Which book, aside from the Bible, is the world’s all-time bestseller? Answer: the Guinness World Records.
The annual publication is celebrating its 60th anniversary as the most authoritative listing of the shortest and longest, largest and tiniest, and all other extremes under the sun.
Indeed, it has become the last word on the best and worst in human achievement, and certainly on the most bizzare.
You have to do the weirdest feat in order to make it to its pages, or outdo the best to set a new record.
And talking about records, Guinness is not only the top-selling copyrighted book of all time, it’s also one of the most frequently stolen books from public libraries in the United States.
Its 2000 edition was printed in a single run of 2,402,000 copies, the world’s largest single print run for a case-bound book in color. And in 2003, the book’s 100,000,000th copy was sold.
Half a century and a decade ago, the book was born because Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of Guinness Breweries, went on a hunting party somewhere in Ireland and got into an argument over which was the fastest bird in Europe, the golden plover or the red grouse.
Since he could not find any reference books that would settle the dispute, he commissioned Norris and Ross McWhirter to compile a listing of such trivia, and the result was the first edition of the Guinness World Records.
One may ask, what’s all this fascination with facts and figures? Is it because we can’t appreciate one thing without comparing it with another of its kind? Or is it because we are competitive animals, and we need to set our achievements against those who came ahead of us? Or do some of us simply have nothing better to do than to perform the weirdest, most outrageous act to gain fame?
Just consider these entries in the 2015 edition of the book, according to the Independent:
– Thailand’s Kanchana Ketkaew holds the record for the longest time spent living with scorpions. She lived in a glass room measuring 12 square meters for 33 days and nights with 5,320 scorpions to keep her company. She was stung 13 times.
– Leslie Tipton holds the fastest time to enter a zipped suitcase. She did it live on American television in 5.43 seconds.
– Turkey’s Ilker Yilmaz squirted milk from his eye at a distance of 279.5 centimeters or just over nine feet.
– Britain had held the record for the longest tongue for a decade until Californian Nick Stoeberl stuck out his tongue measuring over 10.1 centimeters in length.
– German Karsten Maas used his spare time to construct the world’s longest golf club at 14 feet and 5 inches. It’s so long that when he’s taken a shot he still needs to swing the club around three times because of the momentum.
– Samantha Martin realized that her new cat named Alley liked to jump so she started to train her up. Now Alley can leap six feet, making her the world’s longest-jumping domestic cat.
– A contortionist since she was 21 years old, Inke Siefker decided to add to her headstand stunt by accurately shooting an arrow at a target 20 feet away.
Oh well, we all have our own way of earning a place in the sun.
Videos from World Guinness Records
Longest ‘usable’ golf club:
World’s longest tongue:
Longest jump by a cat (from The Independent):
Farthest arrow shot using feet (from The Independent):
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