Discussion: Reading Habits — The Fine Art of DNF-ing


Last year, I finally started really DNF-ing books. Not like I was looking to do this. I mean, obviously when we start reading a book, we hope to FINISH the book, not give up in frustration. But for me, I was always one of those people who felt like they HAD to finish reading something, even if it was terrible, poorly written, had awful characters, or all of the above.

For the most part, I find that I’ll skim through a book before I DNF it. I think there’s part of me that thinks the end will redeem the book. Of course, by the time I get to the end of the book I’m just so relieved to have finished it that I probably could’ve DNF-d it and had the same results.

So, what makes me DNF a book? A few things (and these definitely aren’t all of the things!).

  • A plot that goes nowhere. I want something FAST-PACED and EXCITING. Even if it’s a drama-type of a book, it still needs to be moving. If it starts to drift and get really slow, I’m more tempted to put it down and never pick it back up.
  • Too many characters. This is especially bad if it’s a series. I like WELL-DEVELOPED characters, not tons of characters. I want the story to excited me through the STORY, rather than through a whole bunch of people I can’t remember.
  • Poor editing. When a story is missing quotation marks, switches from first- to third-person, or just has not-so-realistic wording or dialogue, I get frustrated.
  • Cliched characters. I’ve noticed this happens a lot in the YA or New Adult genre. And, I guess, in the romance genre. I want your characters to be DIFFERENT. Make them stand out!

Usually, if I’m about 50 to 100-pages into a book and I put it down, never wanting to pick it back up, most likely I’ll mark it as a DNF. A book has to have something in it to want me to come back. I’ve had some books that I’ve put down due to lack of time to read them, but I’m still super excited to get back to them. There are other books that I put down and could take or leave them.

For me, DNF-ing a book really is a hard thing. Like I said, I’m still more likely to skim through a book than to DNF it, but when I think about it, there’s not a huge difference between the two. I should want to read ALL THE WORDS rather than skim through them all — or not read them at all.

What makes you DNF a book? Are there some books you’ll force your way through anyway?Β 



31 thoughts on “Discussion: Reading Habits — The Fine Art of DNF-ing

  1. I have a really hard time DNFing a book. In fact, the only one is Ulysses. That one was DNF’d because even after over 100 pages in, I still had no idea what the heck was going on. I felt like I was reading about someone on an opium trip or something and nothing made sense to me, so I realised it was probably best just to stop and read something else.

  2. I used to hate Deming any book, but then I started my blog and there were books coming out of my ears and I really felt that if I was opening myself to read books that I might not have previously considered I owed it to myself to not have to finish all the ones that may not be for me. So now I do DNA a handful a year of the editing is really poor or I really can’t connect etc.

    • Oh, editing is a huge one for me. In fact, I have a sequel to a book that had horrible editing. I managed to get through it but it was horrible. I’m scared to see what the second one is like! It’s hard when you’re reading something and can’t get lost in the story because all you want to do is correct everything.

  3. I used to finish book no matter what, even if it took me weeks. But now with all the books that are out there I’m more selective for sure.
    I mostly DNF if the book is completely boring, or if I can’t connect to the characters at all and they annoy me, or I can’t understand what the point of the book is at all. I had one like that recently.
    I try 50-100 pages as well, but if there’s nothing I like I will put it down. I haven’t DNFd too many this year, I think two, but I’m hoping I won’t have to do anymore.

    • Those are great reasons for DNFing a book! And I do agree that you have to give a book a chance of at least 50-100 pages. If you’re DNFing after a chapter, then maybe it still might be worth a go.

  4. I’m revisiting some DNF books this year. So far I re-read The English Patient and LOVED IT SO MUCH. When I first read it, I didn’t have a clue what was happening, which is my main reason for DNFing… if I find myself re-reading sentences, paragraphs, pages to figure out what is going on it’s frustrating (sometimes I don’t mind doing that. If the writing is good in other ways, say, poetic, beautiful, interesting, I will work harder to figure out the story.) I also DNF when not in the mood, for whatever reason. Very rare though. A lot of my DNFs were when I was younger. Since reading with more purpose (i.e. starting the blog) I try to finish what I start.

    • Gosh, I need to try The English Patient … I’ll have to pick that one up in July, too! I have a few unread Ondaatje’s on my shelf.

