Recently, I picked up a book (one I’ve been very much enjoying), and I was reminded of a certain…quirk I have as a reader. I love to read, and I love to read across of broad swatch of forms and genres, but across all these genres, there’s a certain thing I don’t like, something that, while it might not make me put a book down, might make me skip part of that book. And it’s right at the beginning.
Forewords, Prologues, Prefaces, Introductions…they have their differences, but they all say the same thing to me: “Here’s some stuff that comes before the actual story begins.” While I’m slightly less biased against words placed at the beginning of the book by the author at the time that book was first written (as opposed to later, in reflection, after a book’s wild success), I view even these sections, arguably organic parts of the whole (and sometimes quite essential to the reader’s understanding of that whole), with a good dose of skepticism. I read them with one eye closed—worried the author might slip something into this opening material that I’d rather have discovered on my own, later in the novel. As a child, I routinely skipped these sections without a second thought. As an adult, my tendencies lie in the same place; I just feel a little shy about admitting it (thus, a blog post to the universe). I mean, I’m a reader. I read all the time. Why would I get hung up on having a few extra pages added just because they’re not called “Chapter One”?
That said, I’m a huge fan of Acknowledgements. I adore the story of the book that seems to lie in Acknowledgments, even when it’s pretty much a list of names. In fact, I’ll happily indulge in all sorts of extra material at the end of the book; often it gives me a chance to extend the experience of reading. Sometimes, I might even go back and read the beginning, whatever it might be called.