Books, For Readers

On Being an “End Reader,” and Other Confessions

I have a confession…I’m an “end reader.”  Yes, I’m one of those people who reads the first few chapters of a book, skips to the last chapter, and then U-turns back to where I left off.  It’s funny how this quirk of mine makes some people so angry, “How can you do that?!” they cry, in tones that make me wonder if I’m physically wounding them.  As a reader, they think I’m ruining the book for myself (which I’m not).  As a writer, they wonder how I can play traitor to what the author intended.  I see it as a learning experience. 

Here’s how it goes — when I already know the ending, I can pick out the foreshadowing, subtleties, tricks and devices used by the writer much more easily, which helps with my own writing.  I still end up reading every word, too — just a little out of order.  At least, I’m not one of those people who gives everything away…”Oh, she dies at the end.  Don’t bother.”

Reading the end is a personality trait, too, I guess.  I’m not trying to get points for being deep and brooding like Billy Crystal’s character in When Harry Met Sally, “When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first.  That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends.” 

No, I’m more like the little boy in the movie, The Princess Bride, listening to his Grandfather read to him —  I require some simple reassurance,  “She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time…The eel doesn’t get her.  I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.” 

And, just like the grandson contradicts; I’m not nervous — just a little concerned, is all.  Doesn’t the author want me to be concerned about what happens?  If I’m not, then it’s time to chuck the book, and start back at the beginning — or the end.

**************

While we’re on the topic of reading-confessions, here are a few more;

  • I re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary every year, and I’m not ashamed.
  • I tend to rebel against Oprah picks.
  • I often judge books by their covers — Sorry!  I’m doing better on this one, though.
  • I give a book 75 pages to hook me… if you don’t have me by then, there are too many other books to read.
  • I only read the Little House book, The Long Winter, in the summertime.
  • I read the Epilogue of Harry Potter (Book #7)…first.

Feel free to leave your reading-confessions in the comment box.  We’re all friends here.

16 thoughts on “On Being an “End Reader,” and Other Confessions”

  1. I do have a visceral response to your end reading thing, why? Maybe it’s because one of my reading confessions is that, when I reach the end of a book that I like, I always feel a little like crying. (Full-disclosure; for books I love there have been tears.) So being an end reader, for me, would taint the entire reading experience with melancholy. I also definitely rebel against Oprah picks, to the point that I immediately stopped reading one when I found out that it was on her list. I can’t even remember which book now, as I so completely and suddenly lost interest in it that it’s been wiped from my memory. Give me a bad, non-Oprah book though, and I’ll slog through until the end, waiting and waiting for it to get better, and then end up angry with myself (and the unsuspecting author) for wasting my time. I also will stop reading books that I love right in the middle, for months at a time, because I dread the thought of it ending…and so we’re back full-circle to my tearfulness once the last page is read.

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  2. Wow, giving books even 75 pages to hook you is impressive. I generally don’t even give them a full page!

    As far as end reading, I’m certainly not the type to that. Instead, if I really like the book and want to catch all the foreshadowing and what not that you suggested, I just read the book a second time. I like watching things unfold, I like being surprised, and not know what is happening next. I really, really love the feeling. However, when I accidentally learned the ending to a book I was reading (or at least, a major plot point) it didn’t ruin the book for me because there was still so much the author had in the novel. Really, an ending isn’t the entire book, so I don’t think end reading is a bad thing – just a personal quirk.

    As far as reading confessions? Well, I’m writing a scifi right now, and I can admit that I’ve hardly read any science fiction novels. However! I plan on rectifying this as soon as I finish my first draft. Hopefully.

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  3. I should mention that I don’t “end read” EVERY book I read…but definitely over 50%. Last summer, I took a class on Detective Fiction, where we were strongly discouraged from peeking ahead. Somehow, I stopped myself…I guess we’re all trainable~

    Good luck on the book Suzanne!

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  4. I have just finished re-reading ‘Bridget Jones…’.
    I also re-read Jane Austen at least every 2 years.

    I’m also an end reader on occasion, just to check you know. Sometimes it just confirms that the book doesn’t get any better, at other times it’s re-asssurance that all is well.

    Over here we don’t have Oprah picks, we have Richard & Judy (they would take too long to explain, I’m sure you can find them in all their glory on Youtube). They are essentially the same.
    I do tend to veer away from them, but every now & again I pick one up in the library & it turns out to be pretty good. I wish the same could be said of the Booker Prize (or any other literary prize) winner. Quite often I feel they try too hard to be ‘literature’ rather than being good reading.
    I find Salman Rushdie comes firmly in this category.
    In the end, if the story is strong enough it will usually work.

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  5. I often end-read too! And I’ve definitely gotten some “how could you do that!?” responses. Sometimes I end-read if a book is boring me but I still want to know what happened to the characters before putting it down. Other times the book is great and I can’t stand the suspense. Somehow I managed to restrain myself on Harry Potter, but it was tough!

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  6. I was en end-reader too. Now I don’t do it anymore for lack of time. But I don’t mind spoilers – I actually look for them! 😉
    And I always judge books by their covers – and then the back cover. Never by reading the beginning…

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  7. I am an end reader too about 50% of the time. Sometimes, I need to shake the stress of what happens at the end so that I can go back and really enjoy how the author wrote the rest of the book.

    However, there have been a few times that it made me put down the book. I just tried to read a Jodi Picoult book for the second time. I was given House Rules. I read about 100 pages and then read the end. It was too tidily pulled together (IMHO) for me. Kind of reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. I loved it when it Jerry did it, not so much for Jodi. Don’t think I will pick up another one of her books.

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  8. Har! I do the very same – including reading the end, boycotting Oprah picks, and picking by the cover. Reading the end is a learning thing for me, too: I want to know how the writer gets where he’s going. I’m not really reading for entertainment; though the learning process is inevitably fun. 🙂

    – Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

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  9. I’m with you about the Oprah Picks. Haha. I skipped most of the singing/ballad/poems in Lord of the Rings, I have unfinished books on my bookshelf with bookmarks in them that sometimes I hope I had the power to finish or sometimes understand. I’m a Harry Potter fan, but I can’t seem to read twilight. I read the first line of the book and if I don’t like it, i don’t read it.
    By the way, this seems like an interesting blog. Hope to visit again soon.

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    1. Hello 83October! I find it interesting that we have so much anti-Oprah going on here. Of course, if she ever visits my blog, I will deny everything 🙂 Thanks for visiting~

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  10. I am an anti-Oprah book club person as well. 🙂

    One other thing I learned when I also took a mystery genre writing class was to take your favorite book and retype it. Typing it has you narrowing your focus and you also pick up some nuances that you may not have.

    My biggest problem is that I read very quickly. I can blow through a book in 3 hours or so which is great for getting reading in with a 6 and 2 year old but not good when researching. 🙂

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  11. For some reason, the Harry Potter books are the only books I’ve end-read. I will read the very last sentence and then read the whole thing from the beginning (sometimes I re-read the last sentence multiple times throughout). It doesn’t give me any kind of hint as to what the ending is, but for some reason it gives me satisfaction.

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