Enjoying the Spoils

skip_to_end I flip to the end of books all the time but especially when things are getting exciting. It’s counter-intuitive I’ve been told, to leave the action and head straight for the denouement but I do this all the time, almost every time. Fight scene in progress? Lemme quickly flip a couple pages on to see who dies. Love triangle developing? The last page should clear things up. Who the heck dunit? Be spoiled my friend, and let that last page reveal all.

When I’m not reading a book for review, I also flip to the end of books when things are really slow-going and I want to be put out of my misery. A few random stops throughout the book usually give me a good idea whether it’s worth continuing or not. I say ‘random’ but that’s only partially correct. If I’m reading a romance and it’s ho-hum for me, one of my stops as I flip through the book is at a sex scene. If it’s as ho-hum as the rest of the book (“…and then two became one”) or I don’t like the writer’s style (“Oh my delectable sweet”, murmured Hero), that’s a check mark in the negative column. But if the sex scene looks to be romantic or otherwise engaging, I’ll give the book a second chance.

Sometimes, when I skip through or to the end of a book, characters are mentioned who haven’t been introduced yet or the setting is such that my interest in the book is piqued and I return to my spot re-energized. Sometimes though, the ending is so silly that I give the book up for lost and move on to the next. Either way, I feel as if it all worked out in the end. I either continue a good book I may have otherwise stopped reading or I stop a bad book I may otherwise have continued reading. Whatever the outcome, justice is served.

Now, from personal experience, I know that people feel really strongly about readers who skip to the end or *gasp* skip pages. It’s literary sacrilege I’ve been told. It means I’m lacking intelligence. How can I possible enjoy the book knowing what’s coming?

Well, if the alternative is me wondering through the whole 300+ pages about who dies, who gets the girl or indeed who killed her, then I will always choose to enjoy my spoilers and skim that last page. In addition, I never understand why people get so worked up if I skip to the end or not. Why take it personally?

I am also a comfortable scene-skipper. The author may find those mini-chapters dealing with a secondary character intriguing or the character may be a stenographer in the Middle Ages with a keen eye for detail but if I’m not interested, then I’m not reading it. This means that I flip past most fight scenes in novels. I really don’t care who hit whom where and how many shots were fired and what is bleeding and where they ran to hide.

After the dust settles, did anybody die? Is anybody in hospital? These are the things that concern me.

What about you? Do you flip through the book or skip scenes outright?

– Abi Bishop

37 thoughts on “Enjoying the Spoils

  1. Yes, I have to admit (*hanging head in shame*) when there is a fight scene or a chase scene, I have to read ahead to make sure the outcome is what I want. I usually don’t read the end of the book…sometimes I might read the last line.

    I don’t skip scenes…but I might skim through them.

  2. Oh absolutely, I do. And yes, I often get the same gasps of horror from the purists.

    I really wish reviews would add spoilers too, maybe keep them separate for the people who don’t like them. My book budget is tragically limited and it is really disheartening to pay for a book, only to get to the end and find out that its not one I can like. I think spoilers help prevent that.

  3. I do flip through the book and I’m trying really hard to break that habit. I tend to do it more for books I’m enjoying which I find kind of ironic. I guess it’s my impatience. I want to know right now!

  4. I frequently read the end of the book before I finish the whole book. I guess I can’t stand the suspense (and there logically shouldn’t be any suspense because I read mostly romance and most all romances are HEA). Don’t ask me to be logical. Another quirk is that I sometimes end up reading the book backwards: read the end, then read a little bit before the end, then read a little bit before that and so on, until I’ve read the whole book from back to front. Of course then I only need to skim it going forward because I know how it will develop. I haven’t figured out what compels me to read a book backward, maybe it’s a bit of boredom with the book in general.

    • Andrea:Another quirk is that I sometimes end up reading the book backwards:read the end, then read a little bit before the end, then read a little bit before that and so on, until I’ve read the whole book from back to front.Of course then I only need to skim it going forward because I know how it will develop.I haven’t figured out what compels me to read a book backward, maybe it’s a bit of boredom with the book in general.

      Wow, I do this too. If the book is good enough, after I’ve finished reading it backwards, I’ll read it forwards – slowly and deliberately.

