To DNF Books or Not To DNF Books? That Is The Question

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I have this strong habit of finishing everything that I start because not finishing something just really annoys me and always ends up nagging at the back of my mind for a long time. Basically, I am really bad at sweating the small stuff, which is why I rarely DNF books. It’s just something that bothers me to no end. However, there are also a lot of underlying reasons that stem from this.

Part of the reason I don’t DNF books is that from experience I’ve learned that while some books may not start off that great, these books can often end up having a stunning middle or ending. Sometimes, I even find that after finishing a book, I like it more than I did from the first impression I gained at the start of the book. I believe that every book deserves a fair chance and a thorough reading, and I know that if I ever become a published author, I would want readers to give my book a complete read before putting it down or judging it.

Additionally, I often choose my books very wisely, so as to avoid DNF’ing books. I love to plan and analyze every little detail when I make any decisions, including what book to read. Therefore, I can usually avoid books that I wouldn’t like.

Some bloggers and readers DNF books if they don’t like the books because they want to create more time for reading other books that they might like better. I totally understand this reasoning, but at the same time, if I started a book I already invested a lot of  time in it, so why not just finish reading it? Also, starting but not finishing a book makes me feel like I didn’t use my time wisely. That’s just me, though.

However, I do in rare circumstances, DNF books. This only happens when I’m either really disgusted by the book or it has really inappropriate content. Fortunately, this does not happen often.

What about you? Do you DNF books? If so, why? If not, why? 

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39 thoughts on “To DNF Books or Not To DNF Books? That Is The Question

  1. I rarely not finish books, because like you said, it nags at me. And I normally only read one book at a time, so I just plow ahead desperately 🙂 If I’m not super invested in a book yet, I normally skim until I reach a) a part I love or b) the end. I can skim really really quickly (unfortunate side effect of taking literature in school), so I don’t really treat it as time wasted. And I don’t want to judge a book by its beginning, but as a whole, and I can’t do that unless I’ve read the entire thing.

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    1. Yep, it’s just something about my personality that makes unfinished things nag at me incessantly. I skim, too, sometimes, but only if it’s a really disturbing part of the book, which doesn’t happen often because I pick my books carefully. Exactly! It’s not fair to judge a book just from the beginning.

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  2. I’ve been working on this lately. In the past I felt that I had to finish every book that I began, or else, like you mentioned, the time I had already invested would have gone to waste. However, I am reading so many books these days that I am trying to train myself into a balanced routine for skipping and moving on. I will generally try to read at least one third of the book before giving up. If I can’t move on from there, I’ll either skim through the rest or read a detailed synopsis on the internet. I still try to avoid giving up because I’ve had experiences in which I absolutely abhorred a book until the very end when suddenly its final paragraph was so brilliant that it found its way onto my favorites list (*COUGH*Middlemarch*COUGH*). Like you, I usually only throw it away when I am extremely bored or feel that the book is inappropriate.

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    1. I would like to be able to DNF books that I don’t think are worth my time, but it just really nags at me. I feel like if I start DNF’ing books that aren’t worth my time I won’t even be reading books anymore because I’ll be DNF’ing them all the time. And like you said, sometimes I hate a book until the end, which might blow me away. I really want to read Middlemarch, so I’m glad you liked it, even if it was only at the end.

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  3. Hmm…this is a really interesting question Ana! Obviously, I try and finish as many books as I can, but if there’s a book that I can immediately tell isn’t working for me then I DNF it. However, like you said, it sometimes is a risk / reward situation because there’s always the chance of having the book improve after the point you choose to finish it at. Thanks for sharing and, as always, wonderful, thought-provoking discussion! ❤

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  4. Great question Ana, I enjoyed your exploration of why you don’t DNF books. Before I started reviewing, I used to never DNF books because I thought well I’m already invested it, why should I stop now? Or maybe it will get better later on? These days, I think a lot of bloggers DNF books if they have a huge ARC/review pile because of time. If you really not enjoying a book and it is causing a reading slump, it’s probably better for everyone if you DNF it so you can move onto the next one that you enjoy. Surprisingly, I think DNFing a book will actually give it a better review than if you read through it and gave it 1 star, because it annoyed you so much lol.

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    1. I haven’t actually started requesting ARCs for review copies for publishers, so I don’t have a huge pile of books that I absolutely have to read. I could see how that would be a problem, though. Maybe I’ll finally come to terms with DNF’ing books if I ever get review copies from publishers. I don’t think I would ever rate a DNF’ed book, so I suppose in that sense it could be better than reading through and writing a horrible review.

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  5. I know that there are a lot of people out there who finish everything they start, but that is totally not something I could do. Unless it’s for school, I don’t want to deal with that. The attempt for a lot of people is to learn from it, but if I’m dissatisfied, then I don’t really want to spend a lot of time lingering on my dissatisfaction. I would rather work with positive examples and find out what I hate within that realm than simply spend the whole time disliking the book. :/ It’s a narrow road.

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    1. The preference toward DNF’ing books that aren’t likeable seems to be the overall consensus in the comments section here. I think it would be a lot better to deal with positive examples and find out what is I hate by comparing it to better examples, but it annoys me when I don’t finish things.

