At Unbook Club, they wrap things up with a “lightning round,” question; a question about books and/ or reading meant to be answered in 10 seconds or less. This month, the lightning round question was, “Are you a book-skipper (do you ever skip to the end of the book)?”
As the question went around the table and people reacted to the answers, I was honestly pretty baffled at the level of (friendly/ faux) outrage expressed toward anyone who copped to being a book skipper. The outrage was heated enough that it extended even to the action of picking up a book in the bookstore/ library, reading a few lines on the first page and then flipping to the middle and back sections to repeat the action.
Now, to me that’s perfectly logical– sampling the author’s voice, and making sure it stays consistent. But, uh … yeah. The mood of the room was less, “oh, totally normal behavior,” and more, “flailing in shock at the very idea.”
It was weird. I was a little weirded out.
The book-skipping, thing, too– there were about 20 people there that night, and maybe 3 copped to being book skippers. There might have been more, but the playfully loud outrage and booing down of self-admitted book skippers may have silenced a few, I dunno. Funnily enough, they assumed I was not a book-skipper, but by the time they got around to me I was starting to suspect the issue was definitional, because I always have considered myself a book skipper. I thought everyone was.
So I went home and messaged all my friends:
Hey, when I ask, “Do you ever skip to the end of the book?” How do you define the action, “skip to the end,” when reading? Do you think:
A: Hold spot on page, flip to final page and read, return to spot and finish book as normal
B: Literally skip large chunks of text/ entire chapters in order to read the finale
One by one, they responded, sorting themselves into Group A or Group B, and explaining their reasoning. This is what I figured out:
Group A (of which I’m a part) cited narrative tension or concern for a character– usually while reading a less-favored genre (for me, mysteries) in skipping/ peeking– they also copped to turning to Google/ Wikipedia/ tv tropes when watching certain types of films or TV shows. Mainly, it’s a release valve for tension– we still enjoy the story, but sometimes we want (controlled) spoilers. Group A readers were unconcerned about the idea of skipping ahead in books, and didn’t see why it would be a problem (since you’re returning to the original spot and finishing the whole thing). Group A readers also stated that when they are bored with/ over/ done with a book they haven’t finished, they either finish it as normal anyway (because they can’t stop reading a book once they’ve started), or they simply quit the book and forget about it, because at that point they don’t care about the ending.
The majority of my friends fell into Group A, by the way. Like two of them selected the Group B definition. But! Most of Unbook Club was Group B, so I did get a pretty good selection for their reasoning/ thought process as well.
Group B, apparently, overall frowns on book skipping as a behavior (which kind of makes sense when you consider how they’re defining it), but about 1/3 of the Group B readers did admit they have occasionally book-skipped, but “only when a book is really boring and they’re totally over it.”
This kind of blows my mind, because why not just put it down?
So that was my discovery! There are two types of book-skippers (possibly more) and (at least in my circle of acquaintances) none of us had any clue the others existed.
So all this time, whenever I’ve said, “So I skipped to the back of the book,” there’s a certain subset of readers who knew what I meant, and a certain subset who were outraged at my callous disregard for literature. Interesting, huh?
On the loss front, I have to say a fond farewell to John’s Mountain Home Bakery.
This little family owned bakery next to the US Post Office was a staple of my childhood– I grew up riding my bike down the street to buy cream filled 50-cent Bismarck and 25-cent icebox cookies at the bakery, and my best friend and I would sit out on the giant, oversized rock out front to eat our treats and laze in the summer sun.
I rediscovered the bakery when we moved back to town 6 years ago– the rock was gone, but the icebox cookies and Bismarcks remained– plus, with the expanded palate of adulthood, I could now appreciate their bear claws, apple crullers, and cheese danishes. Mmmm-mmmm.
I’d take my son and his friends there as a treat on the way to or from the lake, or stop in as I dropped off a package at the post office, or went through that side of town. It was great to have a little unchanged slice of childhood, waiting in the familiar square of an icebox cookie, behind the familiar windowpanes of the store I grew up visiting.
But now it’s gone. Last time I swung by the Post Office, the counters behind the big picture windows were empty; the lights all off. The sign over the door with the cut-out of a mountain was absent, and a “For Sale” sign sat in one window corner.
Farewell, John’s Mountain Home Bakery. I loved your icebox cookies.