The list of n things is in that respect the cheeseburger of essay forms. If you’re eating at a restaurant you suspect is bad, your best bet is to order the cheeseburger. Even a bad cook can make a decent cheeseburger. And there are pretty strict conventions about what a cheeseburger should look like. You can assume the cook isn’t going to try something weird and artistic. The list of n things similarly limits the damage that can be done by a bad writer. You know it’s going to be about whatever the title says, and the format prevents the writer from indulging in any flights of fancy.