When it comes to books, there is a Point A and a Point B, and then a bunch of stuff that happens in the middle. Writers are generally pretty good about including that middle bit—explaining, over the course of many chapters, how Point A led to Point B, how tensions slowly but surely escalated so that the climax seems both believable and inevitable—but I think we can all agree life would be far funnier if they weren’t.
Here, for your amusement and mine, is what a bunch of books would look like stripped of all context, background, and rising action.
The Great Gatsby, chapter 3: Gatsby throws a party The Great Gatsby, chapter 8: Gatsby takes the fall for vehicular manslaughter
Lord of the Flies, chapter 2: Jack is mean to Ralph Lord of the Flies, chapter 12: Jack hunts Ralph for sport and sets the island on fire
A Separate Peace, chapter 1: Gene and Finny are having a fun time down by the river A Separate Peace, chapter 12: Finny dies in surgery and it’s all Gene’s fault
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, chapter 1: Tom outsmarts his Aunt Polly The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, chapter 32: Tom gets trapped in a cave and must keep from succumbing to hunger, exhaustion, and dehydration if he wants to make it out alive. Oh and there’s a murderer on the loose
Macbeth, Act 1: Macbeth gets a promotion Macbeth, Act 3: Macbeth is haunted by the ghost of the man he more or less killed
Romeo and Juliet, Act 1: Juliet hasn’t given much thought to marriage Romeo and Juliet, Act 5: Juliet commits suicide for a boy she met four days ago
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, chapter 2: Harry never gets any birthday presents Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 34: Harry must walk calmly into death’s waiting arms
Hamlet, Act 1: Hamlet is acting kind of moody lately Hamlet, Act 5: Hamlet is murdering people, caressing skulls, and leaping into graves
Wuthering Heights, chapter 7: Heathcliff has bad table manners Wuthering Heights, chapter 27: Heathcliff kidnaps multiple people and holds them hostage in his basement
The Odyssey, book 1: Odysseus never returned home from the war The Odyssey, book 22: Odysseus returns home and immediately murders 117 people
To Kill a Mockingbird, chapter 2: Scout gets into trouble at school To Kill a Mockingbird, chapter 28: Scout almost gets stabbed to death in a ham costume
Great Expectations, chapter 2: Pip steals a pie and feels bad about it Great Expectations, chapter 46: Pip voluntarily helps a wanted criminal flee from justice
The Catcher in the Rye, chapter 4: Holden is having problems with his roommate The Catcher in the Rye, chapter 22: Holden comes to terms with the inevitability of death