|“Lesendes Mädchen” – Gustav Adolph Hennig|
It has come to my attention that not everyone reads books chronologically. You know, starting on page one and finishing at The End.
Reader Sabrina wrote me to say that she starts at the beginning, then skims and checks out the end to see if she wants to read the whole thing, then keeps going.
What about you. Do you skip around, peek at the ending, or do you go straight through? And as an author/reader, do you think there’s something wrong with reading a book out of order or all is fair in love and reading?
I only skipped to the end in one or two books when I felt the book was taking a tragic turn and wanted to know for sure
And I do it when the writing's bad, but I can't rest until I know the end of a story. But usually I'm a no-skip gal. I like the full effects of suspense.
I skip prologues, introductions, and those annoying endorsements (Ever read a negative endorsement? Ever wondered how many endorsers are friends and relatives of an author?). I read author information first. Then from the beginning. Oftentimes I cover the next line with the palm of my hand, so I won't read ahead and thus mentally create my own "spoiler."
Suzie F. says
I never skip ahead. Never. It would spoil the pleasure of letting the story unfold as the author intended. Everything else in my life is rush, rush, rush. Reading is my escape from the madness of every day life. I like to take my time and savor each and every word from beginning to end.
I like to be surprised, so I never read out of order. If I start a book and decide I really don't like it, then I just put it down. There are too many good books out there to waste time reading something I don't love.
Katherine Hyde says
I read straight through. I can't imagine doing it any other way. I believe readers owe it to authors to respect the huge effort the author made to figure out the best way to tell the story by actually reading the story the way it is told.
Though I've never skimmed or skipped around in a novel, I tend to start a book then go to another book. Come back to the first, finish it tehn finish the second book. It's bad!!!
I always read straight through – although sometimes I'll skip back to double check stuff and make connections. What keeps me in a book is the not knowing of how it will turn out – plus I figure it ruins a lot of the author's work that they put into figuring out timing and reveals and all of that.
I like to start from the beginning and read right through. Although there have been exceptions where there might be something happening that is way too exciting to see how it ends and I will jump ahead. But I go back and finish reading where I left off before the jump. Sometimes a sneak peak doesn't hurt. If I was a faster reader and had more patience than maybe I could read right through. Oh well.
I like to skip around only because I am not that patient.
Straight through. I hate it when I accidentally glance at a later page and something is given away.
I start in the middle. Work my way backwards, and then go forward to the end.
Sometimes I read the book upside down, too.
It all depends on how much coffee I've had with my Prosac.
Dana Strange says
Skipping around? BLASPHEMY! Seriously, I read the first two paragraphs when I pick up a book. If the writer's voice doesn't have me by then, it's back to the shelf. I don't need to see the ending first to know whether I'll enjoy the writing.
Emily Anderson says
I always read a book chronologically-except when I don't :). Sometimes the author is so good at building tension that I have to peek to make sure a name is still there or the right people end up together. But if the right amount of tension is combined with exciting plot I'm reading right now, I can usually hold out. I would never, ever read an ending before finishing a book though. That spoils the book for me.
I usually read a book straight through.
But occasionally, if I get really scared something awful is about to happen, I can't take it anymore, and I'll skip ahead. I usually regret doing this, but sometimes I can't help it!
I guess I'm in the minority (and will likely be shunned after this confession), but I often read the first couple of chapters, get to know who the characters are, and then flip to the end and see how things turn out before going back to finish the book.
The more exciting and better the book, the more likely I am to do this since I am impatient to know how things turn out, yet want to savor the writer's style and beauty of the sentences, and I can't do that when my stomach is in knots wondering how it'll end for the MC.
*ducking while books are hurled at me*
Taylor Napolsky says
I'm glad the overwhelming response is that they read straight through. I would have lost faith in modern readers otherwise!
I know that books can't be won, but skipping around just seems like cheating to me.
I can smell a bad book from a mile away, so if a book wins my favor enough for me to crack open the first page, I dedicate myself to reading FULLY, no spoilers, no matter how ridiculously bad, until the VERY END. I at least have that much respect for even really bad books I manage to put my nose in. Worst case, I have another book I can chalk up to WORST THING I EVER READ.
