The Dreaded DNF – Did Not Finish
This must have happened to you. You pick up a book – maybe it comes with a high recommendation from a friend or people are shouting about it from rooftops or it’s from your favorite author – and you dive right in expecting to like it, but … the book fails to hold your interest and the struggle to continue is real.
Do you finish a book you don’t like? Or do you let go?
Is quitting a book difficult for you?
When do you decide to abandon reading it?
Do you pick it up again after some time?
When is it okay to throw in the towel and label the book as DNF?
Today, I have a few avid readers on my blog here who are sharing their reading dilemmas. Let’s hear from them about this dreaded DNF.
I don’t really force myself to finish a book unless I’ve promised to review it. Even then, if it’s really bad, I’ll let the author/publisher know that I can’t go through it and let it go! Usually, I give a book about 3-4 chapters before I decide that I’ve had enough. Only when a book comes highly recommended, and my first impression doesn’t match the reviews, do I attempt to read it again. This happened to me with The Catcher in The Rye by J D Salinger. A friend recommended it highly. It was a ‘classic’. But after two attempts it remained unfinished. I’ve figured that we read for two reasons – (a) to learn (b) for pleasure. If a book doesn’t provide me learning or pleasure, I’m happy to put it in my DNF pile!
If you’re an avid reader and you’re not able to finish a book, it’s mainly because you are not enjoying the read. There’s nothing called ‘Reader’s Block’ or ‘I don’t have time’. I am an avid reader but I can’t read every book. I am a very patient person but I’m very impatient when it comes to reading a book. I cannot continue reading a book if it doesn’t interest me by 60-70 pages (unless it’s a review copy). And, frankly, I don’t feel bad about it. Reading should be a joyful experience and if you are not enjoying the read, there’s no point reading it. Just move on to an interesting book. That’s what I believe.
I have bought several unanimously loved, highly recommended books but they disappointed me and I just couldn’t finish them. Wondering about those books? Here you go – A Man Called Ove, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Honestly, I just Google searched ‘potato peel society’, found this book and copy-pasted the title. I mean what’s the point if can’t even remember and pronounce the title of a book?), To Kill A Mockingbird, The Rosie Project, The Nightingale…and many more. Rolling your eyes? No, trust me, I really wanted to read and like these books but reading them was not a joyful experience so I moved on and I’m not sorry.
It has happened to me- the dreaded DNF synonym. It has happened to me when I least expected it to and I have always struggled to deal with it.
I distinctly remember the time when I sat reading To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. They said it is a book that just shouldn’t be missed. In fact it features in the list of greatest novels ever written. But I just couldn’t get through it. The historical drama of the Great Depression just couldn’t hold my attention. I seldom like letting go of books. But when I fail to appreciate the plot or to grab the essence of a book, that is when I need to take that call of abandoning it. Thus, To Kill a Mocking Bird, after two attempts was finally dumped.
Another instance when I struggled to abandon a book was when I was reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I would attribute this to primarily two reasons. The book no doubt was a bore. However, I struggled to put it down and pushed myself to go on. I had liked the movie and had watched it before reading the book. Also, the book was a gift from my husband and thus held a bit of sentiment to it. And there I went, struggling to read on. However after 50% of the book and a lot more exhausted, I let all my reasons be and abandoned the book.
Sigh! One of the most painful aspects in a book lover’s life – The dreaded DNF.
What do you think? Which book(s) were DNF for you? Do you think it is a sin to put down a book before you’re finished reading it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
April 4, 2020 12:09 am|
I used to be like that, thinking I had to finish each book I picked up. But then the Lord of the Rings happened and I abandoned it after 400 or 500 pages. That was a long time ago. After that it has been all downhill and I have renamed my DNF as to be finished. Maybe I have 20 to 30 of those
April 4, 2020 12:11 am|
DNF is dreadful indeed. Mostly, I find that it’s because I don’t find the book to be interesting. I have never experienced reader’s block. Even after a DNF, I have proceeded to finish another book in one day! So clearly, it’s a matter of interest to me. 🙂
April 4, 2020 12:40 am|
Earlier I would force myself to finish a book, even if I didn’t like it. It was more out of guilt. Now I have realized that if I can’t get through a book, I should move on to the next. Saves time and unnecessary guilt.
