If you read the title then you’re probably thinking this is some kind of belated April Fools prank, but rest assured there is no joke to be found here. I really do read the last page of a book first. Every time, without fail- sometimes in the middle of the bookstore. It’s shocking, I know, but maybe the following reasons might be enough to convince you to give it a try.
For starters, reading the last page of a book helps me decide if I’m interested in it. Now usually there is of course a description of the story that accompanies either the back of the book, the inside cover, or the about section of the book online; but sometimes those just aren’t enough to pique my interest in something. However, reading the ending and having no clue what it’s talking about or what’s going on definitely will.
Having a bit of random knowledge about the book gives me the incentive to learn more, and if I don’t understand what the last page is saying then there’s a curiosity that builds up and I want to know more. It’s like when you hear the tail end of a strangers conversation and start to develop a million different questions because of the one sentence you actually overheard. Or watching a show just to get to that one scene everyone on Twitter has been freaking out. By knowing what’s to come, the intrigue to know how it got there grows. This works similarly to the little book blurbs we’re all so fond of, the difference being the lack of mystery that makes it appealing. I don’t have to wonder what’s going to happen, I already know, but the story itself is just as unknown as it would have been otherwise, so I can still enjoy all the little steps on the way to the finale.
The other major factor you might be worrying about is spoilers. Doesn’t reading the end of the book spoil the entire thing? Well, yes and no. It depends on the book and it depends on the story. If the book is the first in a series, it might end on a cliffhanger and you might accidentally read about a character’s death in the final moments of the story. Or it could end with a big wedding between the two characters on the cover advertised to be sworn enemies. But most of the time this isn’t the case, as the last page in a book is often the tamest one. Think back to high school literature class when talking about story structure, picture that little graph the teacher would draw on the board.
The common story structure that we are used to seeing has a beginning, an inciting incident, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, and a conclusion. Sounds familiar right? So based on that structure, the last page of the book is hardly ever going to be the most exciting. It’s called the conclusion for a reason, it’s the “they all lived happily ever after the end.” Sure it can say something interesting and make you want to read the whole book, but it hardly ever contains the answers of the entire story. The last page of a book isn’t a bullet point summary of everything that just happened, it’s an ambiguous paragraph or two that tells you just enough to make you curious.
Now that being said, have I completely spoiled a book for myself because I read the last page first? Yes definitely. Did I still read the book? Absolutely. And guess what? It’s now my favorite book. Knowing how it ended added a whole other layer to the drama and suspense already created, and I got to go into it knowing that not everything being told to me was what it might at first appear.
Overall, I don’t expect you to come away from this article having decided to read the last page of every book you’re about to start from now on. I do however hope to take away from the idea that reading the last page of a book first is somehow taboo. Yes, it adds to my curiosity and interest and can create new lenses in which the book can be read even with the potential spoilers. But those aren’t the main reasons why I do it. I read the last page of a book first because it’s fun.
Knowing what happens, knowing things that are supposed to be unknown to the reader until later on in the story is fun. It’s like having a secret that no one else knows, not even the characters in the book. Or sometimes it’s like you’re sharing that secret with the author, something only you know and everyone else will have to wait and see. It’s exhilarating, it’s enthralling, it’s entertaining, it’s fun. We all read because it’s something we enjoy, something we love. But we all enjoy books for different reasons and in different ways, sometimes even by reading the last page of a book first.