Do you read the introductions to books?

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.

Open book, showing the introduction to Jane Eyre.

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?

16 thoughts on “Do you read the introductions to books?”

  1. Not usually, mostly because they often contain spoilers but I rarely think the introduction adds anything to my understanding or enjoyment of the novel itself.

    1. Introductions are rarely enjoyable, sometimes they do provide some interesting context though.

    1. If I do read introductions it’s usually after, but if I didn’t like the book much then probably not!

  2. I’m with you on that one! I don’t tend to read introductions which can be lengthy and contain spoilers. Like you, I prefer to make up my own mind by reading the book first. I may read the intro after.

    1. I’m glad we agree! If I liked the book or found it interesting, I will go back and read the introduction, providing it’s not too long.

  3. I tend to read a book from the first chapter, then read the intro afterwards, as I really object to spoilers.

    1. I find that introductions almost always have spoilers. I don’t even think that a book having been around for a hundred years or more justifies having spoilers in the introduction, it’s possible to write about the book without giving the plot away.

  4. The introduction serves as a conduit for discerning the author’s underlying intention, impetus,…… thereby facilitating a profound affiliation between the readers and the subject matter at hand.
    what uh think?

    1. Yes, it is the case for some introductions, particularly for books which are not readily accessible in style or subject matter.

  5. I always read the introductions first, because the spoilers don’t bother me and I like the background info they provide. I always worry I’m going to miss something important if I skip the introduction…which probably means I’m brainwashed into thinking they are more crucial than perhaps they really are…

    1. I like to be surprised when I’m reading a book for the first time. I have read some intros which are very well-done and illuminating, and others which seem rather unnecessary!

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