'Guinness World Records' is a guilty pleasure of mine

A "guilty pleasure" may be described as something one considers pleasurable, despite feeling guilty for emjoying it. The guilt often is the fear that others will discover one's lowbrow or embarrassing tastes. My guilty pleasures include (but are not limited to) "Green Acres," streak o' lean and "Guinness World Records." I try not to like them, but I do.

My fondness for the "Guinness Book" dates to my elementary school days when I discovered it at the public library. Back then it was a large-ish hardcover book known as the "Guinness Book of World Records" and was shelved in the reference section, which meant I couldn't check it out. It was filled with the kind of information a young boy could use to impress the recess and lunchroom crowds: the weight of the world's heaviest man, the greatest number of hot-dogs eaten in 10 minutes and the record for longest toenails.

I copied and recopied and memorized those "facts" and eagerly awaited the arrival of the next edition to find out if those records remained intact. "Guinness World Records" gave me hours of pleasure, but I didn't feel the least bit guilty.

The idea for "Guinness World Records" came in 1951 to Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Breweries in Ireland. He had become involved in an argument, while hunting, over which was the fastest game bird. He realized there must be numerous such questions being debated and that a book of records might prove popular. More than 100 million copies of "Guinness World Records" have sold since the first edition was published in Great Britain in 1955. It still comes out annually and itself holds a record, as the best-selling copyrighted series of all time. It also is, according to the online "Wikipedia," one of the most stolen books from public libraries in the United States. Now available in hardcover and paperback, some 4 million copies are sold every year in more than 100 countries and in 25 languages.

"Guinness World Records 2010" continues its tradition of gathering amazing, educational and, some would say, bizarre records from every corner of the globe. There are many new sections: top 50 records of the decade, record of the day, unbreakable records, lasts (records such as the last survivor of the Titanic), James Bond, culture shock and gold, as well as updated regular sections, including space, planet Earth, the Animal Planet, the body, human achievements, engineering and technology, the modern world, arts and media and sports.

Here one can read about the highest active volcano, the longest column of ants, the largest snake of all time and the highest pole vault by a male and by a female. I'm happy to report that the really good stuff also is here: records for the farthest washing-machine throw by an individual, the longest waterfall descent in a canoe, the heaviest vehicle pulled by hair, to name but a few. It is filled with the kind of information a man needs to impress the gym and water-cooler crowds.

I know I shouldn't enjoy reading "Guinness World Records," but I do. It's fun, wacky and even inspiring. Perhaps I'll go for a record of my own. What about "Greatest Number of Bookin' Columns" submitted by an individual, or "Most Books Successfully Checked Out in a Single Day?" I won't feel the least bit guilty.

Gary Barton is the head librarian at Dougherty County's Northwest Library.