      What I would like to know is, from those who don’t read the ending first, do you seldom re-read books? I frequently re-read books I enjoy – sometimes front to back, sometimes backwards, sometimes just skipping around. I have favorites that I’m almost always re-reading – just picking up for a few minutes here and there and re-reading parts. In a well-written, character-driven book, I get to know the characters and setting very well by the time I finally put the book away (only so that I can return several months later and have it all be fresh again.) I read and re-read Tracy Grant’s Beneath a Silent Moon and Secrets of a Lady this way. Ok, so I guess I’m just a little bit of a compulsive reader :-)

      • Jeanne Pickering:
        What I would like to know is, from those who don’t read the ending first, do you seldom re-read books?

        So, yes, you’re right, Jeanne. As one who doesn’t read the endings first (as a rule), I rarely re-read. Most of the time, especially with longer books, I feel I’ve been thru the journey and won’t take the time to do it all over again when there are so many other books to be read for the first time. However, in dry or in-a-funk periods, I have gone back to quicker reads that have been pleasurable for me in the past. This doesn’t happen often, but I do have a few favorites that have passed the test of time.

  5. I’m occasionally guilty of flipping forward to the ending, but generally only if I’m losing interest in the plot.Then, I regret it because I find it hard to go back and read the part I’ve skipped. So it’s a lose-lose scenario that I try to avoid.

  6. Never read the end of the book first, unless somewhere along the line I’ve decided that it will be a DNF. Then it’s either skimming quickly thru or jumping to the last chapter. If I’m enjoying the story, then I want to stay with it as it goes along, especially if it’s a suspense. The romances are always HEA, so what’s to find out ahead of time that one doesn’t already know for the finale?

  7. No. I can’t. In fact if my youngest daughter wants to wind me up, she’ll steal whatever book I’m reading & flick to the last page and read in front of me.
    It makes no sense to me that anybody could want to know how a book ends before they choose to read it. What kind of insane person wants to know the end of the story?

    And yet, I brazenly read the end of two Nicholas Sparks books in a bookshop recently, because I knew they’d been made into films, and I couldn’t tell from the trailers whether either film ends happily.
    And, hey, it makes perfect sense to me that people could want to know how a film ends before they choose to watch it. What kind of insane person doesn’t want to know the end of the story?

    What’s the quote? Consistency is the sign of a tiny mind?

  8. Yup, I definitely am a spoiler, a skipper, and a skimmer :-)
    Now a days, find usually if I skip to end, it means I am not going to finish it. It might be a book club book, or a book someone insisted I had to read (*cough* Dan Brown *cough*), but either way I just find myself giving up and flipping to the end to get the gist of things.
    I used to flip to the end of mysteries b/c I wanted to know if a certain romantic couple was going to get together or not.
    I had to break myself of that habit b/c I ruined the mystery part of the book once or twice, which was not my intention.
    In the same vein, I often skip parts of books where it is written from the villain’s point of view. I really like the villain to be more of a surprise in the classic Agatha Christie sense and I don’t want too many clues to who it is. Also lots of authors today seem to make villains really icky (for lack of a more technical term). It’s not enough to be a killer, they have to be child molester, or a drug addict, or some horrible torturer or something else horrifying. I just don’t like being in those characters’ heads for too long.

  9. i guess it’s different for you because you have things to do with your life? that may be one of the reasons, but for me (my life is centred around what novel ima be reading next), i like the ENTIRE book to be and absolute mystery. i want to not know ANYTHING about the book. what i do to achieve this is a bit. when i’m getting books, i’ll read the reviews and the back covers and everything. i’m very careful to only skim so that nothing sticks in my brain. it works best if i get a lot of books all together, and if i get them when im reading another book. that way, i totally forget what the book is about, and i feel like im exploring the story Chris Columbus-stylez when i read it. all this effort has the best results when im reading Agatha Christie.

    yes. im a bit strange.

  10. Don’t you feel bad-you’ve got company.
    I always check the end of a new book–just to make sure there’s a (resonably) happy ending. Can’t abide tragic stories. Am not going to waste my time on a story where throroughly nice and decent protagonists–or even hardcased but honest types–get killed off.
    Sometimes, I skim a bit if a scene goes on too long – but may go back later.
    And I like spoilers.
    Doesn’t ruin things for me, it’s the “how,” not the “what” that interests me.
    And I’m completely unapologetic about me ‘abits.

  11. Yes!! I do this all the time. Not so much with the straight mystery books I’ve read in the past, but almost always with romances, romantic suspense, PNR, and urban fantasy, unless the book absolutely grabs me from the very beginning. I’m an unrepentant “spoiler, skipper, and skimmer” as Jill so aptly put it.

