To DNF or Not to DNF

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Our TBR piles are huge and we only get a finite number of minutes on this earth. None of us know how many that is so we do our best to do all the things we want to do before we die.

I used to not DNF books. I used to trudge through even the most boring of books because I didn’t really know I didn’t have to finish the book. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. It’s only been in the last five or six years that I’ve started to DNF books if I can’t get into them.

My question, though, is when is it okay to DNF a book? What if you DNF a hidden gem that just takes a little longer than other books get into. For example, last year, my book read All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry. I read the first 20% and I was interested, but not really that much. I almost gave up on it, but I decided to give it 5% more before I did. It was during those 5% that I really started enjoying the story. If I had DNFd it like I was considering to, I would’ve lost out on a really good book (yes, yes, I know you disagree, Jenny and Kami).

But, then there are those books that you hope will get better and they never do you and you feel like you wasted your entire life on them. So, I ask again, when is it okay to DNF a book? How long do you give a book before you give up on it? Are there certain criteria that you look for before you give up? Or, is it just a matter of not feeling it at that particular moment in time?

18 replies
  1. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think I decided if I don’t finish a book and it was really good I won’t know that it was really good so I won’t know that I missed anything. And if I happen to hear other people raving about it I might give it another chance. And those pesky books that are so so stupid that I’m furious I trudged through them??? I figure there was something about them that made me keep reading so it evens out. *shrugs* don’t know if that helps.

    Reply
    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      Makes sense. There are times when I say I’m not DNFing a book; I’m just putting it aside until I’m in the mood. Some books I may never be in the mood for and some books maybe. Good suggestion. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Karen (@teamsheltie)
    Karen (@teamsheltie) says:

    I’m horrible at dnf’ing because, even if I hate what I’m reading, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS lol I skim read instead – that way if it does pick up yay! but I still get my closure if it doesn’t.

    I am trying to get better at it so if I’m really trudging through, I’ll go check out Goodreads reviews and see if what’s bugging me gets any better or if it’s like that all the way through. I’ve dnf’d 2 books so far this year.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    Reply
    • Lindsi
      Lindsi says:

      I didn’t think about skimming through them! I think that would feel too much like cheating for me, lol! I couldn’t say I “read” it, you know? I do like the idea!

      Reply
      • Jenni Elyse
        Jenni Elyse says:

        I would’ve consider it reading either. I think I’d use it to see if it gets better. Then, I’d go back and know the slow/boring part is worth it, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe skimming doesn’t work as well as I thought. I need to think about it more.

        Reply
  3. Lark
    Lark says:

    If I’m really not feeling a book, I skip to the end to see what happens…and sometimes that makes me want to keep reading because I can see that the book gets better, and sometimes it tells me I’ve made the right decision in quitting…because there’s nothing worse than a disappointing ending! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      No guilt is such a hard thing for me. I need to learn to let go without guilt. I think that’s why I have such a hard time DNFing a book. Luckily, I haven’t had to DNF a book a lot, but that might be because I just don’t let go. I’ll have to ponder this for a while.

      Reply
  4. Lindsi
    Lindsi says:

    I used to finish a book NO MATTER WHAT, and I started to lose the joy of reading. I would dread going back to a book, and then I felt like I was in an eternal slump. Now I give books 50 pages, ebooks 25%, and audiobooks an hour. If I’m not obsessed with it, I move on to something else. It’s really helped my heart to just stick with the books I’m loving! I felt bad about DNFing a book, so I would just delete it from Goodreads like it never happened, but now I’ve started a feature called DNF&Y where I just do a short post of the books I DNFd that month, and why they didn’t work for me.

    As Karen above has said, what I didn’t like about something might be what you love, so it’s good to know all aspects of a book. I feel like this is a more honest outlet for me, because I don’t feel like I’m hiding something anymore. The dirty little secret of the DNFd book, lol. It’s been a learning process for me, and I’ve finally found what works! Give yourself some time and room to explore new things, and you’ll discover the best method for yourself!

    Reply
    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      I appreciate your method of DNFing books. I really like your DNF&Y thing you do on your blog so you can explain why you didn’t continue with something. Fortunately, I haven’t had to DNF something a lot, but maybe it’s because I’m still forcing myself to read those 1-star books. I guess I need to learn to let go more still, lol.

      Reply
      • Lindsi
        Lindsi says:

        “…I’m still forcing myself to read those 1-star books.” Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know? I don’t think you should have to force yourself to read anything. You should read something because you love and enjoy it. It should never be a chore! Not judging! I just think reading should be a happy experience. 🌈

        Reply
  5. Kami Furr (@kamisthoughts)
    Kami Furr (@kamisthoughts) says:

    I used to feel really guilty for not finishing a book, but I am slowly getting over it. I still have some guilt, and it is still a struggle to quit a book, but I’m getting better at it. I wrote a similar post a couple years ago. I try to give books at least 100 pages before quitting. I feel like if I’m not interested by then, I’ve given it a good try. Yes, there are too many books to read, and I feel like I can’t waste time on boring ones. I keep having to remind myself that reading is for me, and no one else. If I don’t want to finish a book, I don’t have to.

    Reply
    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      True. Reading is for yourself and no one else so you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about not liking something or not wanting to read something. I need to be less codependent with books.

      Reply
  6. Roberta R.
    Roberta R. says:

    I only DNF’d ONE book in my whole life – wait, two, because once, like hundred years ago, I tried to read James Joyce…I can’t even remember if it was Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake…and though I’m the type of person who would read the back of a cereal box, I couldn’t bring myself to finish that one. I remember being so bored…I’m sure it was too cerebral for me. The most recent book I DNF’d was a YA novel that the author sent me for review, and it was so cliche and amateurishly written that I had to throw the towel (though I diligently trudged past the middle mark). Since the author had contacted me personally and all, I offered her a choice: either I’d write a honest review, or just mark her book as DNF on Goodreads without explaining why, or amicably part ways with her as if she had never sent me the book in the first place. Of course, she chose the easy way out. But I changed my review policy after that, so that now, if someone sends me a book, they have to accept my DNF review. I want to be honest in the face of the world LOL. Really, I feel more guilty for not reviewing that book than for DNF’ing it…

    I don’t know at what point in the story it would be OK to stop reading a book that you’re not feeling. Some books start slow and then pick pace; some stay 2-3 star material all the way but there are reason why one might not regret reading them in the end. (Actually, 3 stars are a good rating for me, and I might even reread those books at some point). It probably depends on what you don’t like about them (the pace? the characters? the story itself? the writing?) and what you think it’s done well instead. And maybe read a quarter of the book is more than enough?

    Reply
    • Jenni Elyse
      Jenni Elyse says:

      I haven’t really DNFd a lot of books either, so I understand where you’re coming from. 🙂 And, I agree about rereading 3-star books or even lower books. There are some 2-star and 1-star books I’m willing to give another chance when I’m in the mood.

      Reply

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