DNFing Books – A Discussion

Hi! Today I thought I’d talk about DNFing books (which stands for did-not-finish, for anyone who doesn’t speak the lingo). I think it’s a polarizing subject – some people DNF books like there’s no tomorrow, others think they need to finish every book they start, to really know if they enjoyed it or not. I was part of the latter group for many years, but I’ve converted.

I used to think I couldn’t have an opinion on a book if I haven’t read it fully. Even if reading a book was a chore for me (what bookworm thinks reading is a chore?! me, apparently), I soldiered through it just to say how much I hated the book in the end. It would take me ages to read it. It would put me in the biggest reading slump ever! But I would finish it. (Yes, Ready Player One, I’m talking about you!)

I don’t take the decision to DNF books lightly. Whenever a book doesn’t sit right with me, for various reasons, I try to give it around 100 pages to prove me wrong. Sometimes it’s the writing, to which I either get used to, or not, other times I just don’t feel the story – it’s either too slow, or too confusing. Sometimes I just dislike the characters and find it hard to relate and care about them. In those cases, I give the book a try to grab me, before I lose interest. I might put it down for a while in case it’s just a right book, wrong time kind of a situation, where I’m not in the mood for that kind of story, hence why I’m struggling to read it. There are books out there I’ve tried to read many times – like All The Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – they just weren’t for my cup of tea in the end.

But! There are times where I KNOW for a fact the book is not for me, from the get go. How? I am a particular person with a particular taste – and if a book does something unforgivable, I put it down straight away. I don’t keep a list of unforgivable things, because I just know it when I read it. It might be a theme, or… and don’t get angry now, I’m not saying this to insult anyone… the fact that the book is just ridiculous and kind of dumb. I have 2 examples of those – Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and Graces by Laure Eve. Maybe I’m being too harsh with those, but I couldn’t get past 5 pages! It was everything at once – the writing, the characters, the story – I couldn’t stand them. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, yet Shiver seems like it was written by a completely different person.

Whenever I DNF a book, I don’t rate it on Goodreads and I don’t review it. I don’t think it’s fair to do either. I am allowed to dislike books, sure, but I still think I can’t have a fully fledged opinion on a piece of writing if I haven’t read it all – there’s no need for me to bash it anywhere without constructive criticism. I do have a designated shelf for all my DNFs on Goodreads, though. Currently there are 12 books on it (like I said, I’m fairly new at the DNFing business). Apart from the ones mentioned above, I’ve also DNFed:

  • Monsters by Sharon Dogar – because I knew the gist of the story (it’s a fictionalised life of Mary Shelley kind of book), but the narration and the characters made it unbearable to read.
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – I really wanted to like it, but it kinda fell into the same category as Shiver. Plus, it was just so complicated and didn’t stand the test of time in my opinion.
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – me and Sarah J. Maas just don’t work. Also, I hate romance (most of the times at least).
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – I couldn’t get over the way females were written in it. The great idea was lost in the terrible writing.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – once again, the writing killed the story.
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner – just not my cup of tea.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – I thought I was angsty at the time I tried to read it, but apparently not angsty enough for The Bell Jar.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – again, not my cup of tea. Kind of boring, to be honest.

What’s your stance on DNFing books? How many books have you DNFed? Any of mine? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to know your thoughts!

I will talk to you guys soon! Thanks for reading.

22 thoughts on “DNFing Books – A Discussion

  1. Hallo, Hallo —

    I saw your post mentioned on Twitter — I wanted to add that I do blog reviews for my DNF reads inasmuch as the stories where I write a negative and/or negative-neutral review. The reason? I generally have a lot to share about those stories – not just what took me out of the context of the story itself but also what did work for me as well. Sometimes I find these reviews are helpful on other blogs as it helps me sort through a story I might be on the fence to read – I can gauge what is inclusive to the construct of the novel based on the reader’s insights and/or I can discern that maybe its just a story not for me. Either way, I find all reviews to be a benefit – I don’t believe we should withhold our DNF reviews because what if someone else out there is struggling with the same story but feels that since no one is talking about it – how are they to know what is affecting them? Is it isolated or is it more of a consensus?

    I do agree – everyone has a different opinion about this topic. It took me over a year to resolve that not all the stories I was receiving as a book blogger were going to be my cuppa either. Similar to when I have a negative reaction to a story overall. Ironically? Those reviews tend to be my strongest read and generally speaking, when I openly discuss what didn’t work for me, I get feedback from readers saying “Ooh wow. I just found my next read!” Which warms my heart because it proves I’m not the only one seeking those more critical reviews to find the stories I know are out there for me to be reading.

    I haven’t counted them but its upwards of 50x – I’m a particularly particular reader in a lot of ways and at other times I’m very open to different voices, styles and genres. Just depends. I haven’t read the stories you’ve mentioned on your post but I have my own list for stories which aren’t my cuppa – I call it the Stories Seeking Love from Readers – first started it on Riffle, then moved it to LibraryThing. However, I haven’t updated it in a long while.. lol. Something I should do before the end of 2019! Ha!

    Hmm… correction! The list is up to 110x! (see my list)

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    1. You make some incredibly valid points. I might rethink my no review if I DNFed a book policy. I think it is helpful to people to know if others haven’t finished the book they’re planning on reading and why. I never even thought about it until you mentioned it. Thank you for your comment. Also, that list is huge haha.

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  2. It’s easier to DNF books that were my own choice to buy/ download. If I’ve been asked to review them it is a harder choice, but you can’t enjoy every book. I usually DNF because there are flaws in the book, like plot holes, unbelievable characters or ones I could not empathise with. Or points which should have been picked up in editing, like head hopping and dialogue issues. Good for you to stand up for this subject.

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    1. Yes, I agree. I feel no shame DNFing books I’ve bought myself, just some annoyance I paid money for them 😅 those are all very valid issues you mentioned.

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  3. The older I get the more I value my time over the idea of finishing a book to give it a fair shake. I usually give a normal size book (300-500 pages) 50 pages to grab my attention and then if I don’t feel compelled to continue I don’t feel guilty. Not every book is for every reader, and I don’t expect authors would want me to finish their book out of spite. No review is better than “I forced myself to finish this so I could tell you I didn’t like it.”

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  4. Great post post. Found you through @The Right Reads.
    I am getting better at allowing myself to DNF books that I buy myself or borrow through Kindle Unlimited. ARCs (ebooks that I have been given by authors or publishers) I still feel duty bound to read cover to cover.

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    1. Thank you. I think it’s worth considering at least, because there are so many books out there, is there really a point in reading the ones we hate? It’s a waste of time that could be spent on reading something great. I do understand it’s a tough decision to start putting books down – it took me years to do it.

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  5. Great piece! I find myself in the latter group. I have never felt any better about a book that I hated by finishing it, but I feel a strange compulsion to finish. I need to work on it. As for my most hated book, Gone Girl. There wasn’t a single redeemable character in the entire book and to be honest, the ending is ridiculous.

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    1. Gone Girl has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for years. I guess when I finally decide to pick it up, I’ll try to have no expectations at all – bad endings are such a killer.

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    1. I think I might start reviewing my DNFs. I thought it wasn’t fair, but I think I’m changing my mind, seeing how many people do it, too. As long as one doesn’t rate it, I think it’s fair.

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      1. I think that it is important to do what calls to you. Ultimately, reviews are for readers so if you want to review and rate then you should. If you don’t want to then don’t. Do what feels right to you. 🙂

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