Why I Abandon a Book (aka The DNF, Did Not Finish)


There has been quite a lot written about the DNF (Did Not Finish) moniker on book blogs to date, but the subject still fascinates me. Some readers plow through a book to the end whether they like it or not. Others don’t give it much past about page 50 for the words to capture their attention before setting it aside. Still more book lovers will put down a book after the first page fails to enthrall them. We all have our preferences. I tend to be someone who needs to be attracted at the beginning, but I can have the discipline to follow through on a title I am not enjoying under certain circumstances.

Reasons I make myself finish a book

  1. I DNFed my last read. I don’t like DNFing books back to back. It just seems like a waste of time to keep picking up books I am not going to finish.
  2. I am planning on reviewing the book. As a rule, I do not DNF if I am going to be offering up my opinion on the book.
  3. I want to know what happens in the end. Ok, so this means the story did sort of catch my attention, I guess? Sometimes, I just want to know what happens.
  4. I love the author. I am a loyal reader and will mostly finish books if I love the author’s other books. I especially find this to be true if their other works are on my favorites list, and I am reading through that author’s backlist titles. This is honestly why I don’t always reach for author’s backlist titles (I don’t typically like them but I feel obligated to finish them).
  5. Two words: Book Challenge. I don’t normally participate in these, but I do like the idea of trying to slot in older titles that have been sitting on my shelf from time to time. Otherwise, they will never get read, right? (see #theunreadshelfproject2019)
  6. It’s a classic or older title. These are often books I have wanted to read for some time or something friends have been pressing into my hands for years. I do have a sense of obligation for certain books. These I will pretty much finish no matter what.

If I am not tied to finishing the book for any of the aforementioned reasons, I usually have no qualms about setting it aside. I have always read this way and only recently started trying to finish books that are less engaging for me.

Reasons I abandon a book

  1. A highly anticipated new release comes out (or I receive an ARC I need to read sooner rather than later – maybe this will start happening more regularly?) and I have to set aside my current read because…I HAVE to. Other readers will understand this compulsion.
  2. A book on my library holds list comes in. The books I get from the library are pretty much exclusively ebooks and books on my library holds list automatically download to my phone or IPad (I use the Libby app). This phenomenon wreaks havoc on my prioritized reading as library books have a 2-week deadline until they have to be returned (they automatically get sucked back out of your device on the due date). NOTE: There is a trick to extend the time. I have heard you can put your device on airplane mode to keep them longer, but I have a little bit of a problem with this as I am constantly thinking about the next person in line and don’t think it is fair to take advantage of this trick. However, I do think I would use it to give myself maybe one more day with a book I am finishing up. I have not tried it…yet.
  3. I am at least 50 pages in and still not interested. This is probably the most common reason for a DNF decision. If I am not enjoying reading a certain book, it is time to move on.

Recent DNF Experience

I just finished my first ARC (Advance Reader Copy) ever and sadly, I was very disappointed. It was especially sad because it was not only the first ARC I have ever been awarded by a publisher (through Netgalley) but also because it is on my list of most anticipated summer new release novels. Still, I plowed through it, grumbling the whole time because, as a rule, I do not DNF a book I am going to review (see above). I was literally almost in tears over having to finish this book and THEN having to give this book a bad review (although, I did love the writing and the concept). But I did it.

I was so affected by this experience that the next three books I read, I DNF-ed. AND, each one was after reading or listening to a substantial portion. I almost never DNF books back to back like this, so I am blaming my emotional state over not enjoying my first ever highly anticipated new release ARC.

My 3 Latest DNF Books

Once Upon a River: I listened for about two hours and while the writing was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved being immersed in this amazing world, I just needed. Something. To. Happen. Might go back to this one.

Inspection: I joined a buddy read for this one on Instagram because I loved one of Malerman’s previous books, Bird Box. The premise also really intrigued me. I got to about Chapter 18, and I just could not handle it anymore. I felt it was slow and the narrator was utterly annoying. This might have just been me, as I know others love this book. It’s another one I am thinking about revisiting later, probably in print.

Descent: I have been hearing about this author’s new book, The Current, on Instagram and also on one of my favorite book podcasts, Currently Reading. The glowing praise for The Current made me interested in this book, one of the author’s backlist titles, which was available through Libby. I read about 200 pages and just could not get interested in it. His writing is very smart but the characters just made me so sad. Plus, the plot was taking too long to develop.

2018 was the first year I kept track of my reading habits and that is when I really started paying attention to how many books I start and then abandon. I will admit that tracking my reading has made me finish more books, but honestly, my overall rule with the DNF is if I am not enjoying myself, just stop reading.

Do you DNF a book or do you always finish books you start? Do you have criteria or is it more of a spontaneous decision? What are the books you have recently marked DNF?

7 thoughts on “Why I Abandon a Book (aka The DNF, Did Not Finish)

  1. Ah, the DNF. 🙂 It took me a long time to embrace DNFing a book, but now I embrace it wholeheartedly. I have a 50 page rule — if I’m not hooked in 50 pages, I’m out — but I recently have been going a bit beyond that, out of sheer hopefulness and determination. Though, I really should stick to the 50 page rule to save time, haha.

    Funny you didn’t like ONCE UPON A RIVER. I recently tried to read Setterfield’s first novel, THE THIRTEENTH TALE, which everyone raved about — including my best friend, who isn’t a “reader” at all — and I was bored to tears. I went about 150 pages in, too. I just stopped reading it; I’m not even going to post a DNF review on my blog for this one, lol. I’m also not going to try any other books by this author. 🙁

    I also hear ya on Malerman. I haven’t read INSPECTION, but I love, love, loved BIRD BOX. However, I read UNBURY CAROL, and it completely fell short for me. Made me hesitant to read other books by him, and now knowing that you don’t like his newest, I’m definitely putting that one on the bottom of my TBR list. 😉

  2. I used to struggle DNF but now with some ARCs (and a little bit more of pressure and overwhelming feeling) I don’t feel guilty anymore. I do give a try on the first 50 pages to see if I am invested in the story.
    Some of the DNFs (even with hyped up titles): Once upon a river, The other woman, The Dragonfly sea, The old drift.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts!

    1. Ah…skimming. I should have talked a bit about that in my post. I wish I knew how to do that more effectively. My mom says she does that a lot and I always wonder how she does it without missing something important.

  3. Interesting to hear reasons you make yourself finish something you’d otherwise DNF…I’d never considered that before! I did force myself to finish one popular book last year that I hated solely so I could review it, but I generally abandon even the books I’m planning to review…then I just don’t review them. I quickly mention that I DNF’d them and why in my weekly Monday update post instead.

    1. It is smart to do that (not finish and just say – I DNFed that one) and definitely a time saver. I am struggling a bit with negative reviews. I don’t like writing them but I think they are important. Otherwise, how will people know? Also, for me, DNFing is something I tend to do maybe a little too much and there are a good percentage of books I read that if I give them a real chance, I end up liking them. I love your setup, though. I think it is simple and makes a lot of sense.

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