“Thoughts On” is a feature where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous topics, click here.

Today I want to talk about the dreaded DNF and why I love not finishing books.

Some readers (like my mom) finish everything they start, but to me, that sounds kind of exhausting. Like, if I’m not enjoying a book, why do some people think it’s weird that I stop reading it? It’s not weird, okay! DNFing is glorious and so extremely satisfying, y’all. Removing something off my tbr shelf after I’ve only put in a fraction of the effort it should have taken? MUAH.

Not all DNFs are created equal, though. Below are three of my most common reasons for putting down a book.

The “this book is garbage!” DNF

Ugh where to even start with this? Some part of these books are just so absolutely terrible that you have trouble coming up with a reason for how they were even published. Whether you want to throw the book across the room because of the writing, tone, characterization, language, tropes, or content (etc etc), your biggest takeaway is ‘who are the people giving this book five stars?!’

If you do decide to keep reading, you hate tweet, take copious notes, and fill your Goodreads review with examples. You may or may not bring up this book as the worse book you’ve ever read. You probably curse yourself for finishing and hope that next time, you’ll bail at the first sign of trouble.

Examples: Vox by Christina Dalcher, This Is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Meagle

The “this isn’t for me” DNF

This kind of book is tricky because, while you weren’t enjoying yourself—the story was boring or you found a narrative technique a little too irritating—you can still understand why other readers might love the very things you didn’t. Maybe this book comes highly recommended or everyone on the bookternet is raving about it (sometimes years later!), but then you remember that the mere thought of having to spend hours and hours in order to finish just makes you cringe and you decide it’s probably for the best that you DNF’d in the first place.

Examples: Whisper Network by Chandler Baker, A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

The “not right now” DNF

Maybe your library copy is due back or something came up and you realize you spent weeks (or even months!) letting this book gather dust. Maybe you can’t even remember what you’ve read so far or you need to take a break from the genre or this author or that kind of story. Whatever the reason, you’ve started a book and have every intention of finishing—really! you do!—just not right now. So, you save your place and move on.

Example: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

So tell me…

  • which DNF camp do you fall into: pro or con?
  • do you agree with my reasoning (or even my example titles)?
  • before you knew what DNF meant, what’s the one book you should have thrown in the trash and never looked back?

2 thoughts on “Thoughts On: DNFing

  1. I’m one of those weird people who never DNFs! Although I don’t know if it’s just that I’m not that picky, or if I’ve just got really good at picking books I’ll like, but I can’t remember the last time I read anything I disliked enough to not finish it. I totally get why people do though, because if you’re not enjoying a book it seems like a waste of time to finish it when you could be reading something else you will enjoy.
    Great post! :)

    Like

    1. The more I read, the better I get at figuring out if I really care about a book, but I’ve also noticed that I dnf more when I force myself to read—e.g. an arc or a different genre because I feel like my readers will be bored if I post reviews of the same “type” of book.

      I think it’s great that you don’t dnf! If only my brain was that good at finding books to read! 😄

      Like

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