Do You Read the Last Page First?

A friend called the other day. I hadn’t spoken to him in a couple of months and I knew he and his family were going through some difficult times. He wanted to catch me up, telling me “so much has happened since I talked to you last.” (I really did receive this call, but I’m completely changing the nature of the incidents.) My friend began telling me what happened after we’d last talked. At that time, his daughter, Jill, had broken up with a young man who began flaming her on Facebook. After that initial flaming, my friend told me now, the guy started threatening Jill and stalking her. Jill learned that he bought a gun. She thought she saw him following her in his car a few times. Her apartment was then broken into and he left a threatening note behind. She called the police, who thought she was making it all up.

As my friend described what had happened, I found myself on the edge of my seat, gripping the phone and hoping for a happy outcome. Suddenly he skipped way ahead. “Now that he’s in jail, Jill wonders if he’s the guy who shot up this other girl’s car last year.” Ack! He told me the end of the story! The suspense drained out of me. He still had a month of events to describe to me and he’d already told me the end! Now, yes, I was happy the guy was in jail and Jill was safe, but really… Couldn’t he have revealed all in good time? Since this is a real friend and a real-life story about real people, I know I’m a cad for even thinking this way. But it made me think about writing fiction and how hard I work to “reveal all in good time”, to keep the suspense building until the end–and how it makes me crazy to hear from readers who tell me they read the ending first. I would never do this. I want to learn everything in the order the author chooses to tell me. Delicious!

Are you one of those “read the ending first” readers? Why do you do it? Does it kill your enjoyment of the story or does it, in some perverse way I don’t understand, add to it? I’d love to know!

Comments

  1. I used to *always* read the last few pages once I was about 1/4 or 1/3 through the book…then came Kindle. Now I can’t…and I really miss it. (Actually, I know I *can*, but it’s too much trouble with a Kindle.) Only once did it ruin a book for me.

    • Georgie Baker says:

      I also used to read the last page but with the kindle it is such an effort, instead I carried on reading until I finished it!

  2. The only time I read the ending first if if I am so bored with the book that I don’t intend to finish it. I guess that is not reading it first but not ever reading what comes between the boring beginning and the ending.

  3. i don’t like to know the end before the book told me ..it won’t have any happiness for me to read it ..but i would read it as i would like to know how the author comes to that end ..so i’m not reading the end first ..

  4. Well you really struck a nerve with this one with me Diane. I’ve responded to your twitter, facebook and blog posts. LOL

    WHY would anyone DO this? I’d really like to try to understand it.

  5. I have a couple of times in the past but it really spoilt the book for me as the ending was not what I was expecting!

  6. Amy Wright says:

    My husband will laugh when I show him this! Diane, I am forever telling my husband to slow down, start from the beginning, and not to leave out any details! I can’t stand being told the outcome when I’ve only heard half the story, and I would never read the end of a book first – it ruins everything!

  7. Bernie Brown says:

    I have two answers for this question: one for fiction, one for biographies. I don’t read the end of novels before I read the beginning; however it doesn’t bother me in the least if someone tells me how it ends. I still want to see how the end was arrived at.

    With biographies, I would never read them if I had to slog through all those first chapters about the grandparents of the grandparents of the subject of the biography. If I start at the last chapter and read them in reverse order, I have a much greater appreciation for each preceding chapter, even those first ones aboout the grandparents of the grandparents because by that time, I can see they had an impact on the subject’s life.

  8. Laurie Truesdell says:

    NEVER! I could never do it. Never have and never will. I do know people who do it and I have never understood why. The story is the fun part! I always feel a kind of letdown when I finish a book. You know, that feeling that you have to go back to reality and can no longer walk in another’s shoes, if only for a short time.

  9. Nancy Ibarra says:

    I never never read the end at all…like your conversation I want it all from start to finish…

  10. Patricia Kiessling says:

    I hate to tell you, but I am (or was) one of those people who read the end of a book before I actually read the whole book. As Sharyn noted, the Kindle has pretty much stopped me from doing it. But the suspense almost KILLS me. I felt vindicated one time though. I was on a plane reading an Agatha Christie novel. My flight was late and I was in danger of missing my connecting flight so I was literally running in the terminal. I dropped my book and didn’t realize it until I got on the next plane. Fortunately, I had read the ending so I knew “who done it.” haha

  11. Veronica Guevara says:

    Most of the times, I do not read the ending first, but sometimes, the book is sooo good and I do not have the 3 or 4 extra hours required to finish it, that I really HAVE to know how it ends before getting up to finish my obligations. I always come back and read it all, though… I still enjoy the book very much…but in a calmer way

  12. Diane Chamberlain says:

    Now this is fascinating about the Kindle foiling you “end-readers”. Who would have guessed? Love those little machines.