The Paperback Diva says
I'm more likely than not to read ahead. I read ahead either because I'm enjoying the book and want to see how the author is going to work out the various threads so I can enjoy it as I go along. Or I'm bored and want to finish the thing. On the other hand, if a book is really good and completely captivating, I'll get so absorbed that I forget to read ahead.
Sheila Cull says
Bransford, first I determine that it's a book worthy of reading, via Book Clubs, NYTimes Bestseller list, word of mouth, etc. Knowing that to someone else this book is good through through other's eyes, normally keeps me going until I'm finished.
Unless of course I think it is that bad.
Closing the taxi cab door I see our Chicago Hotel Bell Hop. "Hey, Ishmel! I got this brand new book by mistake so here, take it! Or you can give it away too!"
Bane of Anubis says
My wife will read the last couple of paragraphs of a potential read. If she likes the outcome, she'll check out/purchase/etc.
I actually appreciate this b/c I hate bad endings (more than slow beginnings). She can usually forget the ending within a matter of hours/days; unfortunately, I do not have this ability.
Hubert Vasquez says
The best part of reading a book is the suspense that you don't know what's going to happen. If you read the ending, in my opinion, it takes that feeling you get when you reach the finality. That being said, I like reading books from cover to cover without skipping to the end.
I'm one of those readers that I do NOT skip to the end or around in the book. I start on page one and I read straight through to the last page.
Skipping around is confusing for me and ruins the whole effect of the story.
All the way through. I can't imagine ruining the ending for myself beforehand, but to each their own. I will admit to reading the summaries on the backs of paperbacks or the flaps of hardbacks, though. That's my way of deciding whether the plot seems interesting or not without having to read half of it first.
On my e-reader I read straight through. When I'm reading a paper book I skip around a little bit. I try not to but it's a compulsion.
Kristin Laughtin says
If I'm trying to decide whether I want to read a print book, I'll flip through to random pages to get a sense of it, but when I sit down to actually read it for real, I go straight-through. Well, unless I'm really curious about something later. Then I'll peek ahead, but not to the ending. On my Kindle, though, I always read straight through.
As a writer, I rarely write chronologically! I usually write a few key scenes, any flashbacks, etc., and then I start at the beginning and write all the connecting scenes. I'm an extensive outliner, though, so I don't worry about my narrative not making sense even if I start in the middle and skip around.
I'm a straight-through kind of gal.
My son always skips ahead and reads the ending, though. It used to drive me crazy, until I saw some research indicating that seeing spoilers can actually enhance enjoyment rather than detract from it.
E-readers must make skimming and skipping ahead difficult for those folks who like to do that.
I skip around- mainly if I'm bored.
I'll also scan the end. I think I started to do that when I read through a book and despised the ending. (I'm good at end-skimming, though. I'm able to catch a few sentences and see if it's worth it. I don't want to spoil the ending- just see if I want to go there.)
If the book is highly recommended or from an author I know, I don't skim.
As I writer, skipping around doesn't bother me. I figure it's my responsibility to keep the reader's eyes where I want them. : )
Although I'm tempted to read what will happen in the end, I always make it a point to read straight through.
I've definitely read the endings of books at 2 or 3 in the morning so I could stop reading and go to bed. It does change the first reading experience for me (I'll reread most books I really enjoy) but, well, sometimes you have to go to sleep and that's the only way to make it happen!
Melissa Pearl says
I hate to admit it, but I often take a quick peek at the end. I just scan for a few key names and read one or two sentences… it's usually to make sure the couple end up together. If they don't, I want to be prepared.
I'm such a romantic sap!
It doesn't ruin the story for me, though. I usually really enjoy it, knowing what lies ahead, but not knowing how they're going to get there.
Marilyn Peake says
I read books straight through, couldn't stand to know the ending early on, as that would be a spoiler for me. But, to each their own, so I feel that "all is fair in love and reading."
The Sabrina who asked the question here. I think the split in responses mirrors the general population (according to a librarian friend). I should probably admit that I am also one of those rare folks who hope for spoilers in movie reviews so that I can relax and enjoy the movie, knowing it will come out well in the end (if it doesn't, I don't go). I also reread the books I love all the time; I would estimate that I have some books I have reread or re-skimmed 15-20 times. I'm thinking this is one of those "the twain shall never meet" issues. My husband cannot believe I do this and I cannot understand how he can relax and read a book with no idea of the ending.
