I've had S. by Doug Dorst and J. J. Abrams on my shelf for ages and finally want to dig into it. From what I've read about it, there is a ton of layers to the book: the printed book itself, pencilled notes, notes in coloured pens from two characters added at 4(?) different times, physical inserts between the pages.

So now I'm wondering, how do you go about reading it to get the most from the experience? Do you try to take in everything at once? Read through the book multiple times, layer by layer? How do you know which timeline of the notes the inserts belong to? Can notes from later times spoil the plot from earlier times?

I've tried googling around a bit, but the recommendations seem to be all over the place, and I'm also a bit wary of spoilers. Since the book has been out for a few years, I figured some people have come up with some decent strategies to enjoy the book as much as possible.

Is there a consensus among fans on the best way to read it (or an "officially" recommended way), or at least could anyone give a comprehensive overview of the different approaches to the book and their pros and cons?


There isn't a wrong way to read it and notes from from later times do not spoil the plot from earlier times.

I prefer reading all of the notes and the novel at once.

However J.J Abrams himself has said

“Many people who have read the book have told me how they have approached it and they all have taken different methods. People say why not make it an interactive book, but it is just analogue. You can pick this thing up and ignore the handwriting and just read the printed text, then go back and read the handwriting, or read them simultaneously. You can use the ephemera, the letters and postcards and look at them as you go along. Someone took all those things out and put it in a pile and read the book then went back to read the inserts. Everyone has a different way of approaching this thing which I think will make the experience of S different for everyone.”

Source: http://scotsman.com/what-s-on/film/jj-abrams-on-new-book-s-and-filming-in-scotland-1-3171809ilm/jj-abrams-on-new-book-s-and-filming-in-scotland-1-3171809

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  • "Notes from from later times do not spoil the plot from earlier times." I've finally got around to reading the book and I strongly disagree with that (not saying that the book can't be enjoyed reading it in any order, but there's definitely things I'd consider spoilers for earlier conversations or the book itself). That said, it's also impossible to read the book completely in chronological order because sometimes the notes within one layer are jumping around all over the book (especially during the orange/green and purple/red layers). – Martin Ender Apr 9 '18 at 13:32

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