      I’ve definitely DNFed when I’m not in the mood. There are a few books I’ve just put down halfway through and never picked up again (Suite Francais and The Historian being two of them). I wanted to read them both, but just never found the time to pick them up again.

      I think that when I try to be more mindful about what I’m reading I’m more likely to finish a book. Back when I started blogging I’d be determined to finish reading a book even if I was hating it! I’m glad I grew out of that …

  5. Ugh, I’m horrible at DNFing books. I seem to always finish a book, even ones I’m not enjoying, no matter how long it takes me. I will often start and finish other books in the meantime, but I will always finish that “bad” book. There’s a part of me that keeps thinking, “it’s got to get better”, or, “maybe the ending will make it worth it”, or I’m just a sucker for punishment. I also used to feel that since an author went to all the work and time to write the book, then I at least owed it to them to finish it. But time is so short and I’ll never get around to reading all the books I want to, so why do I do this to myself?!

    • Ha ha … I definitely do that! But I’m trying to get back in the mindset of life being too short and do I really want to read something that sucks? And of course, now that I have a little one I want to be sure that I’m reading something I actually enjoy!

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  7. I actually only recently learned how to let go and DNF a book! I really have a hard time not seeing stories through to the end, so like you, I tend to skim and see what happens to everyone by the last page. There are just some books that really don’t click for me, and I’m slowly learning how NOT to be guilty about DNF-ing.

  8. It’s always a difficult decision for me! I always want to keep reading and see if it will get better but some books I start and just realize the writing style is not for me, so why push myself to finish a book that I’m just already not enjoying? Or if things are just lackluster, I keep waiting for something to happen, but I don’t want to wait forever. And even if something happens, does that really “make up for” the beginning?
    I’ve gotten better at DNFing BUT I also feel like, is that a good thing? That I’m willing to abandon books so easily? I guess the answer is yes. I may be able to finish those books and mark them two or three stars, but (wow, this sounds bad), I don’t want to force myself to finish if I’m not enjoying the book just to have a rating. There are soooo many books out there that I want to spend time with four and five star books and REALLY enjoy them.
    The way I see it is, if I wasn’t a blogger and I was reading just for me like I used to, I wouldn’t care in the slightest if I didn’t finish a book. I would put it down and find a better one. I guess isn’t that what I should be thinking about?
    Excellent post! Always interesting discussing DNFs! πŸ™‚

    • Exactly, there are SO many books out there! Why spend time reading something that makes you wish for more, that has you waiting to see if maybe the next chapter will make up for the first pages you’ve read? I’d rather just part ways and then start something I might love.

      The blogging issue is an interesting one. I always feel like I should finish a book, because I’m documenting it on Goodreads or on the blog. But I also think that if I weren’t blogging, I would probably have no issues putting it down.

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  10. I’ve only ever DNFd one book and felt like DNFing about two, but instead I sort of skim read them. I feel like if I’ve invested x amount of time in a book, I should finish it and find out what happens! But I get that same feeling of OH THANK GOODNESS THIS IS OVER that you talked about, haha. So maybe a full-on DNF would be better but hey.
    My reasons to DNF or feel-like-DNF are pretty much the same as yours, but sometimes it’s just not definable. I’ll think a book is fine but when I put it down I find that I do not have the desire to ever pick it up again …. which is kind of odd and sad at the same time.

    • It’s definitely sad. Especially when, like you said, you put so much time into reading the book in the first place! And sometimes you spend money on the book which makes it worse!

  11. I used to never DNF books, I was one of those have-to-finish-what-I-start readers. I eased into DNFing by saying I was just setting the book aside “for now.” Those two little words made a world of difference. The book will always be there if I change my mind. But I can’t even remember most books I’ve DNF’d, so clearly it’s not killing me, not knowing how all those stories turned out.

    • I do that, too. There are a few — The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky — that I’ve “put aside.” I hope to get back to them one day!

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  13. Excellent post-you are reading my mind about YA and cliche characters! I’m also getting better about DNF’ing books, but it is hard to put one down after I start, even when it’s utter rubbish :p

    Just found your blog and I’m now following through bloglovin πŸ™‚
    Finley Jayne

    • Thank you for the follow! πŸ™‚ And you’re right … once you start, it’s so hard to put down a book, even if it’s bad! Takes discipline. πŸ™‚

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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