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?