End Reader

Posted: July 18, 2007 in books

I was driving back to work today after meeting Calvin for lunch and then going home for a few minutes to put a meatloaf in the crockpot. NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” was discussing the habits of book readers, specifically those people who read the ending of a book first. The story was prompted by the fact that the release of the final Harry Potter book is this Saturday.

Regular readers will recall that I posses this very bad, sacrilegious “end reading” habit. I’ll read the very last page, regardless of if it’s a full page of text or has only two lines, and then go back to page one and read through. I have actually been thinking of how I will address “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” when it is delivered to my house this coming Saturday. It’s the final book of the series, and I really want to savour it. But will my willpower be strong enough to resist the urge to read the end first?

The people discussing this “end reading” phenomenon on NPR had an interesting point. Authors (of course) want readers to curl up with their books for hours and thoroughly enjoy every word, every description, every aspect of character development, and arrive at the end in a linear fashion, without reading ahead. But some people tend to read faster just because they want to find out what happens, and thereby miss or skim the meat of the book in their rush. It is thought that perhaps people who read the end first are then able to go back to the beginning and read in a more relaxed fashion, without that feeling of needing to hurry up and find out what happens.

I think I am one of those people. I feel a certain anxiety (retarded, I know) when reading a book, to know what happens ahead of the point that I am at. But if I know what to expect, I can then relax and enjoy the book without rushing.

So. I am still undecided about what to do with this book. I really want to read it from page one, slowly and with relish, and arrive at the end when it arrives. Without reading ahead. But this is a pivotal point in pop culture – the END of the Harry Potter series (!) – so how am I supposed to keep myself from succumbing to the urge to peep at the end?(*)

What will you do, dear readers, when faced with this very same dilemma?

(*) There is, of course, the option of reading the book twice in a row, should the first reading be too rushed in my desire to get to the end and find out what happens. (**) It’s not like I’ve never done THAT before.

(**) Calvin is SO going to harrass me about this.

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