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  6. Great question, Ana! It’s definitely worth thinking about. For me, I guess I don’t finish books sometimes because I simply don’t have the time to spare anymore. With my two jobs, writing, painting, photography and full time work as a college student, I have to choose my fiction carefully because my free time is precious. One book I didn’t finish recently was Serena, which was I reading because a movie with Jennifer Lawrence is coming out – I just found it too dry.

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    1. Oh, wow! You really don’t have time. I’m only in high school and I don’t have a job, let alone TWO jobs. I could see how you might not finish books that you don’t like, but like you said, it’s also important to choose books carefully to ensure that you don’t have to DNF any books.

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  7. I didn’t use to DNF books. However, now that I’ve got wider access to books and less time, I don’t read books if I’m not enjoying them. I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to DNF books, though! And you raised a good point about books getting better as you read more. For instance, I struggled with the beginning of Les Miserables. It was *very* slow going. but I persevered at the recommendation of a fellow blogger and I’m glad I did! Ultimately, there are pros and cons both ways.

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    1. It seems like a lot of people have grown to be okay with DNF’ing books. Maybe I’ll get there one day, but for now, it still nags at me. Wow, you read Les Mis? I’m impressed. I want to read it someday, but it’s so daunting. I’ve heard it was slow in the beginning, but it’s a good thing that you stuck it out and were able to benefit from the good parts.

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  8. I never DNFed books before I started blogging. I was a book finisher! Even if I really hated a book, I finished it. Nowadays, I do DNF more frequently, but I hate doing it. Either a publisher sent me a book (and I hate letting them down) or I bought it (in which case it feels like a waste of money). DNFing is something I would like to get more comfortable doing in the future, though. Awesome post as always, Ana!

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    1. I hate doing it as well, even if it’s really gruesome or disturbing or something. Oh, yea. If a publisher sent me a book that I request I really would not want to DNF it because I would feel so bad. Books need a fair chance if someone is going to review them. And I hope to never DNF a book that I bought because like you said, it does feel like a waste of money. I would like to get more used it as well. Thanks!

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  9. YES I WILL DNF A BOOK if I really cannot go through with it anymore. Although I’ve only DNFed one book in my career of book blogging, oh wait two books, it was because I hated it and couldn’t go on. I would probably still read a boring book, but not any that I HATE. Also, I’m good with choosing books to read, so there’s that too.

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  10. I’m just like you, I rarely ever DNF because I feel like I can’t write a good review unless I get a better picture of the overall story. On the rare occasion that a book is so horrible that I want to chuck it across the room, I will give it to 10 chapters minimum before I say no more 😛

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  11. There was a time when I HATED to mark a book as DNF. I forced myself to finish just about everything I started. But then I realized how much time I was wasting reading books that I thought were bad. And my TBR keeps growing. Ha. If I receive an ARC, I will do my best to finish it. I think there has only been one or two ARC that I haven’t been able to finish. Generally though, I will give a book 50 pages or three chapters, whichever comes first. 🙂

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    1. That’s exactly what I do! I force myself to finish every single book I start. This makes my TBR pile less manageable of course, but I just can’t DNF a book. I haven’t received any ARCs yet, but I think if I do receive an ARC I want to be able to finish it so that I can review it fairly.

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  12. I am definitely a DNFer. I used to try to finish everything, but I’m a mood reader, so if I’m not into the book anymore, it quickly becomes a chore. And I don’t want reading to be a chore. So I started DNFing more – mostly when I’m really not liking a book, or something is bugging me SO much I can’t ignore it, or I discover I really don’t care what happens next. If I don’t feel a book is going to get better, I DNF. And it’s made me a much happier reader.

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  13. I do DNF some books and I more now then earlier. While I like to think I am carefull with deciding which books to read, soemtiems I start a book and it just doens’t work for me. I know some books get better later on, I even remember one book I considered DNF’ing and then ended up loving it, but when I struggle through a book and ti shwos no sign of improvement I consider DNFïng. Life’s too short to read bad books, so sometimes I think it’s better to DNF and start a book you do enjoy than to push through a book you’re not enjoying. However I always find making the descision to DNF very difficult and always feel a bit bad as well.

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    1. That seems to be the general pattern around here. A lot of bloggers used to never DNF books, but have slowly gotten used to DNF’ing books when necessary. Hmm…reading books with a really different style from what you’re used to can be really weird. Sometimes that weird is good, and sometimes it’s bad. I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad-weird book, but I have read a good-weird book, We Were Liars.

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  14. I DNF some books – my most recent one was Inkheart. It really depends how far through the book I am. If I don’t feel I’ve spent too much time on it, then I have no problem DNFing usually, but if I’ve read quite a bit of it I feel an urge to finish, even if I don’t enjoy it that much.

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    1. I do the same. Even if I don’t enjoy a book that much, but I’ve already invested a lot of time in it and read a lot of it, I push through and finish it. If I’m so close to the end I don’t see a reason not to finish it just because I might not completely connect with the book.

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  15. I used to NEVER DNF a book, but now I do it occasionally. I agree that often books get much better as they go on. Usually I only DNF a book now if the writing just isn’t great (usually this happens with a self-pubbed book) or, rarely, if the style just isn’t for me. I was recently reading a book that was written in this elevated sort of language and was so incredibly weird. I got 65 pages in and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Had to put it down.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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