I DNF a Book

I DNF a book. For those of you who don’t know what “DNF” means, it means I did not finish reading a novel. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.

For me, I rarely put a book down after I pick it up. Why? Because I feel like if I decided to read it, I need to finish it. Aside from needing to know how something ends, there is a societal pressure to finish everything you start, no matter what.

When I find myself dreading my current read, I always end up telling myself that the book will get better, that the plot will take off, that I’ll finally connect with everything and toughing it out will be worth it—and while that does happen, it happens far less than the book never working for me at all. Yet I still try to finish every book I start.


I think it has a lot to do with my personality. In fact, this “never give up!” mentality has affected me in other ways. When I was younger, for instance, I played tennis for three years without ever really liking it. I finally quit when my first book was published and I needed to dedicate more time to writing (not to mention a part-time job I took at a local sports bar). But I still feel HORRIBLE for quitting, even though, if I were being completely honest, I was awful at it. Eventually though, I had to come to the conclusion that my time was better suited elsewhere, that tennis was fun, sure, but it just wasn’t for me, and denying that was keeping that space on the team away from someone who truly wanted to be there.

Now I’m trying to be better about applying that life lesson to reading.

Just because you don’t finish reading doesn’t mean the novel is bad. It just means it’s not for you right now. It might resonate with you in three years, but it might not, and that’s okay. So why hold onto that library book that’s making you miserable when someone else could be checking it out and enjoying it? Why force yourself through a read when it’s depleting your joy for reading? Why not find a book you actually enjoy?

Of course, there’s a time and a place to force yourself through a read. (School, for example.) And I will always give a book a fair shot. According to Goodreads, I read 47% of the book I DNF. And, honestly, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was a fresh idea in a unique world, and it had interesting characters…but I just couldn’t. Why? I’m not entirely sure. In fact, I might never know why, just like I don’t know why tennis wasn’t my passion instead of writing, but at least I realized it wasn’t for me. (And I can always give it another shot in the future.) Until then though, I’m glad I returned it to the library so that someone else could check it out and enjoy it.

So here I am, not finishing a book this week, and setting a goal to be better about being honest with myself about books in the future.

DNF bad reader, DNF = honest reader.

And I’m ready to be more honest with myself, so that I can spend more time on books I thoroughly enjoy.


36 thoughts on “I DNF a Book

  1. I used to be the same, and then one day I picked up and ebook, it was award winning it claimed. There were so many grammatical errors, so many scenes that just didn’t quite work. It was a pity, the story was all there. After that I decided that time was short, I had loads of stuff I wanted to read and now if I really can’t get into a book I will not finish it.

    1. I could definitely see how a lack of grammar would make it easier to drop, since it would be so distracting. I’m trying to get better about moving on! Thank you for sharing your story!

      1. I don’t mind the odd gaff, but this was basic stuff, and in every sentence. It gets easier to drop books you’re not into, once you realise that you have a million more. And if you look at it this way- if you read a book you enjoy it’s better for you, and the author, in the long run- because you pass it on. Struggling through a book you don’t enjoy means you don’t get enjoyment out of it, and the author won’t benefit from it either, unless you leave feedback that helps them to grow as a writer. Even then it helps the author if you leave feedback as to why you didn’t finish it.

  2. I think school taught me that not every book is for me and I can step away. Probably not the best setting to learn that and it explains a few of my test scores. I think there’s only been a handful of books that I stopped reading. Usually due to it being far too frustrating to continue. For example, one book used a fictional language that required I keep flipping to the front for the pronunciation guide. Another book was written with characters always being referred to by their full name. Some of them had some really long ones too. Guess you can’t finish them all.

    1. Wow! I feel like my school taught us to never drop a book…then proceeded to hand us some of the hardest books I’ve ever read (when, I think, they should’ve been encouraging us to enjoy reading). And that is so funny that you bring up pronunciation guides. I loathe those. (Not for foreign languages, of course, but just for the world-building/characters/etc..) It gets out of hand.

      1. I would have loved a reading list to choose from instead of being given one with no choice. The nightly requirements were nuts at times, which is why I tended to skim for the basics and then read what I wanted. It worked decently until ‘Catcher in the Rye’. That one did me in.

