The end before the beginning

September 22, 2010 at 12:41 am 9 comments

I read somewhere — possibly multiple somewheres — that there are people in this world who skip ahead and read the ending of a book before they finish the whole thing. Some of them finish the book regardless of the end; some of them don’t finish it if they don’t like the ending. But all of them are breaking one of my cardinal rules — one reads a book in the order it’s presented.

Maybe this is anal of me. Maybe I would benefit from a good end-before-the-beginning scenario once in a while. But isn’t the whole point of a book to work your way through the story plot point by plot point? Rereading, obviously, is different in that you know the ending while you are still working your way through the middle, allowing you to see how exactly the plot reaches its terminal point. While that’s a valuable experience, certainly, I would never sacrifice my first virgin read of a new book just so I could pay closer attention to the structure.

What about you? Are you an end-before-the-beginning person? Or do you like to take things in order, like me?

Kate

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Entry filed under: Musings and Essays.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Britney  |  September 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I usually read a book in order, but sometimes….well, I can think of a few scenarios.

    1) Book of short stories. Who reads these in order? Not me.
    2) The book is bad, and possibly a mystery, and while I want to know how the mystery wraps up I can’t bear to read the words leading up to it. So I find the big reveal and read it.
    3) Sometimes I peek ahead to make sure a character is still alive if I’m worried, or if there are multiple viewpoints to see if the one I’m interested in is going to show up anytime soon.

    Reply
  • 2. bernadetteinoz  |  September 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Never. Ever. Read the end before I get there in the proper manner.

    On the day last harry potter book was released I met a friend for coffee, she had just come from the store with her copy of the book. When I cam back to our table after ordering our coffees she was reading the last pages of the book. I was flabbergasted and said so very loudly and remarked that I thought I knew her (we have been friends for 20 years) but boy that was a worrying secret about her (said in a joking tone)(mostly), people at surrounding tables started joining in to our debate – it was quite funny in the end as almost the whole place had a say – definitely two camps of people and neither could convince the other side to change their minds

    Reply
  • 3. neuroticmom  |  September 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Rarely do I read the end before it’s time unless the book is VERY boring and I want to know how it ends,but if the book is that boring I don’t even bother to do that. I can think of a few books that I would have been sadly disappointed in if I would have read the ending before it’s time since the endings were such shockers.

    Reply
  • 4. Natalie  |  September 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    I was once an avid proponent of reading books in order, but I admit shamefacedly that I am now an end reader. I can’t remember when the switch happened, but I suspect that a book with a thoroughly distressing and unpredictable ending is to blame.

    Now, when I am reading a book whose plot draws me in to such a degree that I can’t bear the suspense of not knowing what happens, I read the last couple of pages then go back and finish the book properly. Because I only read the last little bit, hardly any of the plot is actually spoiled. For example, with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, all I knew was that Jonathan and Arabella would be able to communicate and were therefore possibly alive; given the magic in the book, that was hardly certain. Thus, I was satisfied, but the book’s twists and turns were still fresh.

    For what it’s worth, I intentionally spoil movies for myself too. I hate suspense, surprises, unexpected events, and everything of the like.

    Reply
  • 5. Iris  |  September 23, 2010 at 5:08 am

    I do understand why you’d read the end before the beginning. Not because I woudn’t read it if I didn’t like the end, but because I am easily too freaked out by suspence and I’d like to have the comfort to know how it will end before reading on.

    Reply
  • 6. chasing bawa  |  September 23, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Of course books should be read from beginning to end (except for short stories which you can dip into). However, I’ve cheated and peeked many times, usually with mysteries where I just had to know whodunnit or if someone was going to die, and I’ve regretted it every single time! As I get older, I’m learning to control myself a little better;P

    Reply
  • 7. Em  |  September 29, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Postmodernist reading?
    I don’t think I’ve ever read the ending of a book before getting there in the correct order. I even read short story collections in the order they’re presented. Maybe I’m too conventional?

    Reply
    • 8. Kate  |  September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Ah, that’s exactly what it is, postmodernist!

      And I’m the same way — maybe I am too conventional as well.

      Reply
  • 9. Shannon  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Generally I begin reading the book first, and then somewhere along the line, as I get highly invested in the characters, I find myself flipping to the end to make sure it’s going to end the way I want it to. If it doesn’t, then I have time to prepare myself and avoid feeling disappointed. I don’t always do this, only if I really, really like a book.

    Reply

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