Why I Spoil Books

I’ve noticed on blogs, Goodreads, and other book review sites that the reviewers often try to avoid spoiling the plot or giving away big chunks of the twists and turns.  They do this by simply not writing about it or by giving a warning that they are about to do so and that those uninterested in knowing the ending before they begin should stop reading.

Libri_books2

I appreciate this.  I don’t like to know what will happen in a book before I read it.  I don’t even like to read dust jackets because they often give away too much.  I like to go into a book completely blind and be surprised by what it will bring.  My husband, however, likes to know what will happen.  We read all of the Harry Potter books as they came out, and whenever we came home to that Amazon package on our doorstep, we would dive and literally wrestle each other for it.  We both wanted to read it first.  He also wanted to look ahead to the ending and see who died or what happened.  He wanted the reassurance of what was coming so that he could handle the anxiety of reading about getting there.  I like the anticipation and anxiety.  I always warned him not to reveal too much to me about what he’d learned by “cheating” and looking at the ending first.

Yet here on my blog, I spoil nearly every book I write about.  I try to detail the plot, the major themes, and my connections to those ideas.  I often include as many detail as I can remember, and I back it up with quotes that I mark while reading.

Why do I do this?

Well, it is for a selfish reason.  It is because my blog is for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love having a community of followers.  I like interacting with you.  I appreciate your comments and ideas.  I enjoy the conversations we have.  I do have you in mind when I write.  I enjoy watching my statistics rise and knowing that somebody is reading what I’m writing.  I do write to the collective “you” as an audience, but ultimately, my audience is me.

What I mean by this is that I want to keep track of what I read in detail, and my blog has become one of the best ways to do so.  Before I had this outlet, I read books, returned them to the library, and then promptly forgot what they were about and my reaction to them.  So when I would then have conversations with people about books and we’d find that we had read a book in common, I could never answer the questions, “What did you like about that book?” or “What did you think of it?”  I especially couldn’t discuss details.  I had forgotten them.

To this, my husband would often say, “What is the point of all of your reading if you just forget it?”

He has a point, and although I would defend my love of books by claiming that they are an escape, the truth is that my lack of knowledge about the details of books bothered me.  Part of me reads to learn and improve, and how exactly is that working if it ends like a night spent drinking and carousing in Las Vegas (something I’ve actually never done, but I hear that it is hard to remember).

So I write my blog to summarize my books and react to them.  I like being able to refer back to it and to draw from those entries in my scholarship and in my everyday life.  My blog is essentially a critical bibliography, a document I create frequently for my graduate work and that is essential for my schooling.  It will also be essential for my upcoming comprehensive exams.

I write to remember.

Why do you blog?  Who do you blog for?

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82 thoughts on “Why I Spoil Books

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  1. I write the majority of what goes on, but not all, mainly to jog my memory enough about the book for me to remember it, without actually re-writing the book itself.

    I generally omit the major plot device/spolier etc, if writing about it will spoil either my or someone else’s reading of the whole book.

    Would the first watch of “The Sixth Sense” be as enjoyable if you knew the spoiler at the end? Would you still watch it or go “why bother?”

    1. I think it would spoil it. My sister saw that movie with my dad and his partner, and the partner figured it out right at the beginning and told her, “I think Bruce Willis is dead.” He was right and I think it spoiled a little of the experience for her. I know it would’ve for me. Like I said, I like to be surprised. 🙂

      1. meanwhile I’ve read some of my shorter reviews and quite frankly, they’re no good to man nor beast.

        I think there must be a happy balance somewhere and I keep striving to be better at it!

  2. I have the same memory problem you do. Before I started my reviews on Goodreads I had a book list. Now when I look at some of those books I remember nothing about them. So writing about them helps a lot. I try to focus on themes connected to plot, rather than just a retelling, which I think you do most of the time too. I usually don’t mind things being spoiled. Already knowing what is going to happen helps me focus on non-plot things in books, like theme, atmosphere, dialogue, etc. I do think it is polite when people warn that there are spoilers, because I find most people do not like peeking ahead. But I don’t want that to be why people don’t read my review either. A fine line! You reminded me of something important, blogs are for those who write them and it is not selfish to write the way you want to.

