Synopses of books = spoilers for me. I don’t even read summaries on hardcover jackets or the backs of soft cover books. I feel like too many plot points are given away if I read synopses/summaries. I do adore reading reviews – they are generally spoiler-free and I really enjoy seeing others’ opinions of both books I want to read and those I have already read.
I like to dive into a book headfirst – without knowing much about it, except maybe a basic overview. I crave the element of surprise when I read. I also tend to pick up books solely based on their covers – that’s how I discovered my favorite book of all time, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina! I picked up the Oprah’s Book Club edition on a whim at Books-a-Million seemingly a hundred years ago and instantly fell in love with everything about it – the plot, the writing, the characters, even the length.
Additionally, I find that I am often disappointed in books featuring brilliant synopses – if something doesn’t live up to my sometimes lofty expectations, I’m crushed. For instance, books claiming to be disturbing are typically not disturbing enough for my taste.
If I read a certain something in a summary, I want to really be hit with that something as I read. This may sound odd to some, but I like horror, gore, trauma, and tragedy. Therefore, if a book claims to contain any of the aforementioned traits, I expect to be creeped out, grossed out, and/or incredibly disturbed during and after my reading.
I find myself to consistently be disappointed with the content of memoirs that are supposedly really true to life and tell of tragic tales. Some examples of books that didn’t seem to delve into the facts enough, in my opinion, include A Child Called it by Dave Pelzer, Night by Elie Wiesel, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burrows, and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry.
When reading a supposedly dark and tragic memoir, I want to actually FEEL the pain experienced by the author telling his or her personal story of survival. The above mentioned books all received one star ratings from me on Goodreads because I DIDN’T feel the horrors experienced by the authors. Sometimes I wonder if publishers tone down particular books – if this is the case, I wish the practice would stop.
The same goes for works of fiction – if a book claims to be of the horror genre, I want to be scared to death – scared enough to sleep with my lights on, scared enough to seriously have nightmares. Some ‘horror’ tales in which I was incredibly disappointed include Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts.
Veering a tad off subject, it also kills me when books start out SO well and then take turns for the stupid. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold quickly pops into my head as I think of silly endings. I also got sick of reading Red Winter by Annette Marie and absolutely hated Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and The Secret History.
I was super disappointed in both of Tartt’s tales I mentioned, as the author has a gorgeous, flowy writing style – the plots just didn’t enthrall me or seem to go anywhere. The Secret History and The Goldfinch each feature incredibly intriguing synopses – I was just sorely disappointed.
In the case of The Lovely Bones and The Girl with All the Gifts, I was devastated with how the plots went from amazingly absorbing to goofy and predictable. I could probably dedicate an entire post to my horrible disappointment with the ending of Sebold’s novel. I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read it, but The Lovely Bones practically jumps off a cliff into crazy land near the end, rather than coming to a realistic conclusion.
Anyhow, enough ranting about goofy books and back to the subject at hand – my decision to stop reading synopses. As I stated earlier, I want to be surprised by a book – completely. Plus, it seems like those who write summaries for book jackets and backs feel the ridiculous need to cover every single plot point in the books, making me feel like I’ve read entire stories before cracking the books open.
On the other hand, some books with seemingly silly synopses end up being among my favorites, like the majority of cozy mysteries, especially the books belonging to Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who…series. Cozy summaries often make books sound silly, when in reality, they are amazing, fast reads.
I figure by avoiding synopses/summaries, I can keep my expectations at rock bottom and in turn be surprised when a book turns out to be amazing. I mentioned this earlier, but it really grates on my nerves when synopses seem to basically belong on a Cliff’s Notes cheat sheet.
How do you feel about reading synopses/summaries prior to reading books? Oftentimes, I’ll finish a book and THEN read the synopsis, just to see how much of the plot is given away in said synopsis. I’m happy just knowing the genre in which the book I’m aiming to read belongs. I just cannot stand it when I go into reading a book with basically a bullet list of each plot point included on the back of a book or inside the jacket.