Why Do I Struggle With DNFing Books?

This month has been a bit of a struggle when it comes to reading books. I’ve picked up about six books and put down three. I wasn’t feeling them! I tried to read them, but they didn’t capture me or set my mood. I wanted to spend more time doing something else than reading the book, which is huge indicator that things are not okay with me.

But the one thing I hate the most about reading is putting down a book. There’s a piece of advice I give everyone all the time: if you’re not loving the book, you can let it go. The wild part about this bit of advice? I never actually follow it myself.

DNF or “did not finish” is a term used by the bookish world to describe a book we, well, did not finish. These are the books that didn’t capture us or we hated and couldn’t read another word of even if we tried. It’s common practice because not every book you pick up will give you the wow factor you want from a book.

And as easy as it sounds to just drop a book when you’re not enjoying it, it’s actually much harder than you think! Many people struggle with this. Some folks have been taught that you MUST finish every book you start under penalty of death. Others just don’t have the heart to put down a book they started. I’m in the latter camp and it’s starting to get frustrating for me.

There’s plenty of reasons why you should put down a book that you’re not enjoying. First is the most obvious: you’re not enjoying a book. There’s no point in continuing to read something that’s not giving you anything in return. Even if the book you’re reading is actually a textbook where you’re studying for a class, you’re getting something out of that read. If you’re reading for enjoyment and you’re not happy, that’s going to lead to some disasterous results.

My Pollyanna brain is always looking for the silver lining in everything. Maybe it’s because I’ve already spent so much of my reading time into reading them that I want that return on investment. Maybe it’s because I always think that if I give it another 100 pages that it will get better. I already know how toxic it can be when I’m trying to find the silver lining and I’m not happy and that’s something I’m working on, but I’m always hopeful there will be something that will pull me into it. I’m always hoping a book will surprise me and that surprise is hidden on the pages I haven’t read. But maybe it’s just me not liking the book.

But that also results in me reading a bunch of books that were fine, mediocre, or just meh for me. I try to be fair with all my reviews, so you don’t see me telling you “it’s just okay,” because I know someone else out there will probably enjoy it more than me. However, it’s a habit that I want to break for a few reasons:

If you try to extrapolate the number of books that are published each year (and I’m not just talking fiction, I’m talking about everything), there are thousands and thousands of books coming out. As humans, we only live a finite number of years and depending on the type of reader you are, that only means a specific number of books. Even if you read 100 books every year from the time you were 15 to 100 years old, that’s only 8500 books which only covers maybe a couple of years of published books.

On top of that, there’s time. I work full time, I have other hobbies, I make time to hang out with my husband, I workout regularly. I like going for walks and getting out in nature and all of that is done without a book in hand. If I have a finite amount of time to read on a daily basis, then why do I want to waste that time reading books I’m not enjoying?

So we have time against us, the number of books coming out is way more than anyone can possibly read even if you are the type that can read A LOT. So shouldn’t you be picky about the books you read?

I recently read this article at Book Riot about how you don’t have to read everything. And there’s some really great practical advice you can take away from this post if you’re considering being a book blogger, but the most valuable lesson I took away is that I don’t have to read everything. I don’t have to be Wonder Woman and read every book I put in front of me. I’m allowed to put down a book. I’m allowed to be in the middle of eight books at one time! The whole point is that reading should be just as enjoyable as any other thing you do.

It’s definitely something I encourage anyone to do because it isn’t worth the time and energy to read a book you’re meh about. And it’s actually something I’m coming to terms with myself. I’ll continue to DNF books and hopefully it’ll become second nature.

12 thoughts on “Why Do I Struggle With DNFing Books?

  1. I totally get how you feel. I’m a late adopter of guilt-free DNFing myself (what a mouthful of a term). My epiphany came from watching a YouTube vid where the host said: “You’d skip right to the next song if you didn’t like it, right? And you wouldn’t read a blog post you don’t enjoy? So why would you force yourself to read a long-ass book that’s not doing it for you?”

    Paraphrased, of course. Anyway, here’s to better DNFing!

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  2. I am a firm adopter of the DNF Philosophy. My best strategy is that i get 90% of my books from the library in Kindle form. At the end of the 21 (sometimes 14) day loan period they just disappear. So I run a quick sample and if they don’t grab me I either return of just don’t get back to them. I can always request them again, but almost never do. It is guilt free.
    I also love Nancy Pearl’s rule: “If you’re fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give up.” Over fifty? Subtract your age from 100 and use that as your guide.

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  3. I’ve been debating whether or not I should DNF “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” for days now. I picked it up thinking that I was going to love it, especially considering how popular it is with other readers, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m about 150 pages in and I’m like “I don’t care …”

    Part of me wants to push through and complete it (because of the hype) but another part of me wants nothing more than to just put it down and move onto something new. Goodness knows I have enough unread books on my bookshelf I could be reading instead!

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    1. You should! I loved the book, but I also know that everyone has their own tastes and differences, so if you don’t love it you don’t have to love it. It’s totally okay!

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  4. I’m also absolutely terrible witb DNFing books – for me though I think it’s mostly because if I’ve spent money on a book I’m determined to finish it, otherwise it feels like a waste. Also if it takes me longer to read a book because I’m not enjoying it, at least I am not buying more books? It’s twisted logic and doesn’t make for a great time lol.

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  5. This post is amazing!! I never ever ever DNF books and then I end up in a reading slump because the book just put me off reading so thank you so much for the reminder that it is okay!! 🥰

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  6. I struggle with this so much! I was slumpy all summer because two books that I dragged for over a month. It’s the ones that are in the middle that get me, some parts I like, some parts I don’t, but I keep hoping the likes will outweight the don’ts.

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    1. right?! That’s what I struggle with too. There’s parts I like and I want to see through, but I have to jump over the hurdle of parts I don’t like to get to them. Frustrating!

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