Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SURPRISE!! Or not...

Ok, I usually like to keep this secret.
A lot of people get really upset when I admit this.
But it seems,at least according to one study, maybe I don't have anything to be ashamed of.

What is my secret?
I often read the last pages of a book first.

There, I said it, and I know many of you find that a terrible thing to admit or just totally beyond your understanding, especially for a mystery lover like myself.
"Doesn't that ruin the suspense? Don't you want to be surprised." Well, very often...not really.
And it seems I am not the only one according to an articled in Wired about a study done at UC San Diego that will be published in Psychological Science.

As the author of the article says,
"I’ve got a weak spot for pulp fiction, especially when it involves a mysterious twist. I like unironic thrillers and mediocre Agatha Christie imitations. Basically, I like any kind of fiction that lets me forget for vast stretches of time that I’m sitting in an airport terminal.

I read these books in an unusual way: I begin with the last five pages, seeking out the final twist first. The twist won’t make sense at this point, but that doesn’t matter — I enjoy reading the story with the grand finale in mind. (Hell, I even cheated with Harry Potter.)

I’ve always assumed that this reading style is a perverse personal habit, a symptom of a flawed literary intelligence. It turns out, though, that I was just ahead of the curve, because spoilers don’t spoil anything. In fact, a new study suggests that spoilers can actually increase our enjoyment of literature. Although we’ve long assumed that the suspense makes the story — we keep on reading because we don’t know what happens next — this new research suggests that the tension actually detracts from our enjoyment."

Check out the results. The numbers prove it. In three different genres, readers who read the ending first said they enjoyed the stories more than readers who did not.
Why might this be?
Well the author suggests that this fear of spoilers is a recent thing. The Greek tragedies and comedies up through the plays of Shakespeare and Hollywood movies were quite predicable and the audience often knew what the ending would be.

Also, just because we know the final twist does not know the story still does not contain surprises. In fact, to my mind, those are the best sort of books, that draw us along, surprising step by surprising step.
"Perhaps we’ve overvalued the pleasure of the shocking ending at the expense of those smaller astonishments along the way. It’s about the narrative journey, not the final destination..."
And latest, we often experience a surprise as our failure to see it coming rather than a pleasurable thing.
"The human mind is a prediction machine, which means that it registers most surprises as a cognitive failure, a mental mistake."
I guess no surprise parties for him!

Well, do any of you share my predilection...and are you willing to admit it?
Many will be upset if you do, but be brave and join me in the "not really wanting to be surprised group. It is lonely here.
Anyone else out there who turns to the back of the book first?

Come on, admit it... ;-)


  1. Gasp! Not Me, unless I am reading a book with a plot that goes no where, and I am just curious how the "Loser book will end"..LOL

  2. I'm with Diane -- I couldn't peek unless I knew I wasn't going to read the entire book! But, hey -- to each (reader) their own!

  3. Double gasp!! No, no, no and no again. If my younger daughter were a blog reader she would stand up here and admit that she too reads the ending first. She has yet to justify this action to me. But, as Beth said, chacun a son gout!

  4. The horror!! The horror!!! I can't believe it! This is something I've never done. But, I will admit, my grandmother did it all the time.

  5. how do you do it on a kindle? muahahahaha

  6. OK, I will proudly stand up and say that I often do this. Well, maybe not often - occasionally is probably more accurate. And let me tell you about the discussions my husband and I have had. He think reading the ending is just plain wrong. Under any circumstances. Sometimes I do it to see if I've guessed correctly. Sometimes I just can't wait - the anxiety is too much.

    Think it's something psychological? I am a rather anxious person, but I also love to puzzle out things and be scared by boos. Guess my anxiety is not about fiction.

    And you can do it on a Kindle. It's just more difficult. :-)

  7. Hmmm....my typo of being scared about "boos" is telling, huh? Scared by "books". LOL

  8. Oh my, my mouth opened in a big 'oh' when I read that. Lol. Not me! I never read the last pages. I don't want to ruin the story for myself.

  9. I know it is shocking. I am shocked and i said it! Lol but the facts are with me. I think some of you are lying....

  10. ....and yes, you can do it on an e-reader.

  11. Akkkkk No! In fact when I read a review that spoiled ROOM for me, I just never read it. I figured with the suspense gone, why would I care. I don't even look ahead at the pictures on/in my calendars. Really.

  12. I had no idea people would do this... gasp... on purpose!

    Recently I accidentally listened to the end of an audiobook first. The tags were set incorrectly and my player picked up 102 as 2. And this copy came from the publisher! Anyway, knowing the ending didn't ruin it for me however I did listen a little differently and was able to pick up hints as to what was to come. Things I might not have noticed otherwise. So maybe knowing the end isn't such a horrible thing after all. But I don't intend to make a practice of it!

  13. OMG thanks for coming forward. I will admit in the heat of things I need to know there is a HEA. I don't initially check out the final pages but when the book turns up the tension I just gotta know.


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