Leaving aside books you are reviewing, reading for a class, or that you promised a trusted friend or relative you would read: do you not always read the beginning to make sure you don’t hate it right from the jump?
If anyone does this, help me understand why. The strong reviews or interesting dust jacket premise are enough? Are you fairly well off? Will you read it all the way through even if the first few pages do turn out to not be to your taste?
I do. Sometimes I even buy novels which I’m sure will produce the intense need to throw them against the wall, because the gender and the blurb in the jacket are already giving me itchy hands.
But hey, vocabulary; I do that to increase it in second languages. For example, one genre that tends to give me the upchuks is romance, and it’s a genre which involves both some words or usages I want to know so I can avoid them, and a lot of daily use words I’d be unlikely to find in a fantasy or science fiction book.
And then there’s the ones by authors I’ve consistently enjoyed. I’ve read several things by an author and liked all of them, I’m going to buy the next one I see without more than a check to make sure it’s not an omnibus edition or somesuch.
For the first book by an author, usually yes. That’s how I came by the Expanse books, the Dresden Files books, Charles Stross and China Miéville. After that, I trust an my previous experience of an author.
It’s my experience that some books take more than a few pages. Some only hit their stride halfway through.
The first time I read the first page is when I read the book. Knowing the genre, possibly reading a review, word of mouth, and any previous experience with the author or authors the author has been compared to are enough for me.
… oooooh. So I can avoid using those words, which may be false friends or sound/look very similar to words which are OK to use; and, if I have to use another word whose pronunciation is similar to one I want to avoid, I know I have to be careful. If you don’t know that “excrement” sounds almost like “flat rectangular object”, you’re likely to ask people for “a pen and a shit of paper”.
Yes, I often buy novels without reading the first few pages first—especially if they’re from an author I already know I like, or if they’re a book I have other reasons to expect I’m going to like, and especially if I’m not risking too much money on them (e.g. a $1.99 special deal Kindle book, or a 50 cent used paperback).
In the other thread that this spun off from, you gave the parameters you judge fiction by:
You say nothing about plot, or characters, or themes, which are a big part of why most people read fiction, and it’s not always obvious how good those are going to be from the first few pages. And you seem to be more sensitive to writing style than many readers are. Personally, I find it a turn-on (reason to keep reading) if it’s particularly good and a turn-off (reason to give up on a book) if it’s particularly bad, but there’s a middle ground where it doesn’t do much for me one way or the other.
And if writing style is so important to you, why do you only apply this criterion to novels?
I never really thought about it but for some reason I never read the first pages. However, if I have no strong reason to believe that I will like the book, I often just flip it open and read a bit at random. Only a page, or less even. I can usually pick up whether the author’s style will offend me without revealing any important plot points.
For the past nearly 20 years, I’ve bought very nearly everything I read on-line, knowing only the author, the genre, the Amazon “people who bought this also bought this”, or meatspace or on-line recommendations. Even when I was buying books at physical locations I used similar criteria. I don’t think that I have ever read the first few pages of a book before buying it.