The Order of Things by Barbara Ann Kipfer


Like most writers, I love lists. I love to know the relationship of one thing to another. THE ORDER OF THINGS is a fat book full of lists that is supposed to show the structure, hierarchy and pecking order of everything.  While some of the lists do just that, most of them do not.

The lists range from the interesting (boat and ship classification) to the silly (all the answers from a magic 8 ball). The problem is, Kipfer tries to impose an order where none exists. For example, there is a list of the eleven brightest stars in the night sky. However, knowing that Sirius is brighter than Vega doesn’t really tell you anything. Likewise, knowing that a tuba has 13-14 inches of tubing while a trumpet has 4-5 inches doesn’t put them into any kind of hierarchy. And I really don’t know why anyone except a McDonald’s line cook would need to know the order of assembly for a Big Mac. It’s as if Kipfer is trying to jazz up a dry list of lists. The result is a mishmash that is too dull to be truly entertaining, while also too lightweight to be truly useful.

As expected, the most thorough chapters were those on the military, government and sports. Those are places where the hierarchy is strict, confusing, and crucial to know. Kipfer’s lists would be helpful to anyone trying to sort out a chief warrant officer from a chief master sergeant, or a judo yellow belt from a judo green belt.

But none of this information is difficult to find. When looking for facts like this, my first instinct is to run for the computer, not the bookshelf. THE ORDER OF THINGS may be interesting at times, but in this age of Google, it’s hardly necessary. There is nothing here that I couldn’t find on my own with a few clicks of the mouse.


THE ORDER OF THINGS can be found here.


rating: 2 stars


4 thoughts on “The Order of Things by Barbara Ann Kipfer

  1. I know what you mean. I enjoy lists but when it comes to sports I tend to like lists relating to statistics. And yes, those can be found on the internet. An interesting list would be a rating of chilies from mildest to most extreme, but I imagine that’s on the internet as well – except I’d like a poster!

    • Hey, classy! Nothing like the witnessing the beginning of yet another Author’s Big Mistake.

      I can’t actually picture a scenario where I would ever need this book. That’s why there is the internet, indeed.

  2. Back in the ’80s Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky put out a series called Book of Lists (1, 2, 3…10 to the 10th). They were amusing, but 90% pointless. Actually after the first they were about 98% pointless and not so amusing. They did cure me of my interest in lists for the sake of lists.

    I’m with the rest of you. I have a question, I’d rather have a straight answer. Google it is.

    That said, here is a list for writers dealing with reviewers and critics:

    #1. Don’t be a knob.

    Short list, but it covers just about all situations.

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