Discussion: The Dawn of the DNF

Maybe it’s just because September was overloaded with new releases I wanted to read.  Maybe it’s just because October is my favorite month for reading because it feels like a solid excuse to read only horror without feeling too guilty about it.  Maybe I just really suck at picking books I think I’ll enjoy.  Or to spin this in a positive light, maybe I am good about going outside my comfort zone and trying things I’m not sure I’ll like.

I don’t like DNFing.  But at the end of September I ran into a problem.  I started a bunch of books I really had no desire to finish.  One of them was a buddy read I’d been looking forward to since we scheduled it a few months back.  One of them was a new release I’d been pining for since I first saw it on Edelweiss and originally was declined for but later won in a GoodReads Giveaway.  One of them was an ARC I was approved for months ago, when I might have been more in the mood to read it but put off because I didn’t want to read it too early, and am now just not enjoying the way I want to.

I feel obligated to finish all of them.  But I know it will put me in a reading slump because I’ll come up with other things I’d rather be doing than reading a book I don’t actually want to read.

So I’m DNFing.

And you know what?  It’s probably one of the most liberating choices I’ve made in a long time.  It won’t result in some scathing review I have to put up because I forced myself to finish a book I didn’t want to read.  And because it won’t be some ranting-hate-filled review I’m probably at less risk of offending the poor author who poured countless hours, blood, sweat and tears into writing it.  Or the publisher, who selected that manuscript over a thousand others to publish, and then poured time and resources into putting that book in the wider world.

Do I feel guilty?

Yeah.  I do.  I was given at least two of these books in exchange for honest reviews.  And while there’s nothing dishonest about saying I didn’t finish, or that a book wasn’t for me, it feels half-assed.  Like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

But at the same time, I’ve given each of these books almost a hundred pages to make me care, and they just haven’t done that.

This isn’t a movie.  It usually doesn’t take a mere two hours to read a book.  It’s 10, 15, sometimes 20 hours of my life that I’m not enjoying, that I can say with reasonable surety is not going to become enjoyable, and I’m never going to get back.  I wouldn’t keep playing a video game that was no fun or riddled with glitches that made it unplayable.  I wouldn’t finish a meal that tasted bad.  I’m not going to continue reading a book I’m not enjoying.

I’ve seen some readers argue that if you don’t finish the book, you shouldn’t leave a review.  And while I understand the argument- anything could happen in those final pages – it could become enjoyable.  But can a book you dread picking up really perform that much of a turnaround?  Can you really go from hating a book to loving it?

I don’t think so.

I’ve seen books go from mediocre to awesome.  I’ve seen books go from good to bad.  It’s rare that I see a book go from awful all the way to enjoyable.

And it’s not even that a book has to be awful to make me want to DNF.  It could just be that it’s not for me.  I think that’s an even harder obstacle to overcome.

The fact is- I just don’t have the same amount of time to read like I used to.  And I’m making a conscious choice to spend those hours reading what I actually want to read instead of reading something that makes me miserable.

What I am confused about, since I’ve never really made a conscious choice to DNF, is what the rules are for DNFing?  (Are there rules?)  Does it have to happen around some significant plot point in the book?  For example, a scene of rape or child abuse that makes you not want to continue?  Do you have to give it so many pages before you quit?  Do you need to determine that the text is borderline unreadable?  As may be the case in something self published that wasn’t properly vetted by an army of beta readers and developmental editors?

So you tell me, fellow readers, what are your rules for DNFing?


34 thoughts on “Discussion: The Dawn of the DNF

  1. I tend to give the book 20-25% for deciding to DNF – subject wise there isn’t an awful lot that will make me DNF straight away. If I’m really not enjoying something, I’ll jump a few chapters to see if it picks up pace otherwise it’s gone

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good rule! I think I was about 20% on these, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I’m similar- there isnt a whole lot that will make me quit reading right away. Although I did encounter a suicide cult in a book earlier this year that did make me quit.


  2. I’ve DNF’d two books so far. It happens, sometimes its the writing style that throws me off; or the sightly more infuriating– having it labeled as horror and then havng NO horror elements in it..

    I don’t really have any hard set rules for DNF’ing a book. Each ‘case’ is unique when I read. For the most part, I try to give it over 100 pages or more to try and capture and successfully keep my attention. If it doesn’t than I dread reading it. Another book, I just couldn’t get behind the style of writing at all. It made me dislike the first couple of chapters and I actually grimaced when I picked up the book..
    I only recently took to DNF’ing books I couldn’t get behind. You’re right, its liberating to do so because as you stated– that was time wasted on something I truly didn’t enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh- the book labeled as horror with no actual horror just happened to me! I’ll have the review up tomorrow but after 94 pages I was just NOPE. I feel mismarketing is the number one way publishers and authors hurt themselves.

      If you advertise as horror you better be familiar with the genre and understand what makes it that.

      But really- it does feel great. I wish I could get rid of the guilt aspect but oh well. I tried it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had that guilt too(especially since one of them was a book the author sent me for review) but you are still using your time to read it- the least the publishers/author can do is make sure its marketed at the correct genre.

        You gave the book a shot and that’s all they can ask of you. Plus, you are always nice in your reviews so I know even if you still review them; you’ll be respectful

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha- I’ve grown more respectful since I started blogging, but I’ve definitely got a few rant style reviews out there.. I should probably adjust them.