  13. I would never read the book out of order… except the one or two times that I disliked the writing style so much I couldn’t go on, but had gotten just enough interested in the characters or plot to want to see how it finished. I have heard others who do read the ends first, and the common thread in most is that they find the suspense too anxiety-producing, and reading the end takes the edge off enough to go back and finish the rest. As Veronica said above, in a calmer way.

  14. NEVER!!!!…it would spoil the entire adventure!!

  15. Guilty as charged. Thinking about it, though, I only do it when I’m enjoying a story and want to know what happens but am *not* particularly enjoying the *writing*. Like, if the prose is especially clunky or sophomoric, or the book is just too long and needed to be trimmed and/or better focused. IOW, the author is a good storyteller but not a great craftsperson. In those cases, if the writing is *really* lousy, I may read the end and never go back and read what I skipped. More likely, I’ll skim through the book, skipping narrative, reading some dialogue, and just hit the main points through to the end.

    Interesting about Kindles (ereaders, in general?) making it harder to skip to the end.
    Granted, it’s more effort to hit Menu/GoTo/End, then page backward than it is simply to flip to the last page(s). But for books like I’ve described above, I’m willing to make the effort. Beats wasting time on a book that I already know is never going to blow me away.

    Good topic! Makes one think.

  16. I have before done this, but it hasn’t happened for years! I only do this one in a great while if the book is seriously stressing me out, or I’m worried a character is going to die that I’m getting too invested in, I will sometimes flip to the end, to make sure I still see them talking, then I know they are still alive, LOL. I’ven ever read an entire last few pages, just sometimes glimpsed ahead to make sure i wasn’t getting fooled by a death coming up, or etc.

    My husband hates when I do that at all, but it’s been years now, so I don’t feel bad anymore about it.

  17. You know, it is sort of like getting your present before Christmas. I HATE that. I don’t want to guess and I don’t want to know…so please let me enjoy the surprise and awe of the moment. I know that I have peeked before when I was so afraid for a character, I couldn’t stand it any more. However, I do not really want to know. I think that is why I enjoyed the Twilight books so much. I knew nothing about them. Nada…I was given two books and told to read them. I didn’t even know there were 2 more to read. And I have to admit on those books, I could not start the last one until I found out if Edward was going to pull another disappearing act or not. My granddaughter wouldn’t tell me, so I had to Google it. It didn’t really give anything away, except I found out there was a wedding..lol I could relax, I knew then that whatever else came along, Edward was a part of the last book. I was safe. But not knowing anything about them, I feel as if I am one of the lucky ones. I keep stressing to others that have only seen the movies..READ the books. I just don’t think that they will enjoy them as much as I did.

    I definitely can see your point about working hard to tell the story to keep us turning the pages and guiding us through the story the way it was meant to be told. :)

    • I thought of this after I posted…A for instance type thing..It is just like knowing too much about a movie. We went and saw “The Grey” this weekend. Awesome movie…The only thing I knew about the movie was that a bunch of rough necks were in a plane crash in Northern Alaska…and they had to survive. I was very pleasantly surprised as the story unfolded. I had no idea. But because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else. The movie was very good. One review I read, “A mans mans movie.” Well there definitely was a lot of action…gore, and stuff..but the story was very good.

  18. I don’t usually read the end pages of the story first but I will occasionally look at the back pages to see what other books the author has or recommended books. This however came to bite me in the backside when I was reading Before The Storm as the back pages advertised Secrets she Left Behind and actually gave away the plot twists for BTS. Since then I’ve been much more cautious about doing that.

  19. Unlike peeking at Christmas presents,…NEVER!!! However, I do enjoy trying to figure out where the storyline is going and sometimes I am even right:)

  20. rachael hunt says:

    I would NEVER do this ! If you ever watched a film, would you fast forward to the end first…NO! The whole point of reading the story, I feel, is to get involved in the characters. Learn about the fine detail, so by the time you find out the ending you are completely fulfilled and understand it completely ! I guess every person is different though ….

  21. Rosemary Davis says:

    Never,never never, Why?? The Lost Daughter had me reading till 3.30 AM to find out how she was going to hide such a secret!! isnt the whole idea of reading to enjoy the twists and turns and the ‘oh my gods i never saw that coming’………..

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