Bookish Discussion

All My Thoughts On DNFs

Hey everyone, it’s Sabrina!  In today’s post, I want to tell you everything I think about DNFing books, especially when it comes to why and when to do it.  I know it’s not the most original of posts, but I do think everyone is different when it comes to their decisions around DNFs, so I wanted to share mine (and hopefully hear about yours in the comments)!  Let’s get into it 🙂

DEFINITIONS

First of all, in case you don’t know, DNF stands for “did not finish”.  For me, I use this term no matter what stage of the book I got to before deciding I didn’t want to read it anymore – whether it was the first few pages or 75% in.  Another term I use is “on hold”, which is for books I have put down for now but truly want to get back to at some stage of my life.  (Have I ever actually gone back to the books I’ve put on hold?  Yes, but admittedly not as often as I’d like.)  Finally, I also talk about “enjoying” books.  In this post, when I say I wasn’t enjoying a book, it means I wasn’t getting anything out of it – I wasn’t having fun and I wasn’t learning anything.

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DISCLAIMER

I also want to add one disclaimer to this discussion:  I am writing this post from my own experience, which is that of someone who almost exclusively reads books from the library rather than purchasing them herself or requesting/receiving ARCs.  As such, there is no one monetarily or otherwise invested in me finishing the books I start.  I do think there is a time to DNF ARCs, but I am not talking about that today because I don’t have any experience with it.

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QUICK STATS

Since I started recording my reading in 2012:

🌿 I have DNFed 51 books

🌿 27 (53%) of those were after 2017

🌿 13 (25%) were this year alone

So, as you can probably tell by those numbers, I have become a lot better at putting books down that I am not fully enjoying over the years.  Sometimes I still struggle with the decision, because there are a lot of things to weigh up, but I guess what I always come back to is the fact that I am never going to have time to read every book that I want to, so there is very little purpose in continuing with one that I’m not enjoying or don’t see myself starting to enjoy.

REASONS

There’s several reasons why I might DNF a book – here’s a list of just a few:

🌿 I’m not liking the writing style

🌿 I’m feeling bored

🌿 The main character is annoying me too much

🌿 I’ve predicted a future plot twist or two

🌿 There is a dog that I’m worried for that keeps getting put in danger

Some of the reasons hold a greater weight than others.  For example, the writing style of a book is unlikely to drastically change over the course of the story, but the main character being annoying at the start could lead to some great development later on.   This also impacts when I decide to put down a book because I will often know within the first couple of chapters if the writing style isn’t going to work for me.

When it comes to feeling bored, these are cases where I might choose to skim through a book or read a few pages near the end to see how things progress instead of immediately DNFing. One strategy I tend to use a lot is skimming a book I’m bored by until I get to an exciting part, like an action scene or something with tension between the characters, and I will read that scene.  Sometimes I’ll then keep reading normally without realising and in this case, I won’t DNF the book at all.  Sometimes it’s not enough for me to become entertained again, and I will put the book down.

As for predicting the plot twists, there usually has to be some other glaring issues for this to be enough for me to DNF.  Even then, I will often check the end of the book to see if I was right, and if I wasn’t, I’ll keep reading.

IMPACTS

There are also outside forces that can either increase or decrease the chance of me putting a book down when they’re occurring simultaneously with one or more of the reasons I’ve listed above.  These are:

🌿 If I’m feeling in the mood for the genre

🌿 If the book is due back at the library soon

🌿 If I’m planning a blog post that involves the book

🌿 If I have other books out from the library that I want to read more

🌿 If the book is popular

🌿 If the book is particularly long or particularly short

🌿 If I haven’t read many books that month

When I’m reading a popular book, I usually stick with it for longer because I feel as though there must be a good reason that everyone loves it.  When a book is particularly short, I am more likely to see it through, because I don’t have to invest as much time in it.  When a book is particularly long I am more likely to DNF it when I’m in the first quarter and less likely to DNF it if I’ve made it past the halfway mark – again, because of the time investment.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I just want to be able to say I’ve read a certain amount of books in a month – for example, if it’s nearing the end of a month and I’ve so far read nine books, I will stick with a book I’m not enjoying just so that I can have read an even ten books.

One other impact that is harder to explain properly is sometimes if I have been reading a little bit of a single book every few days for over a week, I start to get tired of looking at it and DNF it so that I can feel a weight off my shoulders.  This only happens with books that are no longer in the running for making a 4 star rating from me, (which is honestly a pretty high bar).  Sometimes, it can feel like a book is dragging me down and holding me back so that DNF can be really important in jumpstarting my reading again.

RATING AND REVIEWING

To put it simply: I don’t rate books that I DNF.  Usually, I feel as though I haven’t read enough of the book to know what my rating would have been if I’d continued to the end – and hopefully you can see by my list of reasons and impacts on DNFing why that’s possible, particularly because a lot of them are so personal and not a reflection on the quality of the book at all.

Reviewing, or otherwise talking about the book, is a different story, because I can clearly explain what was working for me, what wasn’t, and the exact reasons why I decided to put the book down and move on to something else.


And that’s it!  All my thoughts on the process of DNFing a book!

What do you think?

Do you DNF?  What are some of your reasons for doing so – or not doing so?  Do you rate and review books you don’t finish?

13 thoughts on “All My Thoughts On DNFs

  1. I love reading (and writing) this type of self-analysis posts. And now I want to do something similar to find out all of the reasons why I DNF books 😀 Amazing post, hun!

    DNF was never a thing for me before I started the blog. If I picked up a book I’d always read it through and honestly, I don’t remember not liking the books I was reading.
    Currently with the blog, ARCs and tons of book recommendations, there is a very high chance that I’ll choose to read something that might not be for me only because it’s a hyped or popular book.

