Getting Into Guinness
"'. . .his object was not suicide but money and imperishable fame'" (110).
Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel without a lifejacket in 1875. He became a celebrity, in reveled in his fame. A fame that doesn't entirely make sense. He was definitely not the first to cross the Channel, nor even the first to swim it; just the first to swim it unaided. Yet his feat created many other "firsts," like the first woman to swim the Channel, the first to swim it round trip, or the first to swim it with a particular swimming stroke. People became obsessed with these basically pointless firsts. I find it ridiculous how badly people want to be the first to do something. This continues today. Whether it be the first to swim the English Channel unaided, or the first to comment on a new Youtube video, for some reason people love being the first- no matter how pointless that accolade is. In trying to hold onto his fame Matthew Webb attempted to swim through the whirlpools and rapids of Niagara Falls. He succeeded in gaining more fame when the newspapers published stories of his death by drowning. Many people want to become famous, and this can lead them to do incredible, sometimes stupid, things.
The second half Getting Into Guinness by Larry Olmsted is very much like the first; the book tells incredible stories about what people have done to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. This half focuses less on the history of the book itself, and more on the history within it's pages. History that involves swimming the English Channel, holding a dozen live, venomous scorpions in one's mouth, or a group of football fans staying up 72 hours watching TV to win a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Almost everyone in the Guinness Book of World Records has an incredible drive to win and to be successful, and this really makes for some incredible, awesome stories.
Getting Into Guinness is an amazing book. At no point in reading the book did I get bored or really want to stop. Olmsted kept my attention the whole time through gripping stories like Matthew Webb's. His background as a journalist really shines through, both in his ability to tell a great story, and prevent facts. He presents facts, but doesn't bog the reader down in them, and actively works them into the story where necessary. I really recommend this book to anyone.