|Flickr Credit: Jayel Aheram|
(No, I didn’t count it on my reading log.)
I have this feeling I’ve told that story before, but my point is, it’s an extreme example of how I’m willing to read books. There are four stages:
1. The Do-I-Care Stage: I read the first fourth-ish of the book and find out if I care
2. The Yes-I-Do-Care Stage: truly caring, I delve in to about the halfway mark
3. The Oh-Crap Stage: suddenly, the characters find themselves in a terrifying or upsetting situation; I flip to the end and pick out choice sections of the last chapters to see what happens
4. The Okay-Then Stage: I read the rest of the book normally but flip back if I think it’s necessary to gain more details
If I make it to Stage 2, I end up finishing the book; if I do not, then it is left in the dust. I’m well aware of the criticisms against this method. A few examples:
- my philosophy teacher gave me “the look” when I said I read the end of Sophie’s World while I was in the middle—apparently you’re just supposed to tough through the confusion
- while I was reading Sophie’s World, Sophie refuses to read the end of her story because reading the ends of books first is cheating
- I mentioned that I read ahead in this post and various people were like “oh, I could never read ahead,” “you read ahead a lot,” and cheating was mentioned again
Allow me to share with you my thoughts on cheating, as told by Inigo Montoya:
Now, in the absence of a binding “rules of reading” list, when we talk about how books are to be read, we’re talking about how we’ve been taught to read them. The author ordered the story a certain way—they’ll share information in good time, yes? The emotional heights grow with the stakes. We as writers design our books to be written from beginning to end. That’s how it is.
Reaching the end of a book is a noble goal. Many books make it difficult to get there. Nor is it a bad thing to want to get to the end. It’s just that a fixation with getting to the end tends to come with a focus on what is at the end—the plot’s climax, the emotional climax, the resolution, the denouement. More than that, we have that extra idea of dishonesty. It’s cheating to take something out of its time, or to spoil an ending before it is the end. You ruin the book for yourself.
I’m afraid that Oscar Wilde’s quote has become my doctrine: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
Authors set a story in motion, but it’s the reader who decides what they want. For me, I’m not as concerned with finding out how the story ends—as I’ve mentioned, I tend to flip to the end frequently to find out what happens. I read to find the story. I read, reread, and reread again until I know the characters, I know their motivations, I know where they live, and I know why it’s all important.
You’re of course going to see a story when you read a book from start to finish, but there’s something about studying a book that makes it richer. So I read ahead. Maybe I don’t get to anticipate any surprises, but writers I read don’t bank on surprise to make their books remarkable.
Again, that’s just my style. I’m well aware that there will always be people who don’t understand why I’m willing to spoil the ending or go against an author’s construction, but then, I’ll always be the one asking—if a spoiler ruins reading the entire thing, then why do you bother in the first place?