I read the ends of books first.
[Waiting for the shock and confusion to subside.]
First, I should say that I don’t read a lot of fiction; my preferences run to sociology, psychology, history, and that sort of of thing. The fiction I do read is generally written by a small group of favorite authors: Rex Stout and Ngaio Marsh in particular. These are mysteries, and the authors are known quantities, so I don’t need or want to know the endings.
However, when I start reading a fiction book that’s an unknown quantity — say, a new thriller by Thomas Harris — then I want to know it will be worth my time. And by that, I mean I want to know that a primary character I’ve learned to care about during the course of reading won’t be dispatched in an ugly fashion in the last few pages.
Take the new Harry Potter book, for example. (And no, I am not going to give away the ending.) Why in the world should I devote 15-20 hours of my life to reading it if I know it ends with Harry, Ron, and/or Hermione splattered all over the walls of Hogwarts by a well-aimed Voldemort curse? My son and husband brought home a copy from a lovely midnight party held at Destinations Booksellers, and the next morning my son was kind enough to release it from his grip just long enough for me to read about half of the last chapter and the epilogue. Thus informed, I was able to make my decision about whether I’ll read the book.
You see, I read books for the same reason I go to movies: for diversion and enjoyment. (Yes, I find out the ends of questionable films, too, before I spend hard-earned money only to be devastated by an unexpected turn of events. Thank goodness for TheMovieSpoiler.com.) I do not read or go to movies to experience wrenching emotional moments or sob at the loss of a beloved character (or their child, or their pet). Some people find sad or otherwise emotionally overwrought books and films cathartic and speak happily about how much they cried after reading or seeing such-and-such (the movie Terms of Endearment comes to mind). All I have to say to that is, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Call me twisted, call me a wimp, but I like to know that all is well — in advance!