Books and My Moral Dilemma

English: All 24 John Griham novels as of June ...

I remember the first time I did it. You do it once and you can never go back.

It was a John Grisham novel – The Firm. We were living in Cairo and my husband was traveling. I had little kids — four at the time. I had bathed, storied, and kissed them and as I passed bedrooms I could hear their soft, rhythmic, innocent breathing.

This was My time.

I lay in bed and picked up the book. The only reason I hadn’t read during the day was time. And now I had time.

I began reading. And I read, and I read, and I read some more. I was deeper and deeper into the novel. I knew it was late but I avoided the clock. When I finally looked, it was already 2 in the morning. I knew I had to go to sleep. But I also had to know the end. I had to. I couldn’t stay up reading — I was single parenting, making sure four children were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there. But I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t know what happened. Would the lawyer and his wife make it?

It was a moral dilemma. I knew that ‘real book lovers’ don’t read the end of books. I knew it was a moral code that could mark me for a long time.

So I did the unthinkable – I skipped to the end. I read the end of the book.

Even now I feel the shame of it, the magnitude of that one act, that one time. Because I knew if I could do it once – I’d do it again. And maybe again. And then maybe I’d do it one more time…..

I would be whispered about and bear the shame and humiliation of being one of ‘those’ people, one who reads the end of books. “Who does that? Who reads the end of books?” would be the conversation and I would shake my head and say “I don’t know! Who does that?” While inside I would hang my head and pray they never found out.

What about you? Have you ever skipped to the end of a book? Did you break the unspoken law of book reading? Tell all through the comments.

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Readers – Today Communicating Across Boundaries celebrates 1000 posts! You helped this milestone happen by reading, contributing guest posts, and interacting with pieces that you read, posts that resonated in your heart and soul. Thank you! Here’s to 1000 more! (If blogging even continues as a ‘thing’, right?!)

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31 thoughts on “Books and My Moral Dilemma

  1. I love this post, and if possible, love the comments even more. I used to believe that I should never, never look at the end of a book, and also that if I started a book, I was obligated to finish it. Then sometime around the age of 50, I started a book and found I didn’t like it, didn’t want to finish it. So I went to the end just to check out how it ended, and never did finish it. At that point I was realizing that I had more of my life behind me than ahead, and why should I waste my time reading a book if I wasn’t enjoying it? I have actually gotten upset with the author somewhere in the middle, thinking she was going to kill off the hero or some such so I went to the end just to see if I should keep on reading or not – hero was still there, so I finished it.
    And congratulations on sticking to this blog to do 1000 posts, a great accomplishment!
    Sun is shining brightly here in Florida, but not as warm as we would like! No complaints though.

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  2. Congratulations on 1000 posts! Regarding reading the end of a good book, I am sure I did that when young because I was not what I would describe as a “reader” yet. Thinking recently of books I have read that I so want to know how all will turn out, I never thought of reading the end…lame I know. It struck me funny that in “Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots” or “Winter Garden” when I was distracted from other responsibilities because of a need to know, it never dawned on me to read the end :-) But there was much pleasure in surprise when I got there.
    Again, Congrats!

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    1. Yeah – I have to say that element of surprise is worth the wait every single time. So I have tried not to make a habit of it. I am so glad to have met you through blogging and I look forward to the day when we can meet in person. I still remember when you first contacted me– thank you for that!

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  3. I used to, sometimes, when I was a kid. But now I don’t usually skip ahead. Probably because I read a lot on Kindle (yeah for kindle libraries!) and it is a pain to skip around. Maybe I am just reading more boring books lately though – that don’t need to be skipped ahead. Got a suggestion of one that MUST either be finished or skipped to the end?

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    1. So my daughter says The Goldfinch is a must read and a “can’t put it down”. I want to read it. I had to laugh when you said you haven’t read the end since you were little….how did you break the habit?!

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  4. Congratulations on your 1,000th post! Quite a fun (and funny) story to share for this landmark post too! I guess I’ve always looked down upon “those people” who read the end of a book first, although I suppose I don’t know why! As someone else said, I don’t mind knowing what’s going to happen in a movie, especially if it’s a bit scary, and I still enjoy it just as much. I don’t know why it’d be different with a book!

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    1. Thank you! I’ve loved getting to know you a bit and know that we are on the same Orthodox journey of faith. Maybe the movie is different because even though we know the summary, we don’t have a clue how the director will fill in the details – and that’s the surprise. While it should be the same with a book, there is something about it that feels different. And I totally see why you look down on people who read the end…..my whole family is like that.

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  5. Good post, as usual–wait! No, awesome post, since it was your 1000th one. Hard to believe. I remember you talking about staring your blog when you came by to visit us around Christmastime 2010 (up in beautiful Beverly Farms)…and now you’ve done a century’s worth of them. Amazing girl–way to go! And may you be able to keep it up, as I know I and many others have been blessed by them.

    As to reading the end of the book before getting there…never! No, that’s just not done, friend. And I remember having the same type of experience reading Grisham’s _The Firm_, needing to continue to flip the pages–until I got the satisfaction of reaching the climax/conclusion that it all built to so wonderfully. I had 4 small kids at that point too; only difference was that I was on a business trip in Aksu (Xinjiang, NW China) and it was my wife who was home with the kids! And so I just keep reading & reading till I finished…I think lots of the reading was done waiting for the Chinese government leader to come meet me at my hotel, which didn’t happen that day!

