Thursday, July 28, 2016

Going in Blind: Discussion Post

This terrific t-shirt can be found here.

It's common courtesy in the book world (and movie world, and TV world) to not spoil the ending of a book.  There are those who turn to the last page to get a sense of how everything is going to end up before they start a story, but most of us prefer some uncertainty as we begin.

I take this a step or two further.  Ideally, this is what I know about a book going into it:

  1. the title
  2. the author

Obviously, this makes it hard to pick out books, so I do let things like recommendations and genre and the premise affect my choices.  But most of the books I've really, really loved, part of the charm is that the book unfolds exactly as the author intended, because I'm not waiting for "that part where" or "the character who" or anything except what brilliance the author has in store for me.  So if I'm reading the inside cover and the first two sentences grab my attention, that's all I need.

Here's a few examples of how this has worked out for me recently:

A.  I'm working my way through Jasper Jones.  I'd seen it on some list or other, added it to my TBR, and grabbed a copy for my classroom at a library used book sale.  One of my seventh graders checked it out, then returned it because his mom objected to the language.  I slapped a PG-13 sticker on it and put it aside to read for myself this summer.

Things that I did not know when I started reading the book, all of which, it turns out, are on the book jacket:
  • The book is set in Australia, and the author is Australian.
  • The book is set in 1965.
  • It starts with the discovery of a murdered body.
This is pretty basic info to not have.  It took me a bit to work out the time period, but I loved being tossed into the story all willy-nilly, wondering about Charlie's town, horrified at Jasper's discovery, eager to find out what would happen next.

B. I've been wanting to read Furiously Happy for months.  That grinning, gleeful racoon on the cover just drew me in.  But I had NO IDEA that the racoon is not just some wacky illustration--Jenny Lawson OWNS it, and taxidermied animals play a surprisingly large role in the book as a whole.  

Also, to be painfully honest, I had The Blogess conflated with Dooce, so I was a little confused about the lack of Mormonism in her environment until I worked out my error.  

C.  All I knew about Pax was that it had a cool cover with a fox on it, and people seemed to love it.  Turns out that the book is set in some undefined time and place and that the POV alternates from the fox's to the boy who raised him.  Who knew?  Probably everyone except me.

I can't honestly say it would have affected my enjoyment of any of these stories if I'd known these basic background facts going in.  None are plot points per se.  But I love that sense of figuring things out, of trusting the author to give me what I need to know.  Yes, I can wind up with duds that way, but we all do, right?  The trade-off is when I enter a world and am completely bewildered, but the author leads me step by step to complete understanding.  I love the feeling of being in the hands of a master, of knowing that all of my confusion will be cleared up and this will all make sense.

So tell me, what do you think about this?  Am I just weird?  How much information do you like to have going into a book?  If someone says, "Gone Girl has a terrific twist?" are you pissed off because now you'll spend the book waiting for the twist, or are you simply intruiged?  (No problem guessing which camp I was in, huh.)  Or do you scour reviews carefully and gather as much information as you can before deciding whether or not to read a book?  Or, like me, do you only read reviews AFTER you've finished the book, to find out how the book struck others?  Do preconceptions color your attitude about a book?  DID YOU REFUSE TO WATCH THE CRYING GAME BECAUSE EVERYONE SAID THE GIRL WAS A GUY ALREADY SO WHAT WAS THE POINT EVEN OF WATCHING IT NOW?!?  Or is that just me?


  1. If I used the library, I would pick out books the same way you do. Since I get most of the books I read from the used bookstore, I like to have a little more information before I spend money. I want to know the synopsis and genre. I can usually tell if I’ll like a book from its synopsis. If one of my blogger friends reviews a book, I’ll read my friend’s review, but I don’t seek out reviews until after I’ve read the book and written my own review. Interesting discussion!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Totally with you on this; it is so much more satisfying! Surprises, jokes, twists, etc. only work ONCE. The same goes for movies; I avert my eyes/plugging my ears for trailers because they are such spoilers. Books or movies, don't tell me ANYTHING, thankyouverymuch, the recommendation is enough. (PS. Please forgive me if I ever blundered and spoiled anything for you in the past!)

    1. I was totally going to go on a tangent about how my sisters hate movie previews! No, the only spoiler I associate with you guys is realizing halfway through Psycho that Peg had told the entire plot over dinner years prior.

  3. I don't think it's weird, but I'm kind of the opposite. Now, I don't want actual *spoilers*, but I do not go into books blind. For one thing, I know what I like, and I'm also a mood reader, and so I do read blurbs and often scour reviews to finds books that I'm most likely to actually enjoy. But also, I just like having an idea of what I'm going into, what the book is about, a general sense of what's going to happen. I hate when blurbs are vague. Like I said, I don't wanna know that so-and-so dies or something, but I want a general idea and to know what the goal of the book is. Without that, I get kind of impatient and feel like I'm just meandering. Are we getting closer to the goal? Have we accomplished anything yet? But if know that the character is going to make a horrible decision that causes something bad to happen, I get more excited waiting to reach that point, anticipation building, and then I'm excited once we get there. I don't know how to explain it lol, but I don't like going in blind for the most part.

    1. I sometimes feel that way about movies--unlike my sister, above, I do enjoy previews. (But, like her, I hate it when they use all their good jokes up in the trailer and don't leave any for the actual movie!) Then again, I watch maybe a dozen movies a year, and read more books than that in a month, so a) chances are I won't actually see the film being previewed and b) it's more important that I'm sure going in it's going to be worth my time and money.

  4. THis is a very interesting point -- I've seen others discuss it and there are so many good points, but I find I still can't do without a book blurb. I need something to make me want to open the book -- not spoilers, but something -- and spend the next week of my life wanting to be doing nothing but reading it.

    1. I agree that the reality is, you do need to know something in order to want to start a book. Many times I do find out the premise and/or read the book blurb. But the perfect situation for me is when either the author's name or someone's recommendation is enough for me to dive in to a book.

  5. That takes some serious guts! For me, I have so little time to read (and so many books on the pile and library list already) that I can't afford NOT to focus on books whose premise sounds interesting to me. In fact, lately I've added the stricture that someone whose tastes I am similar to must have read and at least marginally enjoyed the book before I'll take a chance on it.

    As for spoilers, some jerkwad hotel clerk ruined the final Harry Potter book for me, casually chatting about it to her coworker, right in front of me, while I waited for her to check me in. About a week after the book came out.
    Now, I wouldn't mind if it was like me with GoT now, where I'm 4 or 5 seasons behind and I don't think it's reasonable to expect others to keep mum around me. But a week after publication?! I was so pissed I STILL haven't read the final book. :(

    (although, yes, I'm always looking for the twist or the trying to solve the mystery in every crime novel...I think that's part of the genre)

  6. There are some books that I LOVE going into blind and it works out perfectly, but more often than not I want to know something about the book before I read it. Otherwise I just might not be that interested in picking it up - I need that little extra push.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  7. Usually, if it's a book I have never heard of before, I will check out the synopsis and maybe one or two reviews just to get a general scope of the novel. If it's a book that I've been seeing EVERYWHERE on social media but haven't heard much about in terms of synopsis, I'll still check it out without reading the synopsis. I find that I enjoy books better when I don't expect anything or don't feel the hype. I like going in blind more often than not, but when it comes to ARCs and review copies, I like to check out the synopsis if it's something I'm interested in. Of course, if there's a pretty cover, I usually read the book anyway. Lovely discussion!

  8. I linked to this article, as a 2nd Opinion, in my recent post on Spoilers.


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