I often come across book reviews that include statements like “I didn’t know anything about this book before I read it” or “I avoided reading the jacket copy” – something along the lines of wanting to go into the reading experience without much advance knowledge of what was coming. The blurb for Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee totally plays off this:
“We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this . . . Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.”
Does that intrigue you, and lure you in?
If it does, you and I are attracted to different things. In my case, it pretty much quashes any interest I might have in the book. While some people avoid reading a cover description of a book, and others prefer it when the book doesn’t even have a summary, I’m the opposite. More often than not, if there’s no description of the story, I’ll put the book right back on the shelf, especially if I’m unfamiliar with the author or haven’t heard much about it from other sources.
I understand that some readers avoid the jacket descriptions because sometimes they’re more detailed than strictly necessary, verging (or crossing) into spoiler territory by revealing critical elements up front. Although I’m not generally spoiler-phobic – just because I know what happens doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy seeing how it happens – I’m not crazy about it when publishers do that either. At the same time, I realize that people’s definitions of what constitutes a spoiler vary; for one reader, it’s knowing that a main character is going to die, while for another, it may be just knowing the name of that character before cracking the book.
Still, I’ll take my chances with being spoiled rather than take a risk with the unknown. I’m an information-gatherer, and I need to know at least some basic information about a book – the premise, the setting, maybe a little about the tone, some hint (just a hint!) of the central conflicts or issues between the characters – before I can choose whether or not to read it.
Spoilers are one thing, but aside from that: how much do you want to know about a book before you decide to read it? And what do you consider a spoiler, anyway?
NOT a spoiler: The National Book Awards Finalists were announced this week. Have you read any of them, or are you planning to? (My answers: not yet, and maybe a couple of them.)
A different kind of “spoiler”: as much as book bloggers try to support indie bookstores, might we be spoiling things for them instead?
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Forever…, by Judy Blume
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Recent Reviews, Non-themed
The Summer We Read Gatsby, by Danielle Ganek
New arrivals in TBR Purgatory
The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel, by Jess Walter (via publisher)
Emily of Deep Valley: A Deep Valley Book, by Maud Hart Lovelace *
Stay with Me: A Novel, by Sandra Rodriguez Barron (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)