Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

So I Flipped To The Back of the Book…

So, I’m reading Lauren Myracle’s Shine and I do something — Well. To some, something unforgivable.

You see, there was something happening in the book and, well, I couldn’t wait. I had to know whether someone was going to be OK.

So I flipped to the back of the book, skimmed a little, got the answer to my question, and returned to my reading.

Hello, I’m Liz, and I read the end of books.

I don’t always do it. Just sometimes.

I’ve seen authors react with shock and horror that I’ve done the literary equivalent of cutting the Gordian knot, with the Gordian knot being their carefully structured plot.

Here’s the thing: I’m not doing it because I don’t want to read your book. I’m doing it because I’ve gotten so invested in the characters that the level of anxiety on their behalf is such that I just need to reassure myself. (Sometimes it backfires, like when I thought a character was safe only to realize I’d read a few pages of a flashback not the actual ending.) I’ll keep reading if I realize the entire cast has gone the way of Burnt Offerings, but, sorry, I’m not willing to put myself through that emotional turmoil. (Please, spoilers are not needed on a 1973 novel and awesome 1976 film! With Oliver Reed! OLIVER REED who will always be my Athos. Oh, right, point.)

You’d think this would mean that I don’t mind spoilers, and to a certain extent, I don’t. When it does matter to me, I avoid reviews and discussions and move the book up on the to-be-read pile.

One thing I like about reading ends of books before the middle: it means I can appreciate the craft of the writing and plotting and characterization even more because I’m not so obsessed with “OMG will x live/die/go to jail/get the girl”. I know, that’s the reason to reread a book but I don’t usually have time to reread. That said, I do like to reread the first few chapters of a book as soon as I’ve finished it.

So, I’m Liz. I read the end of books first. Do you?

Edited to Add: Head over to Peter’s Collecting Children’s Books to see my knuckles rapped for my bad reading habits! All joking aside, some great questions to ponder about how we read books.

share save 171 16 So I Flipped To The Back of the Book...
About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. debmiller says:

    Yes! It never spoils the book for me. It makes me appreciate it more. I totally agree. Pre-reading the end allows for more thorough absorption for the long read. And I, too, often reread the first chapter after finishing a book—the better to remember it by. Here’s to better reading through double reading of the beginnings and ends of books!

  2. Tracy says:

    Yay, someone else does this too! We should start our own book club. I read the first few chapters, then I skip to the end. Often, I will skip far ahead to different points in the middle of the book, too. Rarely do I read a book in linear fashion. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of doing so.

  3. Alex Baugh says:

    Hello, my name is Alex and I also sometimes read the end of books – sometimes and for the same reasons, but only after I have been hooked by the story. However, spoilers don’t bother me. If I am invested in a book, I will finish it, even if I know what is going to happen.

  4. Charlotte says:

    Here’s what would be nice–if the author could have an appendix of spoilers, ranging from the general “things work out pretty well” or “it all is a disaster” to the more specific- “the book ends with characters x and y about to jump into bed together.” Because sometimes all I want to find out is if everything is going to be ok, sometimes I need to know more particular elements, or else I can’t enjoy the book.

    This is why I am a re-reader. I know that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy will end up happily married, so I can enjoy their story without being fretted and chaffed by anxiety!

  5. I also read the end of the books as well. But not always. Sometimes, it’s because I’m reading historical fiction and I want to know beforehand how much is real and how much is made up. Sometimes it’s because it’s really intense and I want to know if things turn out good or bad. Sometimes it’s because I’m bored and I want to know if it’s worth finishing the book.

    The funniest spoof on that habit I’ve ever read is Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Versus the Scribner’s Bones, in which Mr. Sanderson put in a fake ending for all the readers who have that, um, habit. Hilarious.

  6. Amy S says:

    I’m Amy and I often read the end of the book, even in mysteries-egads! Then I can go back and enjoy the rest of the book to see how the author gets to that point. I make no apologies.