April 4, 2020 1:01 am|
Happened with me so many times! And by reading the experiences of my fellow readers, I think I don’t have to feel guilty anymore. Loved the post!
April 4, 2020 1:02 am|
I’m fairly comfortable putting books down, at this point. The truth is none of us will ever, ever get through all of them. Why delay reading Dante because you’re forcing your way through Shakespeare?
April 4, 2020 1:04 am|
I do leave books unfinished. But that’s fine with me as I cannot go through a book which I don’t like. Some books which I am unable to read, I try to finish them by picking them up again after a break.
April 4, 2020 1:20 am|
Nice topic. I complete a book only if I find it interesting or useful to me. Can’t afford reading it just to finish it.
April 4, 2020 2:05 am|
If I am not impressed with the first 50 pages, I do not finish.
April 4, 2020 2:10 am|
I usually pick up a book reading its preface. If that seems interesting to me, then the is the first reason for picking up the book. I do not just start reading because someone has recommended it to me. Its like movies, we will not all the movies liked by our friends. We have our own taste. If I pick up a book and even after ready 3-4 chapters, I am not able to have the grip, I let it go. So, no I don’t feel guilty or bad for not finishing any book.
April 4, 2020 3:33 am|
Just a thought. If one is on forced quarantine , one will be forced to read all books at home just to kill cabin fever.
April 4, 2020 6:32 am|
I always find it very challenging to finish, if the book doesn’t catch me in the first chapter itself. But sometimes, I do finish it by skimming through it.
April 4, 2020 6:34 am|
I do not force myself to finish a book, if I do not like it. Honestly, first few chapters of any book are very important for me, from a reader’s perspective. If I find some USP factor or get a sense that I will learn something that I do not know already, then I keep reading, otherwise I skip it without any guilt. Loving the series Shilpa, each topic is so unique and I am having a great experience while hearing from great bloggers of our blogging community.
April 4, 2020 7:32 am|
While I’ve also read 1000 page books like Stephen King’s The Stand, I’ve struggled with books like War and Peace and a few others. I just couldn’t retain my attention and eventually gave up.
April 4, 2020 7:55 am|
Nice to see how others feel about this. I’m a bit surprised to hear Corinne say that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was unreadable.
April 4, 2020 7:58 am|
A book has to be either entertaining the reader or for imparting knowledge, as rightly said by Corinne. If a book fails on any of these counts, I tend to keep it aside too. The Handmaid’s Tale is one such book that I have left midway recently and yet haven’t thought of returning back to it. However I do make it a point to read the last few pages of such books.
April 4, 2020 8:04 am|
I have great trouble not finishing a book. I try and try and try. And then I give it time – a year or more – and try again. Specially if it’s something my friends are recommending. I hate leaving a book midway. But I’ve started doing it of late – LOTR being a case in point.
Reading about the books DNFed by these avid bibliophiles, all I can say is not all books are for everyone.
April 4, 2020 10:30 am|
There are so many books I gave up on I can’t recall them . I mean if they were so bad why would I bother with remembering their names ?
Many of them came highly recommended. I think I give up within the first ten pages . After all if it is difficult to go through ten, I just don’t bother plodding with the rest . I usually read the last few pages and figure out what happened in between .
April 4, 2020 11:11 am|
Oh my god, I never imagined that ardent readers would also have this problem. It is very surprising to know that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was one among their list since I too had loved the book. My DNF includes ‘100 years of solitude’ by Gabriel Marquez, ‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ by Sylvia Nasar (I saw the movie instead). I’ve force-finished many books with difficulty. How true that not all books are for everyone. Thanks for sharing this.
April 4, 2020 2:10 pm|
If you aren’t enjoying something then It’s better to abandon it rather than wasting your time and energy.
April 4, 2020 4:24 pm|
oh, so many books..I have forgotten half of them. The first one was God of Small Things. I firmly believe life is too short to waste on books you are not enjoying. My liking or not liking shouldn’t reflect on the book, someone else will definitely enjoy it.
April 4, 2020 4:59 pm|
There are a couple of books in my home that I am yet to read & quite a number on my to-read list.
