Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 26, 2015

Do You Ever Read the Prologue?

I don’t know if there has ever been an actual study or survey done on the topic of book prologues, but I would be interested to know the results. I’ve seen blog posts and comments on the subject, and it seems that most of them are of the opinion that nobody ever reads prologues. I don’t really understand this, and I wonder if I am really in the minority, because I always read the prologue.

One blog in particular that prompted this question is one from several months ago by Ryan Lanz about whether a writer should or should not use a prologue. My current work-in-process, Conquest of Theran, has a prologue for what I believe are very good reasons. 1) it introduces an important element that doesn’t appear until the seventh chapter, and 2) it takes place eighty years before the rest of the story and thus doesn’t fit or feel right as chapter one. It’s not critical to the plot, because I know readers often skip them. It’s more like bonus material, a reward for those that do read it.

The real question I have, however, is why a reader skips the prologue. The writer or author apparently thought it was necessary and included it intentionally. The editor allowed it to stay. There’s a reason and a purpose for it being there.

Many of the criticisms directed at prologues are just as valid in other parts of the book. A prologue can read like an info-dump, but so can chapter one. The tone of a prologue might be different, but what about the “second act” when a story tends to get dark and dangerous? Anything potentially wrong with a prologue can be just as wrong in the rest of the book.

If a reader is going to commit to reading a book, why would they skip any part of it? I would never consider ignoring chapter four, or flipping past pages 75 to 80, so why would I  leave out the very beginning, where the author intends for me to start?

What’s your opinion? Do you read a book’s prologue, or do you skip it? Why or why not? Leave your comments below.


  1. I read prologues, after all, it’s part of the story. Like you said, skipping it is like skipping a chapter altogether.

    • Right, if you’re going to read the other thirty (or whatever) chapters, why not the prologue?

  2. I definitely read the prologue. What if it has important information in it? I love books and read everything in the book. Sometimes when I finish the books I read the acknowledgements and reviews and stuff. I love prologues. Mostly it’s because usually the kind of book that has a prologue is my favorite.

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