I would feel bad for the authors who have carefully crafted a story with all those character and plot developments — but hey, I'm reading their books! And sooner or later, I read the whole thing straight through (unless it is one of those really bad books). But thanks for all the insight into that whole other way of reading.
Ms. Blasé says
For the most part, I read straight through. However, on the rare occasion that I encounter a book that is haplessly boring or torturously verbose, I skip to the end just so I can get rid of the darn thing.
It would seriously never occur to me to do that. Unless I'm reading non-fiction, but probably not then either.
I like being taken on a journey by a writer. Detail is presented in a particular sequence for a reason, even if the narrative is not linear. I like to see the growth and development of the characters. I like to make assumptions about characters' motivations – which may come crashing down at a later point. I love a good twist, particularly if I hadn't seen it coming. So, no, I follow the trail of crumbs scattered by the author, knowing that I am being led, and loving being engaged in that way.
The exception is if my bookclub is reading an absolute turkey! If I strain to get through the first few chapters I might then skip to a later point, just to see if it improves, so I might have something to discuss. I do it for biography/ autobiography too, especially if the "ancestry to childhood" section feels padded. I might skip to the scandalous parts – you know, the sections that sold the book in the first place.
If I think I'll like a book, I at least start it. Even with books I ended up not liking, I read them through.
I mean, if anyone wants to skip around to determine whether they'll find it a valuable read, then that is not my business. Do as you like; you're the reader.
I don't want to be spoiled. At all, ever. I love the feeling of not knowing what's going to happen, even in cases when I can predict the ending fairly easily.
However, if it's a book I truly love and have read multiple times, I can pick it up in the middle, or read certain parts out of sequence, because in such books, I have favorite parts. I know the plot well enough that the characters don't need to carry me the whole journey to love it.
Cab Sav says
I prefer to read straight through and do so where I can.
If a book is boring and I'm about to put it down as unreadable, then I skip to the end. Sometimes the end makes enough difference for me to persevere.
Carol Riggs says
Nooooo, that's just wrong. LOL Seriously, to each his/her own. I personally just like the build-up, the progression. Why spoil a surprise? It's like knowing the gender of your child when you're pregnant. BO-ring!
(I did have a college friend who would read the end of ROMANCE novels first–to make sure they turned out okay. Eh????)
I am a "chronological" reader, but I have several friends who do the "skip to the end to see how it turns out" thing. I think that takes away from the reading experience. Don't understand it, but, hey, to each his or her own.
Straight through, of course. Not sure I see much point in reading a book when I know the ending.
Not reading books straight through is like groping someone's privates before they've given the slightest hint they might want to kiss you, let alone look at you.
I read all the way through. And I'm usually compelled to (eventually) finish a novel.
Right on, Whirl.
I read straight through, so I don't spoil anything for myself. That what just ruin the work and the experience for me.
One of my step-fathers had a habit of reading the end (maybe the last chapter) of a book first, then going to the beginning. I still think it strange.
I'm sure that skipping around in a book is illegal in some states. If not, then it should be. The author wrote the story in a particular sequence for a reader. With the exception of HOPSCOTCH by Alejo Carpentier (which is meant to be read in any order), no one should read out of sequence. Pages are numbered for a reason.
Haley Whitehall says
I always read a book straight through. Isn't that how books are supposed to be read? 😉 Many of my friends peek at the ending first so they know where the story is headed. Like you, Nathan, I never knew some people don't read books chronologically until recently.
I nearly always read chronologically, but if there is an intolerable level of suspense, I will flip to the back just to see if it's resolved. That is so, so rare for me, though. I prefer to relish the way characters get to the end, and to be surprised at how things wrap up. I'm not sure I would just flip around to parts in the middle–that's just strange.
Kevin Lynn Helmick says
Straight through, and one at a time. Some I don't finish but not becaused I peeked, but mostly cause the writing sucked so bad I couldn't care less what the ending was.
But the good ones, writers-I'll savor every word, sentance, and paragraph, and with that kind of (rare) writing it doesn't matter what the ending is eithier.