Once upon a time, a schoolboy decided he wanted to be in the record books. So Monty Lord set about learning the first lines of as many works as he could.
Now the 14-year-old has achieved his ambition by identifying 129 books consecutively just from their opening sentence.
He won a place in Guinness World Records by beating the previous record, a mere 30, held by a man in India.
Monty became fascinated by the powers of memory while doing a distance learning course in psychology.
When his father Fabian Lord, a TV producer, challenged him to get into the record books, he accepted and picked on the feat for the most consecutive books identified from their first sentence.
Monty studied the openings of 200 works using visualisation techniques.
He then sat in a classroom at his school, St Joseph’s High in Bolton, and was filmed as Mr Lord read out 130 opening lines.
He would have identified all 130 correctly had his 44-year-old father not made a mistake at the start, saying the title instead of the opening line of the first book.
The list contained many children’s favourites, such as the first Harry Potter, The Gruffalo and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. But it also ranged from William Shakespeare’s plays to Ian Fleming’s Bond books, Iain Banks to Franz Kafka – and included controversial works such as Lolita and A Clockwork Orange.
‘I had two or three weeks to memorise the first lines,’ Monty said.
‘I would try to find a link with the title, so Harry Potter was quite easy, but I did get stuck on Lord Of The Rings because I thought it might be The Hobbit – but realised I had already said that one.’ Eleven days after achieving his feat last month, he received an email from Guinness World Records titled ‘You’re Officially Amazing’, informing him of his success.
‘I was half asleep when my dad burst in and announced I was now a world memory champion,’ Monty said.
‘It didn’t really sink in for a couple of hours. It’s great but I’m just me and probably everyone has a record within them they can break.’
The feat should come as no surprise as Monty is already an author – he released his first book, Freaky School, when he was just seven – and put his memory skills to the test last summer when he recited the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, at his father’s wedding... a task he said he found harder.
Here are just 10 of the opening lines Monty memorised. Can you guess which books they came from?
1 It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
2 When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
3 It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
4 The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.
5 My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.
6 Once there was a little girl called Sophie.
7 What’s it going to be then, eh?
8 The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.
9 The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.