Why I Don’t Read the Back Cover

spoilersThe Ruination of Imagination

Spoilers. Oh, how I hate them.

Why? It’s implied in the very word: they spoil the surprise, that paintstakingly crafted twist at the end when when all the pieces fall into place and your brain explodes, or at least admires the cleverness. One hopes, anyway.

A Brief Personal History of Spoilers

In the mid-Nineties, I fell hard for the PC game MYST. It was the most immersive gameplay I had experienced up to that point. The object was to collected clues until the final climax, at which point you hopefully chose wisely to win the game. Well, I did not choose wisely. And once I knew the answer, I couldn’t play it anymore because knowing the solution ruined the point of the game. At least I made it to the end. If someone had told me on an early level … you know, the answer … then I doubt I would have played through. And even though I didn’t beat it, I loved that game.

Years later, I would marry a man who should have come with his own personal spoiler alert. Shortly after we were wed, I told him his new middle name was “Spoiler,” because he was forever saying things like, “Oh, you’ll like the part where Boomer tests positive but Baltar is afraid to tell her.” (Kudos to anyone who can name that reference!)

My dislike of spoilers even carries over to my genealogy research. I usually don’t like looking at other people’s work when I’m trying to solve a mystery. First of all I don’t want to be biased by potentially incorrect data on an unsourced family tree, but secondly, selfishly, I want to find it myself.

My Great Decision

At last I reached a flashpoint. I’ve forgotten the particulars, but once while reading a novel by one of my favorite authors, I was hooked right away and got deeply into the story—until the first major plot point when I realized that the book description on the flap had already given away this part of the story. Complete and total letdown! It was then I knew.

No more reading back cover copy!

Then I realized that wasn’t such a smart policy, since it didn’t leave me many options for figuring out what books are about and whether I want to read them. I amended my pronouncement: no more back cover copy for books I knew I was going to read. For favorite authors, or books I am compelled to read for any reason, the most I’ll do is skim the back cover for a general idea … very, very general.

How To Not-Read Back Cover Copy

How does this work? Here are a few examples, favorite authors with titles currently dwelling in my bottomless to-be-read pile.

  • Falling Home by Karen White (New American Library, 2010) — “After arriving in New York, Cassie did everything she could to reinvent herself, from losing herself in a career to squashing her accent. But a single late-night phone call—” STOP! Don’t tell me any more!
  • The Inheritance of Beauty by Nicole Seitz (Thomas Nelson, 2011) — “Maggie Black came of age in the lush, fragrant lowcountry of South Carolina–spending her days with her beloved brother and the boy she would grow up to marry. But when a stranger arrived one summer—” ENOUGH! Don’t ruin the stranger’s secret!
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (Washington Square Press, 2010) — “It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and—” OKAY! That’s good, I’m in!

You probably see why this only works for the authors whose works I already know and appreciate. It’s not ideal, but there you go.

Giveaway Time!

That said (and at risk of spoilers), one of my favorite authors has a book releasing TODAY! The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio is now available. My favorite thing about Sarah Jio’s books is the intersection of past and present. She writes books about old diaries, mysterious letters, cold case disappearances … And they are total wish-fulfillment for my history-mystery-lovin’ heart. To celebrate, let’s have a giveaway!


On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate? (From the author’s web site.)

Open to US mailing addresses only. Your entry is your comment on this post (making sure to include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you win! Here’s my privacy policy.) One entry per person, and as a bonus, if I get 25 or more entries, I’ll draw a second winner, so tell a friend. Winners will be drawn on Monday, June 3rd at 11:59 PM EDT and announced on Tuesday’s blog post. (This giveaway has ended! Thanks!)

Question for You

What are YOUR thoughts on spoilers? Hate them? Don’t mind them? Do you ever actually seek them out? Had anything spoiled lately? I want to know!

6 Replies to “Why I Don’t Read the Back Cover”

  1. LOL, I’m afraid I totally got your Battlestar Galactica reference! Many years ago, when I was 1/3 of the way through “The Name of the Rose”, somebody came by and said “Oh yeah, weren’t you surprised that xxxx did it?” — I’ve never quite forgiven that comment! 😉

  2. Oh my lands, I am IN! I saw this book and thought it looked mysterious and wonderful! And I hate to tell you, but I think I am a walking spoiler alert. THAT is why I typically don’t do book reviews. It’s hard to say what a great book something is without giving something critical away! The worst is when I sit and watch Lifetime movies or TV shows and tell my hubby what’s going to happen/who is guilty way before it happens. Too much Agatha Christie growing up! I figure out MOST twists a mile away! AGH. My email is heatherdaygilbert (at) gmail (dot) com. Tweeting this now!

  3. It’s a tricky balancing act, right?! I usually want to know just enough to know I won’t be wasting my time…but do not go too far. It’s very often hard to know how far is too far for those book reviewers. I always love a recommendation! Thanks for including your list of To-Be read books in this post. My email address is L underscore carrier at juno dot com….would LOVE to win a good book to read!

  4. When it comes to genealogical research, I’m always pleased when I find that someone else has done the hard work of tracking down dates and relationships–it leaves me more time to work on the fun stuff. 🙂

  5. Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t mind spoilers. As long as the book is good and I’m enjoying it, I usually get kind of lost in the book and sort of forget the spoiler!

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