It is an opinion, held unanimously by folks who love to read and folks who don't, that the introduction is the most dreary and the most dreaded part of any book. While it may be of some accidental use to a literature student in desperate need of a decent summary of the the book's general premise,it tends to crush reading pleasure for the the rest.
I generally avoid introductions like the plague. I care to read them only if they have something insightful about the author. An introduction to a book is more painful than the stiff upper-lipped and excruciatingly formal pleasantries exchanged when people meet each other for the first time. Introductions to books contribute to that annoying sense of bias and expectation, just as personal introductions often ruin first encounters.I like to read a book without any prior knowledge or suggestion of its content. I like the uncertainty of stumbling upon the unexpected,and sometimes, the unpleasant.
'Atlas Shrugged' is probably one of the few books that had a fitting introduction(I read it after I read the rest of the book). I liked Leonard Peikoff's unobtrusive and respectful account of Ms. Rand's masterpiece, with references to Ms. Rand's actual notes and thought process. I also liked the humble translator's note at the beginning of 'The Brothers Karamazov'.
As an afterthought; it is probably more fitting to have an epilogue and an index of reference. What good is an introduction if it doesn't serve its purpose?