ALEX Johnson likes a list. He could even put pencil to paper to record his own book list after writing A Book Of Book Lists for the British Library.

The list of Alex Johnson books now reads: Improbable Libraries; Bookshelf; Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution and A Book Of Book Lists.

A freelance journalist living in St Albans, Alex is formerly of this parish, having sharpened his skills as a trainee at the Yorkshire Evening Press before we started shedding location and time of day from our title.

He is not a fan of the "stupid|" 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die variety of list books that merely affirm why Charles Darwin would "often groan over his unread books because there were so many which he knew he would never read".

"There's no story there, but the thing about a good list is there's always stories connected to them," he says. "We all look at people's bookshelves when we go into homes, don't we, or more interestingly if they have no books, either way it always tells you something about the person."

Not only do lists tell stories, they make you smile and wonder and lead you to seeing titles together in entirely new ways, suggests Alex. From every book Art Garfunkel has read since 1968 to the books most frequently left in hotels, from Oscar Wilde's Reading Gaol Bookcase to MPs' most borrowed books, from Burnt By The Nazis to David Bowie's 100 Influences, from Richard III and Marilyn Monroe's libraries to books IKEA uses as decoration in its shops, the book lists are so revealing.

"I always wanted to shine a light on things that people didn't know about, like Napoleon's Travelling Library, and if they might not find the list interesting in itself, they might be interested in where it takes them, such as learning that Napoleon wanted his generals to have their own travelling library too as he liked them to be well informed," he says.

Where would Alex recommend you should keep a copy of his latest book? "Maybe with you when you're commuting, or in your lavatory, or one in every room, or maybe by your bedside to read last thing at night before you go to sleep – not that I'm saying it's going to make you fall asleep! The lists should keep you thinking," he says.

Soon Alex will be adding to his own book list: arriving next spring will be Book Towns, a treasury of book towns across the world, from Hay-on-Wye to Australia, Iceland to eight in France, and he is now editing a collection of essays by famous people about reading, out this time next year.

A Book Of Book Lists, by Alex Johnson, is published the British Library in paperback.