        As a fantasy author, I’ve seen a lot of pronunciation guides. Seems everyone wants to be a linguist like Tolkien, but that man had both the gift and the training. He also used it correctly, which is where people go wrong. Having half a chapter written in Elven with very few context clues is just daring somebody to quit reading.

      2. Yeah, and when names are like Zzmklthy, I am immediately annoyed with the book. Granted, not everyone needs to be “Dan”, but at least make it readable.

      3. If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me about wacky names in my books, I’d never run out of promo money. To be honest, I don’t remember running into fantasy books with these odd names. Where did they come from?

      4. I think many writers think they have to have bizarre names and words for world-building to make their story believable – when, honestly, you can have names like “Dan” and still be in outer space fighting aliens.

      5. I can understand odd names for non-human characters, but there should be some consideration for the audience. Besides, there’s so many names in existence that it’s easy to find an odd one that can still be pronounced.

  3. I very, very rarely DNF books, but lately I’ve been thinking more and more about doing so. There are just so many books out there that I want to read and I have to be realistic about what little reading time I do have. I love what you point out at the end: putting a book down makes you an honest reader, not a bad one. Great post!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Holly! And I totally understand. This is the first book I’ve labeled “DNF” in forever. I can’t even remember the last time I did so, but I’m starting to think about my reading time, too, and it’s limited. I’d rather read more books I love, so that I can share them with other readers, than spend more time struggling to get through ones I don’t connect with. (But we will see! This is a new goal of mine. We will see what I do next time I stumble across a book I don’t connect with.)

  4. Sometimes choosing to DNF a book is the best thing you can do.

    There have been a few books that I’ve stopped reading and will never pick up again.

    There have been some other books that I actually went back to and read in full a few months or years after I first tried them.

    So much depends on where you are in your life and what you’re looking for. It’s totally okay to back away from something if it doesn’t appeal to you. 🙂

    1. Exactly! I might pick up this book that I DNF again. It wasn’t terrible, but it obviously wasn’t for me at this particular point in my life. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  5. I had this issue for years. I would force myself to finish books I couldn’t get into – even books I couldn’t stand – because I thought it was “the right thing to do.”

    I’m so glad I don’t do that anymore. It’s given me the liberty to decide what books get to take up my time, and which just aren’t for me. My To-Read list has become a fun sort of bucket list instead of a bothersome assignment I’ve given myself.

    Congrats on taking control of your own reading destiny! 🙂

    1. Thank you! It seems like such a simple concept – to read what you enjoy and to let go those books that you don’t – but there’s a lot of guilt associated with it when you love books. Thank you for sharing your story! It gives me hope that this is the right path to take more often.

  6. I feel you. Someone who reads as much as I do and blogs about it, I always read what’s trending for the year and sometimes, those books just aren’t for me. I always try to get through at least 20% before I DNF. I rarely DNF. But this year, I think I’ve had 3. All different subjects/genres/all YA. Usually when I DNF, I give reasons. For me, it’s the pacing is so slow and the subject is just NOT interesting. Or rambling for 40 pages. That kills me. I don’t have time or energy or space in my head to waste on books that are not satisfying or I don’t at least like. If this was economics, it wouldn’t be a problem. No one would judge you. Time is money. Blah blah blah.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your story! I rarely DNF, too. This was my first in forever. But I think that number might increase as I start to be more honest with myself. I most look forward to increasing my time for books I love.

    1. That is a difficult read! In high school I struggled with Heart of Darkness, then I had to study it in college, too. I always felt like I was pulling teeth, even though it’s such an important book.

  7. “Not for me” right now. That’s the important thing. I have a Goodreads shelf of abandoned books including authors such as Amy Tan and Andrew M. Greeley as well as acclaimed titles such as Perla and Escape from Camp 14. Sometimes I go back and finish. Sometimes I don’t. DNF also doesn’t mean it was a bad book.

    1. DNF should be NFM (not for me), right? 😀 Thank you for reading and commenting! I think there’s an important distinction between “didn’t finish because it’s not for me” and “didn’t finish because it’s a terrible book”, but the reading community seems to assume that if you don’t finish something, it’s because it’s bad. This is probably one of the reasons I always toughed out books – because I didn’t want those following my Goodreads to assume a book was bad because I put it down.

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