    1. Yes, absolutely! They are for the person writing them, especially since readers come and go. I do think it is polite to warn of spoilers too. And yes, themes are really the focus. If I can document those and my reaction to them, I’m happy.

  3. I’m the same way, don’t tell me anything, I want to be completely surprised by the books I read. If someone tells me too much about a book or movie, I usually won’t read it or watch it. It takes all the fun away! So, for my blog, I’m writing to get people’s interest in the books, so I don’t giveaway much and try very hard not to put any spoilers in my reviews.

    But, like you said, this is YOUR blog and you have a different purpose and I think writing a detailed review of the books you read are great for you.

    I read so many books that I have a hard time remembering any facts about the books, I can usually just say “I LOVED that book” or “I really enjoyed that book” or “I really didn’t like it at all” and a lot of times I say “I know I read it, but I can’t for the life of me remember anything about it!”. So having detailed reviews like you do would come in helpful.

    Anyway, I just do basic reviews to spark interest in the books so that people will go out and buy the book (so I guess I’m blogging for the authors, although, working in a Media Center, I blog for our patrons too…I don’t want to spoil the book for them) that’s the purpose of my blog. You have a different purpose. And it’s ok!
    Debbie

    1. Debbie, well said. It sounds like we both have an awareness of audience, but for different purposes. I like what you said about not being able to remember some books for the life of you. I have those moments too. Sometimes I at least recognize the title, but other time, I’m like, “Really? I read that? I have no memory at all!”

      1. Glad to know it happens to other people! I have even bought a book and started reading it and then it starts sounding a little bit familiar…I keep reading…a little more familiar…but thankfully I can’t fully remember it, so I’ll keep on reading it.

        I do that with movies too! I guess I’m getting old!!

        Have a great day!
        Debbie

  4. Reviewers/bloggers like you (that sounds like a negative start but it’s not LOL) are why I bookmark reviews for books I know I’m going to read so that I can go easily back and see what you had to say after I read the book. I like to not know what’s going to happen, and I figure it’s my responsibility to make sure I don’t find out.

    1. LOL! I was ready to brace myself for some vitriolic criticism, and then it all turned out okay. I agree. We each have responsibility as readers to avoid it if we want to as well. Thanks for reading! I’d like to see how your thoughts compare in the future. I notice too that if I read a review like mine, then get the book months later to try, I forget the details of what they said anyway.

  5. That’s the same reason why I started my blog. To remember what I read. But I struggle with myself every time I write about a book: Should I tell you this? Is this important now? Do I say to much and after reading the book the reader is frustrated. Should I go really so in detail. Most of the time, I decide, that a too detailed renarration would not be the thing I want to read, so I didn’t write it that way. But sometimes there have to be more detail. I always searching for a better way to write my reviews. It’s a progress, and I think it will go for a long time.

    1. Yeah, and I think we evolve as bloggers. I say write what feels right to you and be authentic. That is where you’ll find a good balance with your own desires and an awareness of your audience. And I think if you find your style, then you’ll also find the appropriate audience for it. They will come!

  6. I love reading your book reviews, even if they do contain all major plot points to books I haven’t read. If I’m truly interested in reading the book, I won’t read a review to begin with (I’m like you in that sense). It was unfortunate for me because I hopped onto the Harry Potter train a little late…like, WAY late. By the time I started reading them the 6th movie had just come out! Needless to say, I became a HUGE fan of the movies and decided that I needed to read the books. Unfortunately for me, being a huge fan made people assume I had read all the books already, and thus much of HP was ruined for me. *sigh*

    As for my blog, I write to entertain, and I also write to remember. I would love to think I’m entertaining the masses with my hilarious mishaps in life, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who is amused. And that’s OK. They’re my memories and my thoughts, and as long as they are somewhere for me to go back to time and time again, I feel complete.

    1. I love funny blogs, so I need to check out yours. I like what you say about being complete. It is true that the only way to really do that is to please yourself when it comes to stuff like this. And I feel for you on Harry Potter. I hope you at least had a good experience reading the books. My husband is now rereading them with our 9-year-old daughter, and he is enjoying that nearly as much as the first time around.