        But none for books I was given to review. Those remain respectful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A good rant is needed now and again in my opinion, hahaha. That’s how I am as well; if it was given for review- I will always be respectful.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post, Sarah! And it’s great timing because I’m debating whether to DNF a review book right now. I’m only 15% in so I feel like I should give it more of a chance, but it’s so boring that I also feel I’m wasting time reading it. I put it down and blew through one book I was dying to read, then picked up a second that I’m in the middle of and loving. And EVERYONE loves this book. It’s got mostly 5 stars on Goodreads! Ugh I feel so lame. I think I’ll try to read at least 25% then make a decision. But I have so many books that I’m dying to read, I just feel like life’s too short to waste time like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life is too short- and if after 15% you know it’s not working- I think you should just DNF that sucker. If there’s no intrigue or desire to see where it’s headed…

      One thing to consider is % is relative to length. A 1000 page book, 25% is 250 pages. That’s a whole book in itself! If the book is very short, than DNFing after 15 pages or so probably isn’t fair. I feel like 50-100 pages – you gave it a solid try.

      OMG- it’s not Fate of the Fallen is it?!


  4. Yay DNF! I used to have DNF rules, but I gave up on them. No book is the same. I can tell with some books that I won’t like them after only a few pages, but others take me longer. And some have major events that I can’t move past no matter how far they are into the book.

    Also, I totally believe in DNF reviews. I mean, yeah: you need to say if it’s a DNF review. But I have been helped just as much by a DNF review as by a review written by someone who read the book five times. And really? “I couldn’t finish the book” is still your honest opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree completely! I just feel so guilty if I accepted it specifically for the purpose of reviewing.. and I totally succumb to FOMO now and then where I feel like I should push through just in case it does change for the better.

      However, I’m finding in my old age I have less patience for this. There are too many good books out there to waste time on mediocre ones.


      • SO MANY BOOKS. SO LITTLE TIME. That is why I DNF.

        I have no problem, personally, reviewing the parts that I read and then detailing why I stopped reading. Some other potential readers might need to know — especially if I DNF because of a triggering scene. I do often read other reviews (preferably ones with spoilers) before I DNF if I’m worried about FOMO.


  5. I love this! I used to struggle with this too but I was hate-reading the Magicians and after like 2 and a half books I was so repulsed by this one graphic scene (no spoilers) I had to DNF. But I sorta realized there’s too less time and too many books to be wasting time on ones you don’t enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t have a true rule – if I can already feel during the first chapter that it’s really not working, I will DNF. With ARCs, I felt guilty about doing that for a long time, but I don’t want reading to become a chore, so now I do it with ARCs as well. I don’t like doing it either, but I agree, books take me so much time, and I’ve almost never gone from “this is the most boring thing I’ve ever read” to “this is great, actually”, it usually goes from bad to just ok at best.
    And if I really feel like I’m missing something – it happened, once, and I did end up liking the book – I can still pick up the book again at a better time; if I had tried to continue it then, I probably would have liked it less.

    Anyway, I feel like my reading life got better since I started trusting my DNF instinct, and I hope it will be the same for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m hoping it gets better too. It was really an epiphany for me bouncing between three books, dreading all of them and then asking myself: why am I even doing this? I’m supposed to enjoy reading!

      Sorry publishers! I’ll try not to make it a habit. I just really only want to read stuff I like.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am AWFUL at DNFing because I’m a completionist. I have mustered through some awful TV shows and mediocre books because my brain didn’t feel right “judging” the content until it had the full picture. Which sometimes has just made me retroactively angrier at something because I get to the end and realized I wasted my time. And it’s especially a problem when it’s a book I’ve been excited for and included in all of my “Most Anticipated” posts etc. – I feel like I owe my readers/the world my thoughts. But you’re totally right, considering the time investment, it’s probably the best self-care to admit when something isn’t working for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know exactly what you mean! It still bothers me a little that I didn’t finish. Who knows maybe I’ll come back to them someday, but I have to consider all the books I would enjoy out there and am missing out on because I wasted too much time with something I didn’t like.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so true though! I can sit through a movie I am not enjoying (or at the bare minimum- pick up a book and read while it goes on). But reading doesn’t allow for multitasking and it’s so much more of a time sink. I just decided – no way! Not doing it anymore. I can’t think of any times it ever paid off in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The 20% rule (if DNF-ing really needs a rule) is a good one: if by then a book has failed to catch my interest, if I don’t feel eager to fire up my reader and move forward, it means that the time I will spend on that book will be wasted – and like you I don’t have all that free time to read, so I can’t squander it on stories that don’t give back anything.
    As for feeling guilty for not reviewing, on NetGalley, for example, there is the option of letting them know you will not be reviewing a given book, and why: in my opinion it’s still a way of letting the publisher and the author know what went wrong (for lack of a better word). It’s still a sort of review, and also a precious time saver… 🙂


  9. I really struggle with DNFing myself, not sure why, I think to me (in my silly head) it feels like quitting and I hate that. So it’s TOUGH for me. So even though there are a few books that I have DNFed over time it’s soooooo hard for me to even admit that I DNFed them lol. I’m weird. 😀
    I should probably get more comfortable with DNFing things! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find it really hard to dnf too, but I do think it feels liberating when you do it! I always feel guilty, but it’s so rare to find a book you go from hating to loving (and the only time I felt like I should read to the end, it was cos I’d been told it got better and still didn’t like the first one- it was only worth it cos the series got better) And I definitely relate to not having time to finish books I’m not enjoying too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been DNFing since I posted this and it feels great. Maybe I’m being a little too free with it, but even if it was one of those rare books that “gets better” it’s never “better enough” to outweigh the trudgery of the beginning.

      Besides- why read a book where only the second half was great when you could easily read a book where the whole of it was great?!


  11. Pingback: Month in Review: October 2019 | Hamlets & Hyperspace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s