Dec 5, 2014

I Have a Reading Disorder

My "Oh I didn't know I was taking a picture of myself" selfie.*

Literally, my reading is disordered. Specifically, it happens in this order: beginning, end, middle.

Yep, I skip ahead and pre-read the end of every book I start. I never read the end last. Never. And, yes, every single book. Doesn't matter if I'm enjoying the book or not. Doesn't even matter if it's non-fiction.

Are you freaking out now?

When you see a spoiler alert, you probably cover your eyes and run away? Not me. I love them. In fact, please do tell me how your favorite book or movie ends. Actually, let me guess: he gets the girl? The beloved dog/horse/mythical creature dies? The world is saved? They figure out the secret code just in the nick of time? She becomes a vampire and has vampire babies?

**Spoiler Alert** I'm going to go ahead and tell you how this blog post ends: I kill off the character you've grown to love. Sucks, but that elf on the shelf had it coming. And then I ask a question, like all good blog posts, and that question is: can you believe how much more complicated the actual US criminal investigation and prosecution system is than its TV counterpart?? Guys, I feel betrayed.

Back to the reading thing-- I know, you are horrified. You think it's wrong, unnatural, immoral maybe. And I tell you I was born like this. I can't help it; I'm chronologically challenged. Even as a child I couldn't understand why Grover didn't just peek at the last page to get a glimpse of the monster. Why, Grover, why?

You know what's horrible and unnatural? People reading an entire book that they hate, just to see how it ends. Recently, my husband was reading a terrible book**, and he complained constantly about how awful it was, how it was literary assault and battery. And then he would pick that book right back up and read more of it, groaning and writhing the entire time.

Me: Why do you keep reading it?

Mark: Because I have to find out how it ends. No matter how painful it is. What if the end makes it worth it?

Me: Maybe you should just peek and see.

Mark: WHAT???!! That would be a crime against literature! I'm just going to have to suffer for... 157 more pages.

Me: You're sick. You need help.

Endings don't save books. An unsatisfying ending might tarnish, or even ruin, an otherwise good book, but if the middle (i.e. the plot and characters and conflict and development) is bad, then it's just a bad book. End of story.***

It's not just that I peek at the end to scandalize civilized people, or to see if it's worth it to keep reading. There's a bigger, deeper reason: I skip to the end, because once I know what's going to happen, I can relax, and enjoy how it gets there. Provided I think it's a book worth finishing, of course. (Guys, stop feeling obligated to read bad books!)

So it all comes down to suspense. Suspense, and my supreme aversion to it.

You might say that it's in human nature to enjoy suspense-- isn't that the point of all entertainment? To keep us in suspense until the end?

I say no. Think about a book or movie that you love. I mean, your house is on fire and you grab it before your children and pets LOVE. Chances are you've watched it or read it a second time or more, even though you already knew what was going to happen.

And once you know how it's going to end, by definition the suspense is over. But there is still tension, created by conflict. And that's what's in human nature to enjoy-- conflict and resolution. And we can watch or read that over and over, knowing full well what happens in advance, and it's actually very satisfying.

Like this:
Feels good, doesn't it? 

So after the many conversations I've had with people about my reading disorder, I've decided that there are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who will never skip ahead, and those who always skip ahead.

If you're in the first category, you are in the majority, and quite frankly, you probably waste a significant amount of time.

If you're in the second category, we are soul mates, and chances are you also hate click-bate with a passion.

So, which one are you?

*Crap, selfies are hard. Props to Kim Kardashian.
**OK, not the actual book he was reading, but I couldn't resist.
***Mmm-hmmm. Pun intended. 

photo credit: Michael Kappel via photopin cc


Anonymous said...

Oh my freaking gosh Donna. So I’m a few lines in to your post thinking, yeah that makes sense. I’m always reading spoilers of books and movies. After all once you know what’s going to happen, you can just enjoy the story. Then you somehow picked that thought out of my head, went back in time and typed it in your blog that I’m now reading. Excuse me while I freakout in a padded room.

Give it to me upfront so I can enjoy all the foreshadowing, character development, and clever nods. If the story only holds up because you don’t know the ending, it’s not worth your time.

End plots twist are overly abused gimmicks to save bad writing/acting. I mean really, how hard was it to figure out Bruce Willis was already dead. Same formula with a little twist. Love the move but knowing let me enjoy the movie even more. I’ve learned that in order to save my marriage I can’t comment on books, TV shows, and movies.

Alas I’ve already found my soul mate. I would however, love to get a list of books you’ve read.


You get that from your Mom. Your sister does the same. And this is the same reason she hates to watch the end of sporting events and complains that the end takes way too long.

Not knowing how it will end is too uncomfortable for your ilk.

Do you have a visceral need to be right?

All symptoms of controlius freakium, an incurable disease.

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa said...

Melissa said...
I feel so liberated! Although I must say, you forgot to include the 3rd class of people - which happens to be the one I fall into. *Those who LOVE suspense and the not knowing YET fall prey to the hyper impatience fed by the endorphins released during suspense and causes them to read spoilers/ask how it ends etc. and they equally LOVE that! I am always torn because I LOVE both scenarios equally. We did start Serial and gorged on it all in two -3 nights and was super pissed when I went online to see how it ends and was left completely unsatisfied (just don't tell Jay I tried to peek).

Bardsleyland said...

Jared: :) Are you on Goodreads?

Melissa: very interesting! I did not think a mix was possible. :)

Daddy: So does my "ilk" include your wife? Seems this has touched a nerve with you. ;) This is for you:
Will post it on Facebook too.

Louise Plummer said...

Im with your husband on this one. Reading the end first is a sin against God. However, as I age I've given myself permission to stop reading a book I'm not enjoying. I don't really care how it ends. it's dead to me.