How to Ruin a Good Book

I have a confession to make.

I always sneak a peek to see how a book ends when I’m midway through.

It’s usually somewhere around a hundred or two hundred pages in (depending on the total length of the novel). At that point, I simply can’t seem to sate curiosity fast enough.  I get greedy for the denouement and I need to know the next twist right now.

Sorry George, I had to skip to the end to see if there would be any Starks of Winterfell remaining.

I especially find myself doing this with popular fiction – The Time Traveler’s wife (his feet freeze off and he can no longer run), The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay (Joe is gay), The Great Gatsby (Gatsby is framed and murdered).

Ann Patchett saved me the trouble in Bel Canto – there’s the spoiler on page 13 “It was the unspoken belief of everyone… that they were all as good as dead, when in fact it was the terrorists who would not survive the ordeal.”

For me – finding out the ending doesn’t spoil the book – rushing through it does.

Rush is the enemy of Savor.  Rushing will ruin a good book.  It’s hard to savor a work of fiction if you’re worried about the prospect of the protagonist’s relationship, or life.  It’s hard to savor anything if you just can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I don’t want to be surprised – I want to enjoy what I’m reading.  I want to soak in the words, and savor the commas.  Yes, the commas.  Trying to figure out the main plot can lead me to ignore subtleties, wordplay, and the bittersweet sting of romantic rejection which usually comes in the form of ellipses.

Of course, there are also books where the action is slow, intentionally so.  When I truly want to savor a book – I pick up one of those and I slow down and feel, taste, and see the imagery of the author. These are vacation reads, but not beach reads.  There aren’t any cliff hangers at the end of the each chapter.

Here are my three recommendations for “slow-reads.”

100 years 

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

tinker creek 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard


Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

What’s on your list of summer reads?  What books do you really savor?

-Beth Melillo


6 responses to “How to Ruin a Good Book

  1. I would have to completely disagree with this! I have never read the end twist before! Doesn’t it spoil for you?!

    • Haha. Okay – yes sometimes. But, if the ending is spoiled for me, I usually realize the writing wasn’t that good, the characters weren’t that complex. So, I can pick up something better to read instead. Sometimes, I (the horror) just stop reading books that are boring.

      Lots of times, I read endings and rather than being spoiled – I’m intrigued to read more because the ending is something totally different than I’ve expected. I want to know how the characters get from where I’ve seen them so far to where they’re clearly going.

      Thanks for commenting. – Beth

      • haha its always lovely to hear an opposing point of view! For me I would never read the last page or the last twist because if I knew the end I probably have to put the book down just because I’d ruin it! But then everyone has a personal point of view (:

  2. I’m with you here. I often skip around and to the ending. It helps me, as you say, savor other things in the book – like foreshadowing, each twist of character development or hint at plot. I can recognize the techniques easier. I suppose, in some sense, it takes early grade reading strategies to a larger scale – using context clues of the whole book to better understand the smaller individual bits. In a comment to Madelene I just did a nerdy thing and compared it to a physics equation: “The ending is only worth one point with me; I want to know how the author gets there successfully as well. But if they already have a bad ending, no amount of mumbo jumbo is going to make it right for me.” As for summer reads for me, I have several I’m taking with me: Winter’s Tale, Persuasion, The Host, The Far Side of Evil, A View From Saturday, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and more (many more). We’ll see how much I get through!

    • That reminded me – I’ve wanted to read “The Host” for a while now – so I picked it up at the library today. Assuming you meant the Stephenie Meyer book that is. I’m also looking to read “The Bell” by Iris Murdoch, ‘Age of Reason’ (Sartre) and Gone Girl (G. Flynn.) Also – I hear and see that Neil Gaiman is coming out with a new book. I’m excited since he’s one of my favorite authors. – Beth

  3. I do this sometimes, too. But then I end up losing interest, so I try not to make it a habit. I’m making a mental list of Summer Reads, now. I think I will start with Waiting For Godot. I’ve never read it, before. But, of course I just know the story by osmosis. Happy reading.

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