  7. I keep a book diary where I jot down titles, authors’ names and dates so I know what I read and when I read it. But like you, I forget a lot of the details of books. Even if I really enjoyed a book when I read it, a few months later I often find it hard to remember the finer details of it and certainly wouldn’t be able to have much of a conversation about it.

    My blog is not solely focused on books although I do write about my thoughts on literature and the books I have read recently. One blogger I follow does a monthly round-up post of the books she has read that month. I like that idea and I guess it is pretty similar to keeping a book diary, but in an online form.

    Who do I blog for? Mostly for me, I suppose, but one of the things I value most about being a blogger is taking an active part in the WordPress community, discovering different blogs to read and making new blogger acquaintances.

    1. I like that roundup idea too. And I completely agree with your last paragraph. Even if I blog for myself, the WP community is great and that has certainly become a big part of why I still blog.

  8. “I write to remember.” This should close your argument with your husband. Reading gives us entertainment, but not always. What it does, regardless of whether it is fiction or non-fiction, is give us context and perspective. And, it makes us think. “To Kill a Mockingbird” probably created more future lawyers than any other book. Even, if it did not, it enabled the Civil Rights movement to show how wrong racism is and Jim Crow was. And, honoring Tom Clancy, who wrote more fact based fiction than anyone, he single handedly showed that the CIA did have some good guys trying to make a difference. To quote Bob Dylan, you just “keep on keepin’ on.”

    1. So true. You always say such astute things, BTG. And thanks for referencing Bob Dylan. I keep hearing that phrase and I had no idea that it came from him. Of course it did!

      1. From one of my favorite Dylan songs “Tangled Up in Blue.”

        “And when finally the bottom fell out
        I became withdrawn
        The only thing I knew how to do
        Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew
        Tangled up in blue”

        Now, I am humming the tune as I write. Excellent.

          1. Emily, I saw an article today that ties into your post. Pam Belluck of the New York Times wrote a story called “I know what you’re feeling; I read Chekhov.” Have a great weekend, BTG

  9. What an interesting conversation. First of all, I’m very relieved to know that it’s not just me who forgets what I’ve read. This tendency makes it no problem for me to read your spoilers, because by the time I’ve gotten to the books that you’ve recommended, I would have forgotten what you’d said anyway 😉 (Seriously, though, your posts are very memorable to me and I have actually gone back to your blog to re-read some posts, like after I finished The World’s Strongest Librarian, which I read a few months after you posted about it.)

    About reading and forgetting being akin to getting drunk, I think that even if we forget a week or a month or a year later, while we were reading, those words and nuggets of wisdom were sinking into us, impacting us in invisible ways…;-)

    I blog for myself too. I find it cathartic. And then I was thrilled when I started to get readers and comments that something I had poured out had resonated with them. Then blogging became a really wonderful experience. As you know in recent months I started blogging about books as well, and maybe the book blogging is a bit more about community as I wanted to meet other like-minded folks and get into an exchange about book recommendations (though ultimately I guess it is all about me as well!).

    1. I love your idea about the impact of books in invisible ways. That is definitely true, even if we aren’t conscious of it or mindful of every detail. I think years later I will have a memory of a book or a feeling that it gave me, and those moments are precious and add up to a lifetime of who I’ve become and how I’ve learned to think and make sense of the world. Thanks for helping me to see that even those forgotten books have made a difference.

      And I love that you’ve taken a bookish turn on your blog. It has been fun!

  10. The process of writing definitely helps me remember what I read in greater detail than if I didn’t do a review. The real reason I blog, though, is because I don’t feel comfortable giving a book a certain number of stars (although I still do it on GoodReads, since otherwise it looks like I’m giving the book a big zero.) I wanted to be able to give more nuanced assessments, which is why I do a “read it if” and “skip it if” section at the end of each review. It’s what I would tell a friend, read it if you’re interested in this, skip it if you’re actually expecting that. But, as you said, ultimately I’m writing for myself.

    1. I’m glad you brought up the rating system. I’ve seen bloggers write about refusing to rate books. I personally do it, but it is fraught and I feel guilty and exposed. I’m worried that my friends will judge me or that I will feel differently about it with some distance. So yes, nuance is definitely a benefit to writing a full review.

