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Listomania! 6 Questions for the Woman Behind 2,663 Random Facts

Listomania

LISTOMANIA: A World of Fascinating Facts in Graphic DetailHarper Design

8 dastardly Ponzi schemes. 23 famous conspiracy theories. 12 animal interlopers. 9 things we've lost in space.

"Listomania! A World of Fascinating Facts in Graphic Detail," breaks down the everyday world into fascinating minutiae: great (and not so great) entertainment, questionable actions and ideas, weird items and more. The book holds 2,663 facts sorted into 10 categories that amaze and inform.

We've created our own list: 6 questions about the process, inspiration, research, blood, sweat and tears ("6 things that created Listomania"?) and posted them to Mariah Bear, the book's editor and chief Listomaniac.

1. What inspired this unbelievable book?

The short answer is that the team that came up with it is a bunch of overeducated weirdos who like strange information. As a team we've created illustrated how-to books that tell people how to do everything from punching a shark in the face to making moonshine. 

In other words, avid consumers of Internet weirdness who do a lot of research for our jobs. We kept finding cool stuff that didn't really fit the books we were working on, so we bookmarked it "just in case."

Some of us (er, me anyway ...) are old enough to have pored over the old Book of Lists in the 1970s (okay, mainly for the dirty parts), and kept stumbling over neat lists on the Net that reminded us of that. Finally, we put the pieces together and made this book.

2. How many people worked on this? The book intro says hundreds, but even that seems like an understatement.

The core editorial team was about five people, but so much of what we did was to find other folks who knew more than we did, and pick their brains. A lot of the book was crowdsourced through Facebook and Twitter, so literally thousands and thousands of our dearest friends at least had the opportunity to weigh in. 

And we learned some things in that process that we wished we hadn't (why does my 13-year-old niece think Blofeld is a sexy supervillain? And should I tell her mom?), as well as thousands of things we're glad we did.

3. This book is clearly the work of not one but many – evidenced by the fact that it doesn’t have an author listed. Any idea how many other modern books are authorless?

No ... but that would be an awesome list for our next book! Thanks for the idea, wanna do the research? All sarcasm aside (yeah, right), we feel like this fits in a kind of awesome tradition of crowdsourced content that stretches from the Bhagavad Gita to the Oxford English Dictionary to Wikipedia.

4. Who picks the lists that get included, and who decides what doesn’t make the cut? There must be at least one great list that didn’t make it in….

This was a truly democratic process ... by which I mean confusing, possibly unfair, and subject to much debate. Basically, 5 or 6 people sat around a table twice a week for months, and suggested dozens and dozens of ideas each time. 

One idea that the senior designer really liked was "animals that only eat one thing." Turns out that's ... naked mole rats, koalas, and silkworms. Not really that exciting.

My favorite idea, before cooler heads prevailed (wait for our "Listomania: Too Hot for TV" title) was a correlation between frequency of sex in alleyways and alcohol consumption. I thought of this because in researching something else I discovered a list of the top 10 countries for sex in alleyways (how did they research this?). 

I thought gee, what could a contributing factor be? So I graphed it against countries with the highest level of alcohol consumption. For some reason, our publisher thought someone somewhere might find this offensive.

5. Is this intended as a reference work? Or a piece of entertainment? Or a distraction? Or all of the above?

The easiest answer is "yes!" All of the above, and more. It is my personal goal that this book be found on the back of every toilet tank in America.

6. When will we see the sequel? In fact, how can I subscribe the list of the week?

We're working on sequel ideas as we speak, and if you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, we're sharing cool new ideas as they pop into our twisted little heads. We're also hoping to sell syndication rights for the lists to media outlets worldwide so that more people can enjoy them -- and become much, much more fascinating to speak to at cocktail parties.

Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.