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Carl V.

It really all depends. I don't read them, or stop reading them, if I begin to suspect that plot details are going to be given away. I don't want the story to be spoiled for me in any way. I sometimes go back and read the intros and in some cases don't.

I really enjoyed the introduction to the Barnes and Noble version of Phantom of the Opera. It told a great deal about the real Paris Opera House which really enhanced the reading of the story.

I read the intro to the Murders in the Rue Morgue and found it very enlightening. And I always read Neil Gaiman's intros to his short story books because he hides an actual short story in there.

If memory serves I also read the intro to Frankenstein and found it to enhance the story.

I agree with you about the accessibility. I think most classics are fairly easily read if one just relaxes and lets the story flow as it is read. Picking up a book like Twilight, however, can be a very cleansing, relaxing read between classics. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

jenclair

I generally skim, then either stop if there are spoilers or read more thoroughly if something catches my attention. After completing the book, I often come back to the preface. Just repeating what you and Carl have said, but true. :)

Ex Libris

I third Carl and Jenclair. I skim intros until I get to spoilers. I can always go back and refer to it if needed while reading. I do like to read any notes at the end of the book, though, along with the text.

Kate S.

I always save the introductions and prefaces until after I've read the book. I like to have an opportunity to come at the book on my own without having my interpretation tilted by what someone else has had to say beforehand. I do enjoy reading them afterwards though, particularly when I really loved the book and I'm not yet ready to let go of it. Reading an introduction or a preface then can prolong the book, or it can feel like the beginning of a discussion with a fellow reader.

iliana

I'm concerned about the prefaces you mention for Indiana! :) I think it depends for me, sometimes I just want to dive into the story and skip the intros, but if it's a story I pretty much know (like Jekyll & Hyde) then I read the introduction. I know I won't be spoiled of any major plot. In this case, I learned quite a bit and it helped when reading the book.

Nancy, aka Bookfool

I read everything, including author notes and dedications; and sometimes I do end up reading bits that turn out to be spoilers. But, in most cases I'm forgetful enough that I don't always remember everything as I'm reading. Actually, the intro notes to My Brilliant Career were a little irritating because of some major spoilers.

Usually, I'll only skip them if they're really long and monotonous to the point that you feel like, "Enough, already! I just want to read the book!"

les in ne

I prefer to read them after the book. I like what Kate S. said. It's like haveing a discussion with a fellow reader.

Having just come off of a month-long classic challenge, I know what you mean about "classics" and "not getting it." I wasn't an English major and have felt a bit intimidated by books such as Middlemarch, Madame Bovary, and most everything by Virginia Woolf. Sure, I can read the book and most likely understand the basic plot. But what about all the extra stuff? Symbolism. Literary illusions. The deeper, meatier stuff of "literature." I do the best I can, supplementing here and there, and not stressing too much about it. I'm finished with school and nobody's grading my work. Thank God!

heather

For me, I usually tend to skip all of the introductions/prefaces/etc and tell myself that I'll go back and read them afterwards (rarely happens) because like you said, if I read them beforehand, the story gets ruined.

As for not getting the language, etc, have you tried reading it out loud? It sounds a bit hokey, but it can help if you're getting confused.

Brandon

Whether or not I read an introduction depends on the book I'm reading. I read the introduction to Albert Camus' "The Stranger" before I read the book. I later learned that the introduction was utterly pointless; just literary criticism and boring rambling. When I read Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game," I saved the introduction until after I finished the book. For me, introductions are like anything else I read; they have to grab me or I won't even bother. But sometimes I find them to be helpful. I have a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that has a great introduction and helps to put things in perspective.

I have a weird affinity for author afterwords, though. For some reason, I like to read author afterwords before I read the book. If I'm browsing at a bookstore and I see a book with an author afterword, I'll flip to it and read it. I guess I find it interesting to learn how a book came about. I've bought several books simply because I liked the author afterword.

Marg

I tend to read the introductions after I have read the book, then again as I wrote that I realised that there was an introduction in the book I just started yesterday, and I read it! Oh well...apparently it depends on what mood I am in on the day.

Enjoy Twilight....I really enjoyed it when I read it!

kimbofo

I hate intros and prefaces. I never read them, mainly because they give away too many spoilers.

Stephanie

I read them until they start to bore me to tears, then I move on.

cam

I rarely read an intro before I read the work. I will only read it afterwards if I am looking for an answer to a specific question I have regarding the text. I just see little use in them unless one is doing a critical analysis for some sort of class assignment.

For personal reading -- even if it is something academic -- I don't really see the point. I'd rather draw my own conclusions. While I think that introductions do serve a purpose, I think that they tend to scare away some readers because there is an implication, right or wrong, that without commentary, one won't 'get' the text unless one is a scholar. I think in most cases, that just isn't true; although one's reading may be quite different from another's reading, it is no less valid.

Litlove

Oh I say skip 'em if you feel like it. I certainly recommend you skip the prefaces in Indiana. They don't really add anything to the story and are only there because pedantic academics insist on them. I am (as you can tell!) a very poor academic because I have a low tolerance level for that sort of thing. But on the other hand I'm a bit unrepentant. It's the story that counts, and nothing else matters anywhere near as much as your own impressions of it.

Victoria

I almost never look at them before I read a book but usually go back to them afterwards. This morning I read the Preface to my Penguin edition of 'Dracula'...and it was nice and enhanceful. :-)

I'm going to go out today and get a copy of 'Indiana' too, if Borders stocks such a thing.

BikeProf

I usually skip the intros, but I feel very guilty about it. I had a horrible battle writing the intro to a book I had edited, and it scarred me for life, so I think I should read everyone else's intro. I don't do it, though.

rachel

I always skip the introductions... until some prof peaks at me over his/her glasses with scorn and demands that I do....


In the case of Frankenstein ( which I just recently finished ), I also found the introduction helpful.


Isn't Twilight a wonderful bout of fun?

I liked it so much. You will have to find yourself a copy of New Moon, the sequel, quite soon.

Isabella

I read them, because they can be quite interesting in themselves, such as in the case of Frankenstein where there's background story, or some other historical context or author details. If they start getting into plot details I try to stop and save them for later. I'd like to think I'm a strong enough reader that they won't affect my coming to my own conclusions, but they can provide different perspectives that I might not have come to on my own, particularly when they're informed by knowledge I don't have, like being familiar with the rest of the author's work. As Kate said, it prolongs the discussion of the book. I've often thought they should be printed at the end of the book as supplementary essays, as very often they're not introductions at all, they're conclusions other people have drawn.

Danielle

Thanks for all the input! I always like hearing what other readers do in these sorts of situations! I decided to skip the intro and prefaces to Indiana as I am feeling rather lazy at the moment, and I am glad I did. I have started the book, and it looks like it will be good. I will check back after I finish the book and read the intro then!

Jill

My recommendation is always to read the book first just to experience the story as story. If you like the story, if it intrigues you, then you can follow up with the introductions and prefatory materials.

Danielle

Jill--I think this is the way to go. I hate spoilers in intros, but sometimes I am afraid the text will be dense or hard to understand and I will need extra help. Usually that isn't the case, but I always start out feeling that way.

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