  7. Brandy says:

    Yep, I do this too for exactly the same reason. It is nice to have a surefire way of dealing with some of the anxiety in my live. :) I will also do it if I absolutely have to go to bed and not knowing how things end up will keep me up all night. That one has backfired on me though causing me to then read the entire book to figure out how on earth it came to that end.

  8. Deb Marshall says:

    Hi Liz! I’m Deb and I read the end of books. Like you, I have to release the OMG what is going to happen tension. The really good writers like Lauren have crafted such a compelling read that you need to go back and carry on reading so you can see how everything previous contributes to that ending. So, I’m with you on the end reading!

  9. Karyn Silverman says:

    I do this. Occasionally for the must-sleep reason Brandy described,but more often skipping to the end means I am bored enough that I don’t want to keep reading. But I don’t like not knowing (that’s a general life philosophy). So I read the ending, and if it’s good I read backwards until I get how the autor got there. Sometimes I end up actually reading (and mostly liking) the whole book as a result, but I read it all out of order, skipping back and forth and puzzling it all together.

  10. Maureen says:

    All the time! And yes, I did it on Shine too. (I guessed right.) It doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book, because then I get to see all the sneaky little hints that got dropped along the way.

    It’s harder to do on ebooks, though, which is how I read Shine.

  11. Robin Brenner says:

    Hello all, I’m Robin, and I definitely flip to the end of books! I didn’t used to, as a teen reader, but now I very much do in order to (as you’ve all said) defuse the tension. Sometimes, I admit, it’s to check on whether I’m going to spend an entire book invested in a character and then lose them, or have their situation utterly disappoint me at the finish, but that never actually keeps me from reading the book.

    I can think of one time that I did get very bitter about what ultimately happened to a character — but this was after 4 600 pages books, and it was the last book, and I just HAD to know whether they ended up at all content at the finish. I…was still peeved at the finish, but I certainly read the whole book anyway.

  12. Barbara from BKLYN says:

    Oh I always read the end when there is too much suspense for me. But then I was they kind of kid who had to always be reminder by my mother that Lassie would not die because they named a TV show for her. But what about Old Yeller, etc. etc. etc.?

    This recent post on Wired Science totally reassured me that spoilers actually DON”T spoil much after all

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/08/spoilers-dont-spoil-anything/

  13. Annie says:

    I don’t flip to the end with books, but I do that with movies. I’ll check the summary on Wikipedia or IMDB, just out of curiosity, and it never ruins the movie for me. But for some reason, with books I just go straight through.

  14. Peter says:

    Geez, I’m going to send all of you guys to Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peek-culiar Readers. Whatever happened to patience, forbearance, and self-control? I guess my feeling is that the author crafts his or her book in a very precise way. If they wanted to reveal the ending first, they’d write the book in that fashion: “Gentle Reader, I married him!” followed by an extended 500-page flashback showing how Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester met and fell in love. So I give the author due respect and read the book the way it’s presented.

    I think this should be especially true if one is reading the book for review. How can we tell if the author has done an adequate job planting clues, foreshadowing, and maintaining tension if we skip to the end and don’t actually experience those things for ourselves as readers?

    I’ve never been a fan of e-readers, but I think I’m going to develop a new type of Kindle for Certain Type of Readers: anytime someone tries to skip ahead to the end of a book, they will get a ZAP from the machine. That’ll teach ya. : )

    Peter

  15. debmiller says:

    lol—we should have known it was only a matter of time till we got our knuckles wrapped—thanks, Peter—there was something way too eerie about all of us being on the same (last) page for awhile there—this had to be the first book conversation EVER that put end-readers in the majority—-

  16. Julie says:

    I don’t do this, mostly because when I was a kid I read about how Stephen King hates people who read the end of the book first. I just never want to disappoint Uncle Stevie. To each his/her own, though.

  17. Pam says:

    Never, ever-ever. I read to be surprised.

  18. Darsa says:

    Yep, I totally do the “death/do they, don’t they check” if a book is making me nervous. I just can’t take the anxiety. Once I know, though, I read the book in order.

  19. Stacy says:

    NEVER!!!!
    Page by page.
    I’m all about the slow reveal.