  11. I blog for a lot of the same reasons! I was frustrated that I would love a book and then people would ask me what it’s about and after a very brief outline, all I could say was, “Yeah, so umm… it’s great.” Writing has always been my way of processing, even processing what I’m reading.

    I spoil books all the time because it’s more about the journey for me, and because I feel if you’re properly going to “review” a book, the ending’s kind of a big part.

    1. Yes! Exactly. The ending is the big part. That is what I want to remember, because it is honestly the part I forget most. It seems like a rushed experience when you get to it because then the book is over and you never open it again. And yes, I’m totally with you on processing. I don’t think I fully understand something until I write about it.

  12. Hey Emily. I blog both for myself and for others. For that reason, I will often pull out quotes from a book and elaborate on them, exploring the symbolism and nuance. This way, it reinforces in my fading memory things that struck me about the book without spoiling it for others.

    Anyway, do love your blog. Keep up the reading and the posts. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Jeff. It sounds like you are a lot like me in teasing out themes from the quotes. I think quotes become important to me because I for sure won’t remember them, and that specific wording in most instances is what makes the idea insightful in the first place. Thanks for weighing in. 🙂

  13. I write much like you, Emily, but I will sometimes avoid spoiling the ending. I can’t come up with a solid rule of when to give it away and when to keep it hidden, but there are some books that I feel deserve the secret.

    If I’m interested in reading a book, I’ll skip reading reviews of it beyond the summary on the back cover/Goodreads but if I’ve never heard of a book and am not sure about reading it, I’ll read the whole thing and see if I’m still intrigued after the ending is spoiled.

    I started my blog very recently and I’m still trying to figure out who I’m writing for. After every book review, I take note of what I learned about being a better writer because I think reading is the best way to learn about writing.

    1. It is definitely the best way to learn how to write: by doing it! I think it’s great that you are reflexive about it and that you take the time to evaluate yourself. Keep on blogging. It has so many rewards!

  14. When I was a kid, I read a lot of Stephen King. When it got really scary I almost always read the last page or two, just to give myself a light at the end of the pitch black tunnel full of monsters. Haven’t done that in a long time, though.

    I forget books that I’ve read, too! I should try blogging about them as well!

  15. I love reading your posts and you have exposed me to books I probably would not have read, so thank you:) I blog for me and in the last few years for my readers too. I blog to journal my story and journey through my life, especially traveling, exploring, adventuring, and living. Happy Thursday!

    1. So maybe telling all about a book is a good thing because my readers get the exposure to it without necessarily having to pick it up if they don’t want to. I like that. Happy day to you too. 🙂

  16. I absolutely blog for myself first. Partly because hardly anyone is reading them. But I write what i want to write and hope that it connects with others. Writing is selfish, but we are trying to share when we blog.

  17. I do have trouble remembering the details of books that I’ve read over time so maybe I should ‘spoil’ books more on my blog. But I think I write posts more to share my excitement and love of reading. I try and get other people excited about the same books or authors and I can’t do that if I give the whole thing away!

  18. Brilliant! I like the fact that you are unashamedly stating that the blog is for you and that readers should just take it or leave it at that. Your honesty is refreshing 🙂

  19. This is something I sometimes have trouble with when reviewing books or films on my blog. In future I may make a distinction between a ‘review’ and an ‘analysis’. For example, I just posted a review of the film Albert Nobbs. I did not particularly care for it, but it provides so many points for discussion on gender, sexuality, identity as well as the usual talking points of plot and character. I had to go through a few drafts before posting a spoiler-free version. It meant I had to omit some of my opinions and analysis. In future I think I’d just go spoiler-and-all if I have plenty to talk about.

    1. I like the distinction. I think I do a little of both, depending on the book and my mood. Do you think if we tagged them “book analyses” they would show up in the WP reader somewhere prominent? 😉 Just kidding.

      You know, I tried to watch that film and couldn’t make it through. Maybe I just need to read your post on it.

  20. I totally get that part about getting reassurance for handling the anxiety. I read the first six Harry Potter books with a little bit of knowledge about the major plot details and twists. So I wanted to read the seventh book in complete surprise and I must say the surprises and shocks was too hard to handle and I ended up having fever at the end of the book !