    In fact, this is my main beef with reading books on the kindle. I can’t jump around!! Or, I guess I can, but it’s a real pain, not like a hard copy. Same with audiobooks. Although with audiobooks, I’m usually exercising or driving, so it doesn’t really bother me so much for some reason.

    And Jill, I agree about not wanting to be in the heads of really evil villains. It’s creepy. I won’t listen to those books on audio because it makes me too uncomfortable. I skip/skim those sections in my romantic suspense books (which, for some perverted reason, is my favorite genre).

    And really, why does anyone else care how I read a book? Or watch a movie? I do better if I know the ending of suspenseful or tense movies. Once I know the outcome, I can generally relax to watch/read the rest.

    I have five children and one son-in-law, all of which live with us for now. I homeschool my younger children, my mom has Alzheimer’s, and we are experiencing the usual tight money issues. I honestly don’t have a lot of emotional energy to expend elsewhere. I read/watch for enjoyment, relaxation, pleasure. So, I don’t apologize for avoiding even great book or movies that are emotionally draining, and I don’t apologize for read/watching in a manner that helps me relax and enjoy. ;-)

  12. Yeah, I’m one of those who only jumps ahead or to the end if I’m losing interest in the book. That or I think I’ve already figured out the too-predictable plot and feel that everything through to the end of the book is just filler and a waste of time. 99 times out of 100, these books end up being DNFs.

    But when I’m really into the story and love the characters, I find I have no desire to skip to the end. Maybe it’s a matter of wanting the book to last as long as possible, but I enjoy the journey so I’m not anxious to see how it ends until the actual end.

    Now spoiling myself for my favorite TV shows? That’s a completely different story!

  13. Another member of the read the end club here. No apologies. Like many others have said, I do it for a combination of reasons.
    In long running mystery series with a serious relationship going on, I NEED to know that the author hasn’t killed off a main character (and yes, authors do that–looking at you Dana Stabanow!). Death of a main character=no read for that book (or any more in the series, either).
    I usually skim the fight scenes, sometimes the sex scenes.
    But if I’ve decided the book is a DNF, then I don’t bother going to the end.

  14. It’s a joke with some of my friends who read the end before beginning a book, just to now that everything will be right. We’re reading romance, so well, there will be a happy ending, so why not enjoying the entire story before ? The only time I go to the end is when I’m bored with the book and I want to regain interest in the story.

    But when there are too many descriptions, I skip some sentences. I don’t want to read several pages of details about the weather, the country, or the dresses. I remember in one of Jean Auel books cringing because there was so many descriptions of mammoths and rocks and clouds and grass and everything they met during their long travel !!

  15. Jayne Ann Krentz had a great line in Running Hot: The heroine tells the hero that life is too short to waste time reading a book if it doesn’t have a happy ending. I wholeheartedly agree!

  16. I pretty much second everything Tee said. Several additional thoughts:

    First, while I can’t say I never read ahead, I generally don’t because knowing the end truly does spoil the adventure for me. Even for romances with a guaranteed HEA, if I don’t go through the journey the same way the characters do, it just plain isn’t as pleasurable. I read the last few pages of A.S. Byatt’s “Possession” early on and, even though I loved the book (it being one of the few works of literary fiction which delivered an HEA), the ending didn’t have the emotional punch it would have had if I hadn’t known some of the relevant details far earlier in the reading process than the author intended.

    I thought of the impact of knowing vs not knowing the ending when I saw “Shakespeare in Love”. Watching the audience watch “Romeo & Juliet” for the first time, before R&J became the prototype of doomed young lovers, made me realize that there is truly something special about traveling a road for the first time. The poetry is certainly still there for us today, but there clearly is something to be said for sitting on the edge of one’s seat, wondering how it will all turn out.

    Second, precisely because I don’t want to know the end, I do not want spoilers in a review. Even if they are somehow separated from the main text, it is almost impossible to have them so separate that your eye can’t see them. I very much appreciate people who put spoilers in their posts in white so that they are invisible unless I choose to highlight them.

    Third, one exception is when a book is basically DNF. I will then either skim or just go straight to the ending, unless the book is so bad it goes straight into the garbage. Another exception is movies. I don’t want to know the ending exactly, but I will ask people who’ve seen the film “does it have a happy ending?”. No details required; that’s all I need to know.