    Reading the end–before honestly finishing the rest–is kind of like the shock Chris & I received when one of us was reading _Anna Karenina_ for the first time and were only about half-way through, when one of our summer interns blurted out–“Oh, have you read the part yet where she….?” @#$@!% OK–I won’t spoil it for those who’ve not yet read the end of that classic book…

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    1. I love this comment and am not the least surprised. Just last week Jonathan started saying something about The Brothers Karamazov and a woman shouted out “Stop! I’m reading it! I want no spoilers!” He wisely stopped. I love your story about The Firm. I will totally agree that the real joy is reading through and not reading the end because it builds up that wonderful sense of surprise. But I’ll also admit, once I did it the first time, it really was easy to do it the second….that’s all I’m saying!

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  6. I read the end because I like to know where I’m headed, then enjoy the journey on the way. It’s how I am in life. But when I read a book with my husband, we both discover it together and don’t look ahead, because he likes surprises :). Best of both worlds.

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    1. I like this – a lot. I think that’s why I’ve done it later. I love mysteries and they are the one book that I try not to read ahead. Have you ever stopped a book because you realized you hated the ending? I could see myself doing that.

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  7. Congratulations on your 1,000th post!! Thanks for every one of them. I can’t begin to count the insights I’ve gained from reading here. . . and I confess as well to that first experience years ago of needing both sleep and to know a book’s outcome by skipping to the end. Despite feeling that I was breaking a cardinal law of booklovers, I’ve done it again . . . and again. And yet the Irish rebel in me asks, “Why not?” Sometimes it’s the only way for me to manage life and keep reading!!!

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  8. I’m a huge book lover (so much so that I still refuse to use kindles or anything like that – real books for me!) – but I’ve still read the end, in those same moments you describe, when you just need to know! I haven’t done that often, but it has happened… Although I always go back and read everything I missed in between. But I also reread my favorite books time and time again… And I enjoy them just as much every single time. It’s ok if you read the end before getting there – it shows just how much the book pulled you in and how much of a book lover you are :)

    And a huge congrats on the 1000th post – I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next 1000! :)

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    1. I reread all the time! And the weird thing is, I think I will my memory to be blocked so that I can be surprised again….and again….and again! I too enjoy them just as much. I have family members that would NEVER let me get a kindle, ever. Even if I wanted one. But it’s interesting to get in the Kindle conversation with those who live in Djibouti or Shanghai — it’s there only option for most books. Thank you for the congratulations, thanks even more for reading!

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  9. I very rarely do that for books, but almost always read movie summaries before watching them.
    The question is, the next day did you go ahead and read everything between the end and where you stopped?
    I usually go with the ‘I’ll read a random chapter from the middle’ method (in any book where it could possibly work to do so) so I don’t get sucked in. 2 days later the book is usually finished, having been read in mismatched chunks!
    Thanks for 1000 blog posts and helping us all toward our reading fix in a manageable chunk that does not require staying up all night!

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    1. Laura – I am happy to report that the next evening I read through the entire thing. I went back to where I left off and read from there. I actually like the random piece in the middle, especially when browsing bookstores. Do you also use the Amazon option of “look what’s inside”? I love that feature. And thank you for your words – your lovely words on manageable chunks. I loved that.

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  10. I’ve missed you! I love reading, I am a reader. And I almost always read the end way before I get to it, because a good book absorbs me the same way, I’m up all night but still unable to finish the book and the kids have to go to school the next morning. But I still read the rest of the book with as much pleasure. Don’t worry about it, be a rebel!

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    1. Khaula – I am SO happy to hear from you! Did I ever tell you about reading your Karachi piece aloud to a group of 100 people? Love your encouragement to be a rebel on this. Thank you – I think I will. Just did it the other day to a Zadie Smith book On Beauty.

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  11. Congratulations on the 1,000th post, Marilyn! You are too funny! I love that you shared this. I could never do it though. I just couldn’t. I might miss something good!

    In my younger days, if I started a book, I had to finish and I would plough through miserably, even if it was boring. Isn’t that ridiculous?! But I read somewhere that you should only read as many pages as your age subtracted from 100 and then decide if you should keep reading. So now I read 50 pages and if the book doesn’t interest me, I quit. Life is too short for bad books.

    Perhaps for those books, I could skip through to read the end. Hmmm.

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    1. You are so right that life is too short for bad books. I started a post a long time ago called “When a bad book has a good title” because I had picked up a couple of books that I thought would be excellent based on the title and they were terrible, terrible. I couldn’t finish them. To be perfectly clear – I did go back and read the detail – does that make me better :)

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  12. Oh I love this post! Lol and I proudly confess that I ALWAYS read the end of the book before I even buy it. The pleasure of a story isnt the end, but the process of getting there….the journey is what’s fascinating! Why do characters make the decisions they do, etc! Whether it is or not, I believe this is a more “indepth” way of experiencing a story. And I make no apology for it!! :-D

    And many congratulations on your 1,000th post! Good job! I wish you another thousand postings! You go, girl!

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    1. Deborah! How shocking! While I understand the argument you make….I must disagree… I too enjoy the journey, the plot, the characters but they all contribute to the climax. The climax comes at the end. It’s a sacred space. You enter it through the outer courtyards of the story. Oh dear. My whole world is upside down now! This is worse than the time I learned that it’s only here in North America that people start into a piece of pie from the point. Imagine…there are places in the world where people start their pie from the crust side! See what I mean! The world is no longer safe!!
      :)

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      1. I’ve never seen anyone eat the crust first! Where would that be? I am curious. That said, my younger daughter eats all the filling out and saves her favorite part, the crust, for last. But even her family thinks that’s weird.

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    2. Ha! I knew there was one like me out there! Love your pride in this and your moral outrage at eating the pie from the crust. It’s so perfect! So – I don’t do it all the time, but since that time I’ve certainly lost the guilt!

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