadly I have nothing to add to that list.)

Another wants people to only tag fan-fiction. Someone put up a list of ten fake books (example: I Can't Write, by Chetan Bhagat). Another put up a post saying they don't care about any of these lists. ( A classic mistake since they cared enough to write a post saying they don't care.) The problem with these efforts is that if not prefaced with a suitable note that establishes you as a reader, all the alternative top 10s suggest is that you have the memory of a goldfish and/or haven't actually read 10 books in your life.

Predictably there are those who are annoyed by these lists (mostly people like myself who’ve either not been nominated or want to prove they are too cool for school). As one friend noted on Facebook that based on the lists it would appear that, “we're all generic, extremely gifted pseudo philosophers, who all visited the same three shelves of the same library.” Aristotle would have a hard time choosing his philosopher king based on these lists. Then again, maybe we're all philosopher kings.

Updated Date: Sep 01, 2014 16:49 PM

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