  21. I am so happy to hear that I am not the only avid reader who forgets what she reads! I have been known to get half way through a book before realizing I have already read it. Naturally, I need to skim to the ending, as I usually don’t remember it either! Invariably, this happens more with a book that I didn’t like the first time, so then I am annoyed with myself for wasting time reading it again. My sister just told me she was reading The Tiger’s Wife, and when I said I had never read it, she reminded me that I had and she was reading my copy! 🙂 BTW, I did enjoy that book, but still didn’t remember it from the title.

    1. That is so funny! I’ve had experiences like that too. My sister handed me a book once and I was like, “Thanks? Are you letting me borrow this?” She was like, “No, it is yours, and I borrowed it from you.” Oops.

  22. I started blogging because I wanted additional feedback on my writing. It really helps me out to know what other people think of my writing.

    As for the spoilers thing, I am totally the opposite. I love spoilers, and even go out of my way to read them. Not sure why.

  23. I am in total agreement with you. I blog for the same reasons, sans graduate work! Though I think of each and every day lived beyond completion of my bachelor’s degree as “graduate education”! Haha! 😄 As I read reviews, I just stop if there is too much detail or the reviewer is revealing stuff I don’t yet want to know if I have not yet read the book. But if I have read it I want to discuss each juicy tidbit!! Nice post–I so appreciate your honesty!! That is what I always like so much about your posts! YAY!!

    1. I live in Davis County too! I actually HATE the snow, unless I get a ski day, which isn’t often. I never feel warm enough during the winter. 🙂 But my kids were excited about it yesterday.

  24. Hi Emily! i’m new to your blog and I love it! you make book reviews fun/interesting! I myself have wanted to have a blog reviewing books but I didn’t know how to make it seem interesting to people. and like you, I wanted my blog for myself to remember what books I read (i used to work at a bookstore and read one to two books a week). I also read the books and then would forget about the actual ‘story’, I am starting a blog but I was going to leave out book posts. But now you have renewed my desire to do so and helping me see that my blog can satisfy readers AND myself. 🙂 Thanks! 😀

    1. I love knowing that this was helpful to you! I would just add my approval to your writing about books. Don’t leave them out! Just put yourself into your reviews. I think stories and personal connections are always a great way to remember your ideas aboutthe book and to get readers involved in your blog. Good luck!

  25. oh and I don’t like skipping to the end of the book to see what happens. But it doesn’t bother me if someone else does it (especially with movies). because usually by the time I get to read the book or see that movie, I’ve forgotten what I told about the end. 😉

  26. I have the exact same problem with not remembering books. My husband calls it “brain dumping.” The upside, it makes rereading a book much easier!

  27. I like the way your husband reads, that made me laugh. My mother used to read the same way, reading the ending first so that she could enjoy the actual reading process, the words, the form and not be consumed by the plot. It always made me laugh but I understood her: she wanted to skip the reading and get straight to the rereading!

    I love the title of your post – you are so correct, we write our blogs first and foremost for ourselves.

    1. It sounds like a lot of great people read “backwards,” in my opinion! But that’s okay. And yes, blogging is for the blogger, but it is so much fun to connect with people as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  28. I would not like to read books completely “blind” as many may turn out to be completely lacking in interest for me. I find sleeve notes useful but often take them with a pinch of salt as they may exaggerate in order to sell the book. Reviews are useful but are sometimes hyper-critical or try to be too intellectual. In the end I usually choose books by browsing in shops or sometimes on the net. It’s good to let serendipity take its course and is exciting when it works out. I also like to have recommendations from people who know what I’m interested in.
    I agree with you that a blog is a very personal thing and is mainly for the blogger himself/herself. I like to express my ideas and arguments in words. If other people like reading them, then that’s a bonus. I feel that my blogs are creating a sort of legacy for when I’m gone.
    I like your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Great comments. And thanks for reading! I agree that book jackets can exaggerate. I feel like they sometimes skip to the middle of the book and then the first few chapters are hard to read and experience since I already know what is “really” going on. I’m glad you stopped by!

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