On how they put together their top 20 fiction writers under 40, The New Yorker on list making:
The habit of list-making can seem arbitrary or absurd, leaving the list-makers endlessly open to second-guessing (although to encourage such second-guessing is perhaps the best reason to make lists). Good writing speaks for itself, and it speaks over time; the best writers at work today are the ones our grandchildren and their grandchildren will read. Yet the lure of the list is deeply ingrained. The Ten Commandments, the twelve disciples, the seven deadly sins, the Fantastic Four — they have the appeal of the countable and the contained, even if we suspect that there may have been other, equally compelling commandments, disciples, sins, and superheroes.
A good list — a well-curated and organized list — commands authority. Bulleted, numbered, indented, illustrated, textiled, named, no matter. That it is a list gives it gravitas. Get meta and head over to peruse the making of the list, the editors out loud on more making, or the fiction itself. I, a diehard nonfiction fan, make this annual exception, and it’s always wonderful.