  17. Like Barb in MD above (with whom I’ve had the “we’re glaring at you, Dana Stabenow” conversation), I unapologetically read ahead/skip around/check out the ending of books that I read. Yes, I do this with books I like and books I feel ‘meh’ about, and books in all genres. And I have also read books backward like Andrea – although only when the book is just barely not a DNF. (I don’t bother to re-read those books front-to-back, though. Once is enough.)
    Certainly I understand that other readers read differently. I do find it odd that some booklovers view skipping around in a book as a Moral Failure. But possibly I just don’t want to admit I’ve gone over to The Dark Side…

  18. Tracy~ It’s interesting that you bring that up. I have absolutely no curiosity about my presents. Even as child I wouldn’t have tried to find out what I was getting for birthdays or Christmas. But then again, there’s no stress involved with that. It’s all good. Books/movies are different animals to me. I simply prefer not to have excess tension in my entertainments. I know people disagree with me, including my own family. They keep trying to get me to watch suspenseful dramas, or scary sci-fi and/or horror movies. Sorry, not my cuppa. I don’t care how many “great” movies or books I miss. I don’t want my entertainment to be stressful. It’s kinda like my mom-in-law’s opinion about spicy food. She says, “Food shouldn’t hurt.” ;-) I love spicy food, but I understand her point. For me, “Entertainment shouldn’t stress” is kinda my motto.

    • carrie: Books/movies are different animals to me. I simply prefer not to have excess tension in my entertainments. I know people disagree with me, including my own family. They keep trying to get me to watch suspenseful dramas, or scary sci-fi and/or horror movies. Sorry, not my cuppa. I don’t care how many “great” movies or books I miss. I don’t want my entertainment to be stressful.

      Carrie, I agree with you wholeheartedly. There are several wonderful novels that I have read in the past that I would absolutely not read today because the tone and subject matter are just a little too heavy for my life today. I have enough stress in my everyday life that I want my entertainment to be just that–entertainment. There are many movies my daughter has tried to entice me to see but has not been able to get me to view because they did not meet the happy ending test :).

  19. I frequently read ahead, not to find out whether there will be a happy ending, but whether the relationship is resolved in a way that I find satisfying. If not, I skip the middle and give up on the book. Even if I’m enjoying the book, I’ll often read a couple of chapters, then read the ending, then read the entire last chapter, then go back to where I left off and finish the book.
    I agree that in mysteries, if one of the main couple is killed, I give up on the series forever. It seems to be a trend, and as a result I read far fewer mysteries than I did in the past.

  20. Always!!! I cannot seem to stop myself. It`s my guilty pleasure! Good or bad, makes no difference to me. If the book is good, then I read faster, if it`s bad, it helps me finish the book.

  21. Yes *hanging head in shame* I’m an end-reader. Also a middle reader too. I wish I hadn’t developed this habit, but I have and no matter how often I tell myself STOP DOING THIS – YOU WILL RUIN THE END!! I can’t seem to stop.
    The only books that seem exempt from this nasty habit is the In Death books. Oh, I’ve been tempted at times to read the end – very tempted – but I’ve made it a game to see if I can figure out who did it – or if we know in advance – how they trip themselves up.

  22. NO! Never. I cannot even imagine skipping to the end. A friend of mine told me recently that she always read the end first. Until then, it never occurred to me that people do this. I am not judging. I was just surprised. Of course, I also did not want to now the gender of my children before they were born. I guess it is just the difference between wanting to know what is coming and wanting to be surprised.

  23. Exactly.

    I always read the end somewhere in the middle of the book. If the author cannot get me from a to b… then who cares what the end is. It’s the getting there that matters, even if you know how it ends.

  24. I rarely ever read the last 20 or so pages of a book. I don’t know how I developed that habit. Sometimes I am not curious, other times it is obvious. This drives my husband crazy. I do skim once in awhile but if I feel the need to skip I read something else. Well….quite often I skip the prologue and go back and read it when the book takes off.

  25. In response to Susan’s nicely stated comments: “I generally don’t because knowing the end truly does spoil the adventure for me. Even for romances with a guaranteed HEA, if I don’t go through the journey the same way the characters do, it just plain isn’t as pleasurable.”

    I love this sentiment as I am sadly one of those who often reads ahead, mostly because I am frustrated by the lack of time I have to read for pleasure and don’t want to wait until the next evening. But I’m never happy with myself for doing this and I do think it ruins much of what you called “the journey”. I will try to keep this in mind with my next book.

  26. When I am looking to buy a book from an unfamiliar author either on recomendation or experiment i will read the first and last page at the store then decide if its worth finding out what hppened in the middle.
    knowin ho a book ends doesnt ruin it for me – my house is literaaly overrun with books i re-read again and again.

