I have an off the wall theory that seems fairly well supported in terms of the people I know who do this:
They all seem to lack a strong intuitive/ideative ability. It’s there, but it’s not something they’re constantly doing like the rest of us.
For example, I could take a few pages from the beginning of a book, the setup, and a lot of the time people will be happy to start to create “milestones” – filling in “what happens next”, or even “how it will end”. They may be 100% wrong about either, but it’s irrelevant – they’ve set an expectation that can then be met, exceeded, or subverted.
The people who read the endings of books, on the other hand, tend to see the whole world a bit differently – they are either more present in the moment, or perhaps emotionally tied to what already exists somehow, that they can struggle a bit “spooling things out” into an unknown future, or to find such mental play to be more fun than distracting. They like, in short what is… And because of that, finding out how things end has no or very little diminutive effect on their enjoyment of the whole book – because, at any moment in a story, they can draw out the pleasure of that page, and the “how will we get to the end” can often be just as entertaining. And, getting back to my milestones analogy – all they’re really doing is setting these markers based on facts, rather than imagination.
Take a further step out onto my thought ledge, and you could guess that these people are ultimately better prepared to handle death – I mean, seriously, we all know how our own stories end, just not how and when we’ll get there. And really, shouldn’t discovering those twists and turns and relishing them be the focus, rather than adding as many additional pages as possible?
I would submit that, whether one is the type to read endings first or not, that the true enjoyment achieved in both cases is in appreciating the journey. Some people like road trips for not knowing what goofy misogyny will be available for sale at the next truck stop, and some like the smell of exhaust fumes and freshly laid asphalt. Neither is more right, and we have a lot to learn from each other if we stop thinking about it in such oppositional terms.
This answer originally appeared on Quora: Why would someone read the end of a story before reading the book?
3 thoughts on “Deano’s answer to: “Why would someone read the end of a story before reading the book?””
My boyfriend prefers to know how a book will end before reading it, which can lead to inadvertent spoilers for me. When I asked him why, he explained that he can better appreciate how a writer can lead up to a book’s ending if he knows what it actually is. He said that it’s about the journey, not the end. I, on the other hand, much prefer to puzzle things out on my own.
Yep, that’s pretty consistent with what I’ve seen – there are people who can thoroughly enjoy the ride even when they know everything that’s going to happen… And then there are those who would be really disappointed to hear the twists or ending before getting there themselves.
I think once we’ve read a good book, we can all become that “first type” – going back to read the book again later, and enjoying the anticipation of what we know is coming…
Yeah. Then again, I just thought of the one exception where knowing the plot of a book helps for a first readthrough–Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.” If you don’t know what’s going on, the first section of the book that’s told from the perspective of the mentally challenged Benji is pretty incomprehensible. It’s far more understandable after you’ve either already finished the book or have read a summary of it and can actually piece together what’s going on.