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How Do Spoilers Affect Your Reading?

A photograph of a graveyard with 'Spoiler: Everyone dies' typed on it

When it comes to spoilers I am almost always in the ‘don’t like them’ camp. I find a lot of pleasure in reading a book I know little about and find that, for example, a thriller or mystery will seem more fast-paced if I know nothing about the plot or reveals. Then there are occasions when a spoiler will make me want to experience the story for myself. This does happen more often in regards to film – I don’t know why, perhaps because films don’t take such a big chunk of your time? – but it happens enough in my reading that I would find it awkward to say ‘I hate spoilers, the end’.

There are a few specific cases where I really don’t want to know anything at all about a book. Somewhat ironically, given their general fame, these are the classics and in particular books from the 1700s and onwards. Where great classic epics are concerned I like the idea of making my own conclusions without the prior influence of the media, for example.

I liked and very much appreciated that I knew nothing about Pride And Prejudice other than that there was a character called Mr Darcy whom it seemed everyone had an opinion on. (Somehow I got through my pre-Austen years believing he was a bad man.) Similarly I was completely ignorant about Jane Eyre. And I think it’s telling that these are my favourite books. Of course I’ll never know how spoilers may have affected my reading of those novels, but given they were such a good fit for me I think I can say that I may not have enjoyed them so much if there had been less to discover.

I know that I feel a little disappointed that I know what will happen in Anna Karenina, and a little wary nowadays of reading opinion pieces that start on a different topic and then move on to specific books. However I know that I picked up the book a few weeks after it was spoiled precisely because it had been spoiled – it was a case of ‘I might as well just read it now’, knowing I’d never forget that spoiler and that I might end up never reading it if I didn’t make the effort straight away.

And in the case of the Anna Karenina spoiler, it’s interesting – the spoiler made me think the book would be far better and more thrilling than I’m finding it to be. The spoiler raised my expectations.

It really depends on what’s spoiled and how. If the ending is spoiled, you might not feel the need to read the book. If the theme is revealed you might jump at the chance to study it.

When we watch the film before the book, which inevitably happens even when you try to avoid it because it’s not always obvious, the book is spoiled. The film spoils the book far more than your average remark or quotation, and yet it feels different. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that you tend to actively choose this sort of spoiler, but there is surely much to be said for knowing that the book is always going to have more content, that the film will lack the author’s writing style, and that there is still a lot to discover. Somehow a film is less of a spoiler whilst being far more of a spoiler. And it’s perhaps most likely to make the book appealing.

I’m not keen on spoilers but I can’t say they have ‘destroyed’ any books for me. And as much as I’d like to not be able to say this, sometimes they improve my reading. (Though you can keep those Brontë, Dickens, and du Maurier secrets to yourself.)

How do spoilers affect your reading? (Please refrain from including spoilers themselves!)


Delia (Postcards from Asia)

March 31, 2014, 3:30 am

I don’t like spoilers either but like it was with Anna Karenina, sometimes I can get over that “oh no, now it’s ruined the book for me” and transition to the “but how did it happen”. If I really want to read the book I’ll do it, spoilers or not. But I’d rather not have them.


March 31, 2014, 8:56 am

I’ve found spoilers – when it comes to classics – can actually spur me on. Often, the spoiler doesn’t even come close to ruining the plot twist I’ve discovered and it encourages me to keep going till I’ve reached it.

With more modern books I prefer not to know anything other than the synopsis as spoilers can lead me to pre-judge what a book will be like. It’s why I didn’t read Slaughterhouse-Five for years.


March 31, 2014, 1:20 pm

I range from not minding to actually liking “spoilers.” Sometimes knowing what happens makes me want to read the book (or see the movie) more. I like to see the way things unfold, not have what happens be a mystery.
There are a few books with secrets that I would never tell, though. Two of the recent ones are Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Christine @Buckling Bookshelves

March 31, 2014, 4:40 pm

I don’t care for spoilers in general, but I don’t think they have ruined any books for me, thankfully. When it comes to movies, they so often change things, that sometimes I’m still surprised by the book even when I think I know everything ahead of time (though I do usually read before watching…) I try to avoid spoilers in writing reviews, but it can be hard to talk about a book without revealing anything “important” — and it’s especially hard to at least not reveal certain themes, etc. — otherwise you’re just stating if you liked it or not, which isn’t usually that helpful of a review! But any time there is a big twist or reveal, I hope everyone is careful about keeping that under wraps — the effectiveness of twists and reveals is that you don’t see them coming!

Jen K

March 31, 2014, 5:02 pm

I am weird about spoilers because I often spoil myself – it is rare that I will finish a book without having at least peaked to the back pages at some point or another. In general, I enjoy seeing how things developed but there are some books where the shock was just amazing, and I’m glad I didn’t know before what was coming (such as Game of Thrones series). Anna Karenina is one of those weird books for me, because I like it, but I also find Levin kind of boring, and there comes a point where it almost seems like Anna’s descent as gone on too long, and becomes painful to watch. I’d definitely recommend checking out the Keira Knightley film when you are done – it’s very creatively done, and knowing where the story goes, it is kind of neat seeing how certain details are focused on that play a role later.

Literary Feline

March 31, 2014, 7:20 pm

I don’t often like to go into a book blind, and so I need to know at least what the book is about. Often times, it’s knowing that much which will interest me in reading a book at all.

I do not like spoilers that give major plot points away–or the ending. I can’t say knowing them ruins a book for me outright, but it can impact my enjoyment, depending. I do try to avoid them when I can.

When it comes to movies, I don’t mind spoilers at all. I don’t know why the difference between books and movies–it just is.

Jenny @ Reading the End

April 1, 2014, 1:39 am

I like to know all of the things. Knowing the shape of the story lets me enjoy it more. I don’t mind about the details, but I like to have the outline in my mind as I’m reading. It lets me relax about the ultimate outcome, and then I can focus more on how the book is put together. It’s more fun for me that way.


April 2, 2014, 2:36 pm

Like you I have mixed reactions to spoilers. If someone let slip a spoiler for a TV show I was watching I would be pretty devastated. I only watch shows I really love so knowing what’s going to happen for me means why waste time watching! As for books I’m not always pleased to hear spoilers but they don’t seem to ruin my reading like they do my telly watching. I am still very likely to pick up a book I have heard a spoiler for because as you said their is the writing and detail to enjoy still.


April 3, 2014, 3:35 am

I love spoilers! That is, I almost always read ahead in a novel (though with more audiobooks and e-books in my reading now, this habit is waning a bit) to see how it ends. And knowing the ending of a tv show or movie doesn’t ever bother me, either. I can kind of see why other people care, but if think the way people on the west coast get angry on twitter about spoilers of TV shows is a little ridiculous. Maybe I just do not understand :)

Tanya Patrice

April 4, 2014, 8:21 am

I don’t like spoilers and I avoid them like the plague! But sometimes I’ll spoil a book for myself – when it’s so suspenseful and I need a sneek peak of wht lays ahead.

Fiona McGier

April 7, 2014, 10:09 pm

Actually I’m in the self-spoiler category. I sub in high schools and one boy told me to read the books in a series he was finishing. I started on the first book and because I’m a fast reader, I could finish a book in a couple of hours. I’ve been racing through all 12 of them, but wasn’t sure how many there were, so when I saw the library had a book 12, I read the last page to see if that was the end of the series…and it is. But knowing how it will end doesn’t ruin anything for me. I enjoy the writing and the stories, as well as the characters, too much to stop now.

If I have a choice, I prefer to read the book before I see a movie adaption of it. The book is the author’s vision, and I usually prefer that to the director’s vision.



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