  20. lalibrarylady86 says:

    How could you? All of you? I have never & will never read an ending first. I get so involved with the characters that I have to ride the intellectual & emotional journey with them. And may have re-read. And re-read again at a different point in my life. And maybe again. Not that I have the luxury of my youth of multiple re-readings but a visit every few years or 20 to see how I and/or the book have changed.

  21. MelissaZD says:

    Coming over from Twitter to represent for the non-peekers! :) I don’t mind spoilers before I start, but once I get going on a book there are 2 options: read it all the way through in order, or don’t finish. I do get anxious about the endings, but all this means is I just can’t stop reading! (The Hunger Games made me late for work.)

  22. Sherry says:

    No, no, no. Oliver/Athos and I always read from beginning to end. It’s a little known fact that Oliver Reed didn’t even read the end of the script until the last day of shooting, so he didn’t know if he would defeat Milady and the cardinal and save the necklace, or not.

  23. Kelly L. says:

    I recently read The knife of Never Letting Go. That book was so intense and I was so invested in the characters that not only did I skip to the end of that book to see what happened but I also read the last pages of the last book of the trilogy. Still gearing myself up to read The Ask and the Answer but not because I read the end.

  24. Tiff says:

    For shame! I’ve known a person or two that peeks at the end but I had no idea this disease was so rampant. ;)
    I, like other commenters, read to be surprised. Some of my favorite books are ones that had an ending I never saw coming, and I love that feeling when an author totally shocks me. I try not to even read front flaps and back covers, so no way would I flip to the back!

  25. Paige Y. says:

    I never, ever skipped to the back when I was a teenager and I thought it was a terrible thing to do. Now that I’m an adult, however, I find myself not liking the tension so I would say I look at the ending about 75% of the time (I did with Shine). I didn’t cheat with Harry Potter and am so glad I didn’t.

  26. adrienne says:

    Oh, I totally do this. In fact, I did it when I was reading Shine, probably out of concern for the same character you were concerned about. Sometimes knowing what’s going to happen takes some of the pressure off. As you say, it helps me enjoy the book without tearing through it so quickly that I’m hardly absorbing any of it, and sometimes it lets me put the book down so I can do things like eat and sleep.

  27. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    so many people who also do this! the book v ebook aspect some brought up reminds me of lev grossman’s article about the codex and its strengths that will make it survive ebooks. http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2011/09/07/its-a-book/

    I wonder if those of us who read by, in a way, chopping up the text to suit our own reading needs have a greater like of those books/films/tv shows that are told nonlinearly, such as Jellicoe Road, Kill Bill, etc.

    I appreciate the link about how spoilers don’t spoil anything.

    and thanks for those who stood up for Team Read The Book in Order! and invoking reviewing and uncle stevie, no less!

    I’m both surprised and relieved to see how many people mention anxiety/nervousness rather than curiousity about the ending.

    and yet another reason to love Oliver Reed.

  28. I can’t do this-even if I want to. And if I want to, it’s because I’m so invested in the story and characters, like you said, that I want to know everything will be okay. My husband will do this and will also read summaries online which I think is awful. He claims it doesn’t hurt his reading experience because he still likes the journey of how the story gets there.

    I will say that I read Harry Potter 6 & 7 carefully looking at the the dialouge on each upcoming page to make sure Ron was still alive!:)

  29. Aimee says:

    Glad to see that I’m not alone. I’m the type of person who avoids conflict in real life and I dislike angst in my fiction. Yes, I know conflict is a necessary part of a story, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Reading the end of the book is sometimes the only way I can get through it. I always go back and read what I missed. I don’t skip in everything – some books that I know will have a lot of twists I do make myself wait, like the Hunger Games series. I also like to tell my high school students that there is no wrong way to read a book, as long as you are reading and enjoying.

  30. Jen B. says:

    I go back and forth on this, but most recently was reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave and was finding it super depressing. Someone told me they found the ending hopeful so I read the end to see and ended up not finishing the book. A lot of the time that’s why I’m reading the end is to see if it’s worth the investment of my time – there are too many books I want to read out there for me to spend time with books that are just going to make me mad or sad. However, until recently it’s been rare for me to quit in the middle – I have a pretty strong impetus towards completion.

