Why I Don’t DNF (But I Probably Should)

26/10/2019 Discussions, Reading 17

Since joining the book blogging community, the acronym ‘DNF’ is something I’ve become aware of, meaning ‘did not finish’. But is it weird, that until then it had never really occurred to me to do that? To just stop reading a book and move on? I literally can’t think off the top of my head of any fiction book I’ve ever started and not finished, even if I wasn’t really enjoying it.

Even now that I know ‘DNFing’ is a thing that you can do, and that loads of people do it (I’m not going to be arrested by the book police or anything!), I just can’t seem to abandon a book once I start reading it. I mean, I have no problem with the idea of giving up on a book you’re not enjoying. In fact, it makes total sense. But somehow I can’t seem to do it myself, and sometimes I think that’s a bad thing?

I have a few theories as to why I can’t seem to DNF:

  • I’m not overly picky.

I think one of the biggest reasons I don’t DNF, is simply that I’m not majorly picky with my reading. There’s not many books I’ve started reading that have genuinely been that bad that I’ve felt that it would be a real struggle to finish it.

Sure, there have been books I’ve enjoyed more than others, and ones that in an ideal world I probably wouldn’t have wasted my time on. But I feel like a book would have to be truly terrible for me to give up on it completely, and I can’t think of a book where I’ve felt that badly about it.

  • I would feel like I’d wasted time if I started a book and didn’t finish it.

Another major reason why I think I don’t DNF, is because once I start a book I already feel like I’ve invested my time, and I don’t want to have wasted it.

Now I’m well aware that this logic is majorly flawed. I in fact end up wasting more time reading entire books that I’m not totally loving than I would by starting a book and then quitting… But I just can’t seem to give up once I start!

  • I’m always hoping the book will redeem itself.

I also think that I don’t DNF because I feel like I can’t fully judge the book unless I’ve finished it. Maybe I’m bored in the first half, but what it the second half gets really really good and I miss out on it? Or perhaps I’m not immediately jelling with the characters, but the plot makes it worthwhile?

I just never want to miss out on anything by stopping too early, especially once I’ve made the aforementioned time investment by starting reading.

In my head, all three of these reasons are valid, and perhaps it isn’t a problem if I’m not reading any books bad enough to make me seriously consider DNFing. But sometimes I feel like I should start DNFing books that I’m not totally loving, so I can devote times to books that I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed.

I know that not every book you read is going to be your favourite book ever, but there’s so many books out there to read that wasting time on so-so books that I’m not excited about seems like a big waste of time.

So what do you think? Do you DNF books often, or literally never do it? What things would make you decide to DNF?

17 Responses to “Why I Don’t DNF (But I Probably Should)”

  1. Mimi

    Hey Laura,

    first of all, I didn’t know about the acronym “DNF”, so thanks for explaining. Actually, I don’t DNF either, for exactly the same reasons as you. I like most books I’m reading, and even if I don’t, I still hope that the book will redeem itself. Oh, and I absolutely understand what you mean by saying that stop reading a book would be a waste of time – that’s exactly what I think, too. 😀

    So, we seem to be very like-minded when it comes to this. 🙂

    Kind regards from Germany,

    • Laura

      We definitely do seem to be very like-minded on this! I see so many people talking about DNFing books, that I wondered if it was just me who couldn’t ever seem to give up on a book, so I’m glad it’s not 🙂

  2. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Damn, I’m like the opposite of you. I’ve become brutal with DNF-ing of late. I’ve had such problems with reading and falling into slumps that I simply don’t have the time to waste on a book I’m not enjoying. Sometimes I can tell it’s my mood ruining a book and place it to one side for another day but if I can tell I’m struggling to get into or I’m bored then it is going to go. I am trying to clear off the unread books on my shelves, though. I think that has kind of made me be brutal.

    For me, DNFing is brilliant. I hope to fall into fewer slumps and hopefully, in a few months, I’ll have clearer bookshelves so I can start moving some new books in. I know it’s not for everyone though.

    • Laura

      Being brutal is probably a good thing. Logically I agree that reading books you’re not enjoying is a waste of time, so sometimes I think I should probably be more brutal with my own reading.
      I’m glad it’s helping you clear up your bookshelves! 🙂

  3. Angela

    I DNF often – if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’t want to spend more hours on it. I agree, there’s always a chance it could get better, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take!

    • Laura

      The ‘not wanting to spend more hours on it’ thing makes total sense, so I don’t know why I can’t seem to DNF!

  4. Veronika @ Wordy and Whimsical

    I used to never DNF, but I’ve become, well, better at giving up on things that don’t interest me. (That said, it’s valid that you don’t want to DNF books!) Even so, I rarely DNF – a book has to be failing on every single level for me to give up on it. And I have RULES, haha, I have to at least get to 25% and only then can give up. I think I DNF-ed like, up to 3-5 books this year? Which is a pretty low number considering that I’ve read over 120 books so far.

    I more often decide to start to skim-read a book – which is something I’d recommend trying if you really-really dislike a novel – than full on DNF it, because I tend to be curious about the ending. This way I get through the book super-fast, but I still find out what else is going to happen, and I can even start reading normally again if the book gets better. 🙂

    Great post!

    • Laura

      I like your DNF rules! It sounds fair to at lest get to 25%, so you can see if it improves. And I like the idea of skim reading a book if you’re not overly enjoying it. I may have to try that! 🙂

  5. Sam@wlabb

    Your optimism, thinking the book will improve, is the one thing that sometimes niggles at me. I worry, that I gave up too soon. This especially happens, when I see people raving about a book. In the same way you feel as though you have wasted time not finishing the book, I would feel I wasted time by pushing through, just to not enjoy it. I also don’t have a long string of DNFs. Maybe, like you, I am not that picky, but I also think it’s because I am good at knowing what I would like, and I am not easily offended.

    • Laura

      I think I’m the same in that I’m good at picking things I’ll like, and I don’t think I’m easily offended either. So I don’t generally want to DNF much anyway, thankfully! 🙂

    • Laura

      Skim reading to the end of a book is such a good idea! I may start doing that when I’m not enjoying a book that much, since I can never seem to DNF.

  6. Olivia Roach

    I definitely relate to those last two on the list so much. I mostly get too far and then think, well, I might as well finish! And I’ve come across quite a few books where I have enjoyed the second half way more than the first, so I always worry that will happen!

    • Laura

      That’s definitely happened to me before too, where I’ve enjoyed the second half of a book a lot more than the first. So that’s always in the back of my mind, and is another reason I struggle to DNF.

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