I seem to have stumbled upon a hot-button issue when I tweeted earlier today:
Based on some of the responses I received, DNFing is a thing to be both feared and desired.
So… the dreaded Did Not Finish….
Why do we avoid it? When do we embrace it? When is it just absolutely necessary?
For me, I used to be a big believer in Just Finish The Damn Book. I kind of prided myself (in my young & foolish days) on always finishing whatever I started.
But now that I’m older and wiser (or really, just older and busier), I just can’t justify taking the time when I know — I mean, really KNOW — that a book just isn’t happening for me.
Different emotions apply in different circumstances. Take my two most recent DNFs:
In the case of the first, I was reading a review copy of an upcoming YA novel. It was… just okay. I thought it sounded like fun, but the writing didn’t grab me, the plot wasn’t terribly believable, and by about the halfway point, I realized that I didn’t care. Would it get better within the next few chapters? I peeked ahead about 25 pages. Nope, still didn’t care. Would it at least have a great ending? Skipped to the final pages. Nope, still didn’t care. And what’s worse — it didn’t actually end! On the final page, it became clear that this book was the first in a series. Oh, hell to the no! That was all it took for me to put the book aside.
Still, I did feel a bit remorseful, as I’d requested the ARC and have been trying my best to read and review everything I’ve requested. I did do what I thought was right in this circumstance: I sent feedback to the publisher explaining that I wouldn’t be reviewing the book because it wasn’t a good fit for me. I have featured the book in a few “hey, look what I’ve got!” type of posts, so in my own meager little way, I have helped spread the word. And, although I mentioned in that week’s Monday Agenda post that I didn’t finish and why, I tried to make it clear that the book would certainly appeal to some readers — it just wasn’t for me.
All in all, I walked away from it feeling a bit let down over not liking a book that I thought would be fun — but I wasn’t at all sorry not to finish the book itself.
In my most recent DNF scenario, my feelings are a bit more complicated. I bought a book by an author I admire — in fact, I preordered the book months ago, and was so excited to get my shiny new hardcover edition as soon as it was released! I’ve read everything by this author, and either loved, really liked, or mostly liked all of her previous books. But this one? Well. Today, I reached page 150, and just kind of sighed and moaned and then realized — that’s it. The plot has gone nowhere. There are so many made-up words that I feel like I need a glossary. The world-building is incomplete and not terribly comprehensible. Really, to be blunt, I’ve come this far, and I just don’t care. So I face a choice: Push onward, or quit?
If you’d asked me 10 years ago, then of course the answer would be: Onward! But I can’t really think that way any more.
I work, I’m a mom, I read tons, and I blog. I also try to have a bit of time for goofing off, hanging out with my family, watching TV, and kicking back.
Life’s too short to read books I don’t like!
So with this current book, I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a DNF, again. This one really breaks my heart a little bit, both a) because I bought the &*^%$ hardcover! and b) because I’d been looking forward to it so much.
I’m putting it aside — for now? — and moving on. Perhaps the mood will strike me in another week or two and I’ll go back to it and finish. But I doubt it. (PS – I cheated a bit and started reading Goodreads reviews once I hit the wall today — and nothing I read made me feel like I should reconsider or give it another go.)
The DNF issue seems to be a big one for a lot of readers. Press on? Give up? Is it failure to DNF? Is it a lack of commitment? Or is it a gift to yourself (as I’ve come to feel) to acknowledge that your time would be better spent on something else?
Sometimes, it’s just the mood. This book isn’t working for me right now, but maybe another time. Sometimes, it’s the book itself: I can’t stand the writing. I don’t like the characters. I realize that I’m just not interested in xyz.
Whatever the case, I always want to feel like I gave a book my best shot… but I’m not too proud (or for me, stubborn is probably a better word for it!) to walk away when it’s time to move on.
Charleen at Cheap Thrills wrote an excellent piece on How To DNF in Two (Not-So-Simple) Steps. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to finish a book that, in your heart of hearts, you just don’t want to read any more, then definitely check out her advice!
So, how about you? Do you force yourself to finish a book even if you’re not enjoying it? Has your attitude toward the dreaded DNF changed over time? How do you approach the decision to put a book aside, and is it hard for you? And do you find yourself going back to your DNF pile — or are you more of a “if I’m done, I’m done” kind of reader?
As for me, I think I experienced a semi-epiphany the day that I first gave myself permission to stop reading a book that wasn’t working for me, and while I don’t do it often, I do happily feel that DNF is a valid choice… and certainly one that has saved me hours and days of unhappy reading.
And happy reading? That’s what it’s all about.