  27. Hey everybody, thanks for responding – and making me feel part of a ‘spoilt’ community :P

    As for re-reading: I love, love, love to re-read. Sometimes I only re-read favourite parts, or I just open the book to a random page and start. If I haven’t re-read in a long time (let’s say years), I’ll go from top to bottom.

    And re-reading is not just for favourites. I might come across a book on my shelf that I *know* I read but well, it’s vague so I’ll give it a read. I “discovered” Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress like that. It’s one of my favourite romance books ever and it had been languishing and hidden on my shelf for untold years. I guess the frame of mind or stage of life I was in when I first read didn’t allow me to enjoy the book as I do now.

  28. I skip ahead sometimes, under three different circumstances:

    1. I’m starting to think the book isn’t worth my time, and want to see if it improves enough to stick with it. (Usually the answer turns out to be no.)

    2. I’m getting really worried about my favourite character, or about an increasingly tense situation. I’m one of those people who can get overly emotionally involved in what she’s reading, so if I’m afraid my favourite character will die, or start to suspect the author is about to do something I don’t approve of, I’ll skip to the end so that I don’t get an apoplexy if what I don’t want to happen happens.

    3. I’m reading a romance and am starting to wonder, ‘Are these people ever going to have sex?

    I try not to find out too much of what is going to happen when I jump ahead, but I’m not that bothered if I do. I enjoy re-reading books I love because I feel like I pick up more of the nuances the second (or third) time; there are books I’ll re-read every few years or so. So being spoiled doesn’t destroy my interest in the book.

  29. I’m always reading the ending first, sometimes even before the beginning! I even look for the last page of a mystery. Stupid, I know, but only once I’ve thus spoiled my own reading. Now with romantic suspense (which I prefer to straight mysteries) I’m more cautious and read only the last lines to be sure that hero and heroine are safe and together at the end.
    But I must confess I’m not only reading the end first: I often skim, read the last chapter, go forward, try to resume my earlier reading, skim anew. Books I don’t like I skim generally very quickly and put them aside. But I also skim books I really like. Here comes the stress factor. A (very) good book with great characters and gripping action is too stressfull to read in order. I just have to read ahead. Then having the outline of the story, beeing sure that all goes well, I can lean back and savor the whole book from the first to the last line.
    Otherwise ther are books which are a bit slow. Reading ahead, then backward, then ahead again can bring more suspense!

  30. I always read the ending early. Normally when I am about a quarter or a third through the book. I cannot help myself – I even did it with the last two Harry Potter books even though I didn’t want to know spoilers. If the book is part of a series I will read the end of the last book in the series before I have finished the book I am reading in the series. (did that with the Lymond Chronicles – and asked my sister to hide the last book so I couldn’t read ahead and then had to ask her for the book back so I could read ahead).
    Something I don’t think anyone mentioned – my father also reads ahead so I guess I either learned it from him or inherited it from him. I re-read books but my father rarely does.
    I also, on occasions when I may be uncertain about a movie, watch the end of a movie. If I like the end, I’ll go back to where I was in the movie and continue to watch it. If I don’t like the end of the movie I just won’t watch anymore.

  31. I’m a repeat offender. I’ll spoil books, movies and TV shows. I wanna know, I just wanna know. Call it ADD, ADHD, lack of discipline or lack of character, call it whatever, I can’t stand the suspense. Sometimes I only do a modified read ahead. Meaning I only look ahead to the end of a chapter to see if things pick up, then resume reading. I did the modified look-see w/Harry Potter and I’ve done that in a few mysteries (Karin Slaughter). The only book I never peeked ahead was C.S. Harris, but that’s b/c I’m in love w/Sebastian so I want to savor every moment w/him. ;>

    And thanks for mentioning the bit about secondary romances being a real sinker, Abi! I find that when things start slowing down, the secondary romance is sure fire way to get me to look ahead. I’m just not a secondary romance lover.

  32. I laughed out loud as I read your epistle. I started reading MANY years ago when you were never sure of a happy ending…and since I never read a book unless it ended happily (why on earth would someone spend money to deliberately feel sad – life is already difficult enough) I wisely read the ending. I can’t tell you how many people gasp and are aghast when I tell them I read the ending first to make sure it’s a good book. Well tough. I still pick up a wall banger occasionally, or the heroine is TSTL, but at least it ends happy!

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