I always try to complete what I start. I even finished – A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking, as I didn’t want the DNF fate 🙂
April 4, 2020 6:01 pm|
Absolutely agree with you Shilpa. Sometimes we feel too reluctant to proceed the reading. It’s better to leave it there. After all, reading is pleasure, no? Liked the name DNF.
April 4, 2020 6:29 pm|
I did struggle with DNF-ing books initially but now I am quite okay with it. Like they say…. too many books, too little time.
April 4, 2020 6:59 pm|
Books are stimulant for me. If they fail in stimulating my mind, I put it down. What make me DNF are over explanation, under development of plot, and too many deviations from main storyline.
April 4, 2020 7:02 pm|
Earlier I used to call it quits if I felt something bored me but now I try to finish what I start. From that time I have Godan by Premchand, the English translated copy, read till about 50 pages and left unfinished.
Your A2Z challenge posts are so interesting!
April 4, 2020 8:00 pm|
I have had books that I did not finish. Mainly because they were boring and I was not interested in that particular subject. I remember a book on the cricket which was given to me for reading, as it was of Sachin Tendulkar. I could not continue after 50 percent of reading. I just left it at that and returned the book.
April 4, 2020 8:25 pm|
Thats a very good point and see the various replies. For me, I generally do not step out of my reading genre so I rarely put down a book.
April 4, 2020 11:38 pm|
If a book isn’t interesting, just stop reading, and move to another.
Nothing wrong with that.
No obligation to finish the book even if one doesn’t enjoy reading it.
Actually, how does one read if it isn’t enjoyable?
April 4, 2020 11:49 pm|
Glad to know about DNF from the featured writers/bloggers. I have faced it multiple times, probably wrong choice of book or as you mentioned over-zealous recommendation. But, have realized one thing, its better to move on.
April 5, 2020 11:47 am|
Such a thoughtful selection of topic yet again. If I don’t feel like finishing a book, I had sometimes read the last few pages but have not abandoned it completely
April 5, 2020 12:16 pm|
Finally I found one person that did not like Catcher in the Rye! Finally!!! I remember answering this question in a thread and Facebook and asking if there was one person with me! Couldn’t find! Everyone looooves Catcher in the Rye and I just never got it . But I had to finish a book I started back then. Now I’ve so many unfinished books!
April 5, 2020 10:00 pm|
If it doesn’t interest me I will stop reading or just dose off thats me
April 6, 2020 12:20 am|
Same here. I have such books too. Does lisa Ray book count? I am just stuck somewhere in between the tale. I am like should i go back and read again to just to know whats wrong?
Hehe DNF definitely!
I liked the title thou.
April 6, 2020 5:41 pm|
Lovely to be featured on your Blog shilpa.. I see that the feelings on DNF are quote mutual and prevalent among other bok lovers as well.
April 6, 2020 9:39 pm|
I try my best to finish any book that I start. I know that life is too short to waste in a book that you are not enjoying but that’s how things are. I’m trying to change that habit. The big one on my ‘Did Not Finish’ list is ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie. I tried reading it several times, but had to abandon after 100 pages!
April 17, 2020 9:03 pm|
Thanks for featuring me, Shilpa. It’s strange that both Tarang and Ramya had To Kill a Mockingbird on their DNF list. It’s one of my favourites! Just goes to show personal tastes are so varied and there’s no point trying to force ourselves to complete books that don’t appeal to us.
May 7, 2020 6:39 pm|
DNF is indeed a syndrome which is a reality. There are many times when some books fail to have you riveted to its pages, and you give up. But I have also found that the same book could hold your attention if you read it after an year or two! And yet there are of course those books that you cannot put down.
May 10, 2020 11:44 am|
One thing that annoys me no end is a not being able to finish a book! I love reading and there is nothing better than getting stuck into a good book. However if I have to force myself to read it when I am not enjoying it then there is no point in reading it is there? It is not often that I don’t finish a book.
May 14, 2020 8:51 am|
I generally try to finish any book i start. And it’s true that unanimously praised books need not always appeal to everyone. So far, i haven’t ditched a book half way. I try to pick books i think I’ll like. Incidentally, i loved To kill a mocking bird.