Books: Journies or Destinations?

I never really thought about reading books in this way before, but today I am, so permit me to blather on about it.

I read a review today by a reader who said he (“he” meaning “he or she” throughout) only read the first part of a book and then stopped, because he could already predict what was going to happen to the characters and the plot and didn't like it.

Putting aside the issue of whether his predictions were correct (I'd bet they weren't for the most part – I mean, come on, who can predict all the twists and turns of a three hundred page book?), I think there's an underlying problem with the view of what the whole purpose for reading a book is, that this review calls to mind.

Why do you read a book?

I read the Hunger Games series last year.  I loved it, devouring the series in three days.  Did I like the ending?  No.  But does that make the whole series stink?  No!  Of course not.  Because for me, the reading is not about the destination- the ending; it's about the journey.

I love as the mysteries unfold, the action sequences play themselves out, and I get to know and love (or hate) the characters based on their choices, conversations, foibles, diction and tone, and on and on.  Every paragraph brings a new step in the journey for me.  Some books are so much fun to “travel” that I don't even care about the ending.  I can always fill in the one in my mind that I like better if I'm not happy.

I almost feel sorry for this person, who views books with such a jaded eye.  But I'm glad I read the review because it made me think of how I approach new books and new authors' works.  I think now, I'll be able to do it with new-found appreciation for the joy that I find in it.  Books take me on voyages to other places that I'd never be able to go to in real life (particularly since I'm a fan of fantasy!).  I'm so glad I can appreciate them for that, even more now than before.


20 comments on “Books: Journies or Destinations?

  1. I read that review. It was dumb. I can predict most movies that my wife and watch, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying them.

    You nailed it – it’s the journey.

    Plus people that review books they haven’t even read need to be slapped.

    • I’m pretty sure slapping readers is a no-no. But I hear ya. It’s frustrating. I just want to say, “Please at least read it before you decide to hate it!” But honestly, I’ve read tons of these when I’ve shopped for books to read – every writer eventually gets them. In a way, it makes me proud to see that I’ve joined the ranks of people like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and even Stephen King. Everyone eventually gets a review that doesn’t seem to make sense to them, and that’s okay. I’m just going to keep on writing. 🙂 OH, and that’s one reason why I loved the movie, The Sixth Sense. I totally didn’t see that one coming, when I usually do know the ending way before I’m supposed to.

  2. I read books for the journey too. I like to go “visit” fantastical places and visit with interesting characters. Sometimes I’m not happy with the ending (Mockingjay), but I get over it. Even with predictable endings (i.e. pretty much any romance type novel), the fun is in how the characters get there.

  3. Books are definitely a journey and not a destination. I have been reading since I was a little bitty girl. I devour books like they are going out of style, any kind of book whether it is paranormal (my fav), romance, thriller, crime, etc. Always have and always will. Books are a gateway out of reality. A little bit of paradise when you cannot get away any other way. Slipping into someone else’s life for a while and experiencing their journey is a thrill. Of course things happen in books that you do not like and some endings suck, but hey that is what we have imaginations for! I always did like those choose your own adventure books when I was a kid lol. I would never not read a book just because I think it will be “predictable”. There are always new twists and turns in every book.

    • Oh, my god! I totally forgot about those “choose your own” books. At the end of each part you chose like A, B, or C or whatever and then the story would take another path. Those were fun. I wonder if they still make them. My littlest would probably love them.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. I can tell you read a lot by the way you write! 🙂

  4. They still make them. You can even get them on the kindle. I always wanted to write. I have had poems and articles published, hopefully one day I will sit down and write a book. Mostly I decided to take the other path and edit. I will finish college next year and try to start my career. Hopefully Indie writers will be a good way to start lol =)

  5. Go ahead, Jason, slap me. I am guilty of writing a review for a book that I absolutely could not get past the 4th chapter. Forcing myself to finish 200 more pages of aweful, just so I could write a review, seemed the height of ridiculous. Should I only review the books that I’m going to give 4-5 stars to? That does not seem honest.

    • I think it’s different than someone who just doesn’t bother because they think they’ve already guessed what will happen. You’re talking about poor writing. Different animal, in my opinion. xoxo Elle

    • Of course reviews should be fair. If a book is worth 1 star to you, then so be it. To give a book 1 star based on a guessed ending is worth a slap. Elle says I shouldn’t slap readers, but it’s just so hard not to…

  6. Totally agree. I like seeing HOW we get to the ending, even if I predicted it. As long as EVERYTHING is not totally cliche, I’m okay too with recycled plots. We recycle them because we like them, folks.

    • So true. And speaking of recycled plots, it makes me think of comments I see sometimes where someone says a character or scene was too cliché. And I think, “Well, there’s a reason they’re cliché … they’re like real life.” High school will always have mean girls, jocks, nerds, shy kids, kids who don’t fit in, troublemakers, etc. If your story is going to sound real, it has to have clichés in it! xoxo Elle

  7. uuh so Im pretty sure I would not have spent countless ( and I mean mother effing COUNTLESS) days reading from morning til the next morning regardless of what was happening that next said day, if I thought that it was the destination.

    If you have read as many books as I have (and I am sure you might have), you might think you know what comes next or later and yes sometimes you are right but I know for a fact sometimes we are NOT. In neither case do I think that knowing/reading that ending means that it would be better without the middle. An author puts their time, effort, heart, and soul into their work and the least I can do is show them the respect I feel for that by finishing the book even IF I decide partway in that I don’t like it. I have never not finished a book I began and I am not starting now.

  8. I am way late here but I blame that on my very time consuming reading habit (War of The Fae being one of the drugs) but I feel compelled to reply. I think reading is both a journey and a destination. I love following the characters and all the emotions and actions they experience on the way but I also keep reading because I crave knowing what the destination is; I need to know how everything works out. I can’t possibly help but feel let down when a book has a bad ending. When I invest my time and emotions into a book, or often a series, it’s hard not to feel taken in a way when the ending is disappointing. I remember when I finished reading the Mockingjay thinking that’s it? That’s how all of this unravels? And that wasn’t even that terrible of an ending, just seemed the author wanted it to be done. I just finished reading another series this morning that almost made me mad the way it ended and, right or wrong, it made me rate the entire series lower. I guess that is different than not reading the whole book before forming an opinion but I feel the destination is a driving factor for a lot of readers.

    • I felt the same way about Mockingjay, but I knew it was just one of many possible endings. I could invent one I liked better in my head. Or I could carry the story further in my head and fix the things the author had done with time and future events. But I would never just want to skip to the end and think that the middle part didn’t matter. Boy, then Mockingjay would have really stunk. 🙂 xoxo Elle

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