    Usually my two main reasons for DNFing are (1) writing style and (2) feeling uninterested or bored by the plot. This is usually something I can see from the beginning, but I try to give the book a fair try.
    And just like you, I don’t rate the books I DNF, but I don’t mind writing a review for them. 🙂

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  2. I try to DNF books more often, since there is no point in reading a book that I’m not enjoying.. Although I still struggle with it haha. ‘what is something good is going to happen if I read a little bit more?’
    I do think it is unfair to rate a book you DNF, since you have not read the full story! But I agree you can definietly review a DNF’ed book, since you have reasons for DNF’ing, and you can explain that!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

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  3. I will often put a book down, and then come back to it at a later date, especially if I’m just not feeling it in the moment. I very rarely DNF books (only 1 this year so far), as I tend to only read books that I think I will like.
    In saying that, you raise some really valid points too. I really enjoyed reading this!! 💕

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  4. I never DNF books, and to be honest, I wish I did! Like you I get most of my books from the library, so there really is no need for me to force myself to get through a book. I liked how you talked about skim reading, because I do that a lot. I may not DNF a book, but I may have skimmed completely through it that I barely know what it’s about LOL. I have to get my reading habits under control. Great post, Sabrina! I think wanting to DNF because a dog keeps getting into trouble is a perfectly valid reason.

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  5. Wow, it’s like you read my mind. I also get the majority books from my library so sometimes my only motivation to finish a book I DNF’d is, when the due date is soon 😂😂
    I don’t DNF many books( maybe 10 or 15% of what I read) but, you reasons are spot on. If the main character is annoying me I can’t continue because they carry the entire story and set the mood. Yes, why are dog always getting hurt and injured?!!! I don’t want to hear about it and will stop the book if a dog( or other animals) seem to be getting more intrigued than the main character and for now reason!
    I really enjoyed your writing style and just an overall Amazing post ❤️

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  6. “There is a dog that I’m worried for that keeps getting put in danger” This made me chuckle out loud hahaha (but also, I get it and it’s a totally valid reason 😩). I loved how in depth this was, Sabrina! I’m someone who doesn’t DNF books very often (not because I have trouble doing so, but because I’ve had pretty good luck in picking up books that interest me enough to finish them haha), so I find it really amazing how you’ve been able to DNF so many books this year! I can definitely relate to a lot of the points you made here, especially the ones about sticking it out longer for more popular books to understand the hype and not rating books you DNF 🙂. Really loved how you broke this discussion down 😄!

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  7. I also don’t DNF. In my mind it doesn’t seem fair to rate something I didn’t read. I don’t thing there’s a magic number that equates to part of book being the whole book. I have DNFed lots of ARCs and books I have purchased too. Time is a precious commodity, and there are too many things we don’t enjoy and must do. I refuse to keep reading/watching/doing something I choose to do and am not enjoying. Honestly, most of my DNFs have been because I am bored or they were too political and weren’t billed as political books. The political creep has gotten awful and I don’t want it in my recreational reading.

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  8. Ahhh I can totally relate to not wanting to read about dogs in danger. A while ago my mum put the film John Wick on and I made her turn it off as soon as the puppy got hurt at the start. I put a Disney Princess film on instead 😂 One of my favourite series actually has a dog death in it, which I knew before starting it, and it wrecked me. It’s the only time I’ve ever knowingly put up with anything like that.

    I know a lot of people would think a higher number of DNFs is a bad thing, but I think it’s actually a good reflection on knowing what you want to read. I know I got a lot happier with my reading when I started to be more ruthless about books I wasn’t enjoying.

    I loved reading about your process for DNFing, because it really is unique to everyone. I also put books “on hold” but there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve gone back to them, read one page, and just gone “it wasn’t my mood, it was the book” and DNFed instantly 😂 I think the only time I’ve successfully gone back to a book was with Six of Crows, because it did get interesting right after the point where I’d put it down. Have you had much success with any books you’ve picked back up?

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  9. I do DNF, but not as often as I should, honestly. I think part of the reason why I don’t do it more is because I haven’t figured out a way to get my DNF to still count on Goodreads without giving it a star rating of some sort (is there a way to do this?) and I don’t always feel like the DNF deserves a 1-star rating. Sometimes it wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t in the mood for this. But can I tell you how much I appreciate the fact that the safety of dogs goes into your DNF system?? I put down Girls of Paper and Fire because of the animal abuse at the very beginning and I’ve been too traumatized to pick it up ever since.

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  10. I have to admit, I literally never DNF books! Most of the time it’s not a problem, as I think I must not be overly picky, as I don’t often seem to read books I find myself really disliking. But occasionally I start reading a book and then get bored, but I feel like I have to finish it because I’ve started it, and otherwise I’ve wasted my time. So sometimes I wish I was better at DNFing, as I would actually waste less time if I just cut my losses on books I’m not enjoying.

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  11. i love thisss, i feel similarly! a lot of the DNF books i have are truly On Hold—i haven’t read one that i wouldn’t go back to at some point in time, it’s just that i’m not in the mood for this book. there’s one book i’ve been reading since february of this year and i haven’t picked it up in months due to its topic (psychology/trauma), but it’s SUCH a great book. love reading about the different reasons why ppl DNF!!

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  12. Great post! I totally agree with what you said! Personally, I don’t really DNF that many books, mostly because I’m used to forcing myself to suffer through a book no matter how much I’m not enjoying it, but I’ve gotten better about it recently!

    If I just start a book and see it’s not working within the first few pages, I just drop it and don’t consider it DNF since I never really started it in the first place. For other books, I agree about not giving a rating but giving your opinion. Great post!

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