Today, alphabetical order seems like a commonsense way of arranging data, but it was not always considered valid. Samuel Pepys, Denis Diderot, and George Washington favored it, but many others stuck to older forms of classification; Yale, for example, listed its students by their family's social status until 1886. Why do we have this need for order, and what exactly led to the idea of "looking things up?" In her wry and witty survey, Judith Flanders traces the triumph of alphabetical organization and offers a compendium of Western knowledge, from A to Z.
"An intriguing history not just of alphabetical order but of the human need for both pattern and intellectual efficiency."—Guardian