Most editions of classic books have introductions before the main text, but how many readers actually read these? I never read the introduction if I’m experiencing a classic book for the first time, because introductions invariably contain spoilers or quotations from the text I’m about to read. If I find the book interesting and I want more context, I’ll go back to the introduction. Some of these can be academic and full of jargon, so not very accessible to the general reader but possibly useful for students. It really depends on who’s written the introduction.
Pictured above: The Penguin Classics edition of Jane Eyre, which summarises the plot in the first paragraph!
Then there are introductions to new books, or books which have made an impact since publication but are not yet considered classics. These are more likely to be accessible and to not contain spoilers. They might also function as endorsements for the text by a well-known figure in the same field and are trying to persuade you to continue reading. These I will probably read if they’re short. Sometimes a book has material at the end of the main text instead of an introduction and I like this idea better. I prefer to dive into a book with little prior knowledge, so I can better form my own opinions.
Do you read the introductions to books?