Hands up: Who reads the ending first?

Yesterday a reader wrote to me that she’d just finished Ransom River. It’s always great to hear that people enjoy my books. But I had to laugh at this reader’s message: “Great ending. I wish I didn’t read it right after I read chapter 1.”

Generally I can’t stand spoilers. I don’t want to know how a story ends until I get there. My family, on the whole, can’t stand them either. At our house, we used to have a Giving-Away-the-Ending Jar. (It was next to the Stale Joke Jar, which the kids made for their parents.) But I know a number of people who deliberately read the last page of a book before reading the rest. And some recent psychological research suggests that in general, spoilers don’t spoil the enjoyment of a story.

So tell me: Do you read the ending before the rest of a book? Do you want to know how a movie ends before you sit down to watch it?

26 responses to “Hands up: Who reads the ending first?

  1. Yep. Often. If it’s a book in a series, then I know the hero is going to live, so rather than deal with the acid in my stomach, I’ll read the last page. Then I go back and continue the book. Guess the research is correct: it’s never spoiled it for me. And, if the ending is c@*p, I haven’t wasted my time! So many authors don’t know how to end a book!

  2. Never, what fun is that. The whole reason to read a book is to find out how it ends. A movie- I do like to know if it has a happy or sad ending.

  3. For myself, never, The whole reason I’m reading in the first place is for that sinking feeling things won’t turn out well, and the reaction to how things do turn out at the end. I have however, been checking for spoilers before taking my son to movies. There I appreciate the head’s up, just in case.

  4. I never go looking, but if I accidentally happen on a spoiler I never mind as it really doesn’t ruin the enjoyment for me. Most people I know get royally po’d at unannounced spoilers though.

  5. Never with a mystery, I love being taken for a ride, that’s why I read. But with a romance, especially if it’s unclear who will win the girl, I have been knows to SKIM the last few pages to see who’s still standing…

  6. Not me. Never.

  7. I always read the last sentence, though I try not to look anywhere else on the last page. It usually doesn’t give away the ending, not completely, and I’ll often forget what it said by the time I’m closing in on it in the full read, but I always enjoy a book more knowing the author left a beautiful or powerful (or both!) last sentence waiting for us at the end.

  8. I always read left to right,start to end. Unless DNF. My grandmother would start & go to end just to see if it was worth the time. But I reread tons of books.

  9. No no no. Never. Not even if I thought I might die before I finish it.
    That, my friend, is a dark side.

  10. I do not read the ending of a book because I like the anticipation of discovering if my guess was correct. On the other hand if its a movie, I at least want to know if the ending was good.

  11. oh, I will read the ending on a book that after three chapters I’m not liking it…at least I want to know how it ends.

  12. Nope. Never. And I get upset if I accidentally open to a page that’s farther ahead than I’ve read and have something spoiled.

  13. No. BUT… if there is a character I am particularly anxious about, or an animal, I will flip the pages quickly just to see if I see their name mentioned later in the book.

    Now, doing that gives nothing away as just seeing their name doesn’t tell me if they are alive or dead or what has or will happen to them. I just want that reassurance of seeing their name. Yes, it’s a silly little mind game I play with myself. But sometimes….oh, that anxiety gets to be too much.

    But no, I don’t read the ending. I want to be surprised.

  14. Thanks, everybody. I’m really interested in how readers approach stories. Good stuff.

  15. No reading the end first. That’s a nasty slippery slope down which lie all kinds of other pernicious practices. If the book really stinks, the ending doesn’t matter. I may bail partway through, but that happens without knowing (or, frankly, caring) how it all turns out. Often those books go onto the “I’m desperate for left-to-right-eye-movement-and-there’s-nothing-else-beyond-the-cereal-box” shelf and do get finished (and donated) eventually. Spoilers don’t wreck it for me–heck, I reread mysteries all the time–but I don’t seek them out.

  16. Rebecca of Craven

    I used to do this as a kid – then matured a little.

    When it’s a book by one of my preferred authors I read it really quickly the first time through then do a leisurely re-read later.

    Going off at a tangent – does anyone else suffer from intermittent proof reader syndrome? And get annoyed by phrases like ‘out the door’? What sin did our little friend ‘of’ commit?

  17. I’ll grab that tangent. At my on-line book group, I’ve just been complaining about the neologism (U.S. only, so far, I think) of leaving “of” out after “couple”. As in, “a couple guys walked in.”

    • Rebecca of Craven

      Thanks Susan for that scary one – to me it translatesas two chaps or a gay couple depending on what’s been left out.

      I could go through chapters having completely the wrong images in my mind – or is that what the perpetrators want?

      I’ve certainly not spotted it in anything I’ve read recently, although I do tend to mostly U.K. born authors (with a few exceptions obviously). I generally find their styles easier on the eye.

      • Rebecca, I believe that this is the moment when you are invited to join the Grammar Geeks Unit. This commando-style squad seeks and destroys atrocities of grammar and usage with special diamond-tipped Sharpies and weaponized white-out. There’s a uniform, but I blocked out everything after “stiletto heels.”

      • Welcome to the clan, Rebecca of Craven.

  18. I always read it in order and try to avoid spoilers, especially in mysteries.

    But… my mother always read the last couple of pages first. Once I gave her “Thinner” by Richard Bachman (Stephen King). The last chapter had the main character eat a pie, which seems harmless enough. It’s only if you read it in order you realize what the pie meant. She didn’t read any more King after that, primarily because she didn’t like that he’d tricked her.

    • Thinner is among my favorite King novels. How did your mother feel tricked? The sneaky pie?

      • Yes – sometimes a pie isn’t just a pie. I suspect he did that deliberately just to frustrate last-page-readers 🙂
        Coincidentally, I’m re-reading Kill Chain at present – knowing the secret of Georgia, it’s fun to spot all of the foreshadowing that makes a lot more sense the second time round.

  19. carolyn meredith

    New Meg Gardiner reader; I found Ransom River on the new books shelf and am a new fan. No, never, never read the ending first; only read about one sentence of synopsis or cover blurb for authors I don’t know and once I know an author I don’t read any of the synopsis. I live in So California so I especially like reading about areas that I know personally.

  20. Pingback: 2012: the blog year in review | lying for a living

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