To DNF or to not DNF?

To finish a book or not? That is the question.

Not all the time, that is, but sometimes you find yourself not fully getting into a book and wonder if it’s really worth your time to finish reading it. Some of us have no qualms about not finishing (or in book speak, DNFing) a book, while others will force their way through to finish. 

I Used to Be the Finisher

I used to be the latter – no matter what, I had to finish a book, even if I hated it. I think that mindset kind of got into me in school because of the required reading for my English Lit classes. That, and I just wanted to be that person who finishes every book they read. I didn’t think at the time that it was okay to not finish a book. After all, the author put a lot of work into their book, so I could at least extend the courtesy of reading the entire thing.

It might come down to money, for some people. I also used to figure that if I spent the money on a book (or if my parents bought it for me) I should read it all the way through. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money, isn’t it? Or if it was a gift, you might want to read it all the way through in case you’re asked about it. That hasn’t happened to me, but you know, it’s a possibility.

And of course, there’s just the sense of accomplishment that makes us want to finish a book. Then you can see that book in a library or hear it mentioned on a television show and be like, “oh, I read that!” Not to mention, if you don’t finish a book, you don’t know how it ends. Sure, you could peek at the end, but then you miss the journey in between. That usually makes it worth sticking through to the end, because even if the book was dragging before, maybe the middle and end are better.

Now, When I Have to DNF, I DNF

In recent years, I find that I don’t have any guilt about not finishing a book. That’s not really to say I don’t feel bad when I don’t finish a book, but I don’t dwell on it. What I’ve come to realize over the years is that life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying. After all, people have no issues with ditching a movie or television show they’re not enjoying… why can’t the same be said for a book?

When it comes to DNFing a book, I have one major guideline and that’s “Am I really enjoying this?” If a book hasn’t pulled me in by the time I’m about 20% of the way through, then it usually goes. I won’t say it’s every time I ditch it around then, if I feel like the story will get better, I’ll keep going. There just comes a time when I know a book isn’t right for me, so I leave it. Besides, there are so many books in this world that I want to read… why should I waste time on one that I’m not enjoying?

Another major tell for me is if I don’t pick up the book for a while because I don’t care about whether I read it or not… or I feel dread about picking it up again. If you’re feeling dread just from thinking about picking a book up to keep reading, then you know you have to drop it like a hot potato. There have been times I’ve felt like that, or that the book wasn’t interesting enough for me to want to pick it back up and get back into the story. That’s when it hits me – why should I waste my time trying to get into this book that I’m obviously not into when I could be reading a book I’ll love?

And that right there, my friends, is why I started to DNF books.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to DNFing books or finishing them, I don’t judge either way. Some people do have the need to finish every book they start, and I totally respect that. Again, I used to be one of those people. I should add that when I DNF a book, sometimes it’s because I’m just not in the right mood for it. It could be a book that’s right up my alley and I have a feeling I’ll love it, but my head just isn’t in the right space to read it. Those are the books I’ll put back into my TBR pile and give it another shot. 

And you know what? Sometimes when I’ve given a book a second chance, I’ve been right about my instinct and loved the book after all.

So, to DNF or to not DNF? What is your answer? Do you finish every book you read or do you cast it away if you’re not feeling it?

7 thoughts on “To DNF or to not DNF?

  1. Peter Martuneac says:

    There’s one book I did not finish a long time ago, and I really regret it because I’ve been trying to find it ever since! I don’t remember why I put it down, and I don’t remember the author or the title, all I remember is the general idea of the first couple chapters and it sounds really intruiging.

    I ask small bookshop owners everywhere I go if they’ve heard of it, no dice!

    Liked by 1 person

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