  31. Shelley says:

    “I’ve gotten so invested in the characters that the level of anxiety on their behalf is such that I just need to reassure myself” EXACTLY. It is the investment and attachment to characters that causes me to once in a while crack and check the ending; make sure they are OK. Most often it is just a quick glance to make sure a character is there “In an OK place” at the end. I try not to read too much, just enough to ease my anxiety. I am sooooo glad I am not alone on this. BTW, I just listened to The Apothecary and I was on pins and needle cos I could not jump to the end to ease my emotions. I am glad I did not in this case. What a bloody brilliant story.

  32. Liz says:

    I have had this habit or reading the end pretty much all of my reading life. Actually I find myself doing it less now that I do most of reading on a kindle (more work to look at the end). But I still do it sometimes. I sometimes blame it on the authors who wrote books where something terrible happened to an important character at the end of the book. (Old Yeller, are you listening?)

    Many authors say that once the book leaves their hands the reader takes control and each reader interacts with the book differently.

  33. It’s weird–when it comes to the few TV shows I follow, I actually crave those spoilers (esp. when the show has a beginning-of-season hiatus, cough*glee*cough). But when it comes to books, I don’t want to know. Even if I’m at the point of hyperventilating with worry over one of the characters, I kind of relish that rush of anxiety and don’t want it prematurely squashed.

    Smiles!
    Lori

  34. I sometimes read the ends because that’s the only part I have time to read – as the librarian, I am supposed to know enough about each book that comes in to do reader’s advisory, but I just can’t read all of them. Unhappy sigh. If I am reading a book for myself, I like to be surprised – assuming I like the book. If I have trouble getting into something, I may skip a few chapters and see if the pace has picked up – that worked wonderfully with The Fitzosbornes in Exile. I ended up loving the book, but the first chapter had me bored to tears.

  35. Courtnay says:

    Yes, I do. If there is a twelve step program for that I need to join. Sometimes, I am so invested in the characters and the action is so disturbing that I can’t just wait to know. I just finished Michelle Zink’s latest, The Circle of Fire. Through the three books I became so attached to Lia that I felt physically anxious as she started her journey to fulfill the prophecy. Sigh…if only we teacher librarians got more time to read I might be able to resist the temptation of flipping to the back.

  36. Sondy says:

    Funny! The first time I read the end of a book early, I felt so guilty! I would NEVER do that as a kid or as a teen. Now as an adult, I usually only do it if I’ve decided NOT to finish the book — but I want to know what happens. Being newly divorced, I also often do it when a marriage is in trouble, because I don’t want to go through that particular drama again.

    I am a rereader, and one of the delights of rereading is knowing what’s going to happen and freshly appreciating how the clues are cleverly laid. But I don’t want to give up the fun of the first reading.

    But you folks (except Peter!) have opened my eyes! Lightning will not strike! My wrist will not actually get rapped!

  37. Michelle says:

    Oh how I sometimes wish I’d skipped to the end of the book. But for some reason the OCD in me requires I tough it out and read through every agonizing page until I get to the end. Like you, I don’t mind spoilers in some cases though I do tend to try to avoid them if I can. I like the element of surprise. :)

  38. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Lori, what’s funny is I think that being behind for so many TV shows has made me less sensitive in spoilers for books. I’m behind either because I didn’t have premium cable for several years; and because I DVR shows and then watch 3 or 4 at a time.

    Mom, good point about that type of reading/skimming of new books just to get a quick flavor for readers advisory. And a few people have told me that when I finally get around to reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO to just skip/skim the first 50 pages.

    Courtnay, can we share a laugh about all the people who think teachers & librarians “read books all day” on the job?

    Sondy, while I don’t have kids, if I read a book where it looks like there will be a dead child, I have to skip/skim ahead to know.

    Michelle, glad to hear that some people don’t share our evil read ahead vices.

Speak Your Mind

*