DNFing Books: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’m impressively stubborn, sometimes to a fault, yet I prefer to prioritize my mental sanity above forcing myself to read a book from start to finish that blatantly isn’t working for me.  While I’m by no means a liberal DNF-er, I average approximately 1-2 books per year that I permanently set aside without completing them.  When I first started blogging, my brain absolutely refused to accept the concept of not reading a novel in its entirety.  Needless to say, I had several excruciatingly painful reads in which I miserably limped along until the very last page and then promptly dove headfirst into a reading slump.  As my TBR pile started to grow exponentially, I gradually recognized that I would not be struck dead by a bolt of lightning if I elected to set a book aside in favor for a higher priority or more promising read.  In hindsight, this was one of my most important realizations with respect to my growth as a reader.

Electing to mark a book DNF (did not finish) is not a decision I undertake lightly – I only purchase and begin reading books which I genuinely believe I will enjoy.  As a college student, I don’t have the time or the money to spend on novels which I can foresee myself strongly disliking and heavily critiquing in a rant-laden review.  Therefore, I begin each book rather optimistically and allow my opinion of the work to improve, remain neutral, or decline from there.  In an attempt to avoid jumping to conclusions based upon a small section of the book which may not be representative of the work as a whole, I generally aim to read 100 pages or more before deciding to DNF a novel.

Deciding whether to review DNFed books has been a controversial topic in the blogging community for years.  Personally, I believe sharing negative and DNFed book reviews is equally as important as ranting about your new favorite novel.  I pride myself on transparency when writing reviews, and excluding DNFed books from these reviews wouldn’t be conveying the whole picture with respect to my reading habits and likes vs. dislikes.  Therefore, I ultimately review 99% of the books which I DNF.  At the start of these reviews, I blatantly state that I did not read the work in its entirety, as well as providing some reference point as to where I stopped reading.  From there, I have no qualms explaining my rationale for setting the book aside, since I feel these reviews are often the most revealing for prospective readers.  It’s easy to be excited about embarking upon a particular work after reading a handful of gushing reviews, but individuals who are going to the effort of seeking out reviews should also have some exposure to some of the book’s pitfalls and shortcomings for a more comprehensive picture of what can be expected.

Cracking open a book shouldn’t equate to nap time, and any work with the ability to readily and reliably put me to sleep within the span of a few minutes is not worth my time or my energy.  Hence my dislike for slower-paced, contemporary novels and character-driven works, yet my love of fast-paced adventures and fantasies.  I would much rather be losing sleep in an attempt to finish a book than catching up on it by instantaneously nodding off whenever I pick up the work.  After all, what’s a little sleep deprivation?  It’s nothing a few cups of coffee can’t fix!

I’m most inclined to DNF a work when it contains any of the following:

  • Damsels in distress.  It’s the twenty-first century, and I’d prefer to read about a kick-ass heroine that can hold her own than a washed up, moping girl who can’t seem to make any attempt to save her own life.
  • An incredibly slow plot.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Whiny or overly sensitive protagonists with a talent for blowing everything out of proportion and always ending up at the center of the latest unfolding drama.
  • Stereotypical YA tropes.  Cue absent parents, high school drama, teenage crushes, insta-love, and an unhealthy dose of gossip.
  • Love triangles/quadrilaterals/any other multi-sided shape.
  • Descriptions upon descriptions upon descriptions. I prefer details to be inferred, rather than blatantly written in description-laden paragraphs.

In most scenarios, I DNF a work because it contains some combination of these traits.  Ultimately, I shouldn’t be trying to think up excuses to avoid picking up said book and continuing to read.  When I find myself avoiding my current read at all costs, it’s usually a good indication that I should DNF the novel rather than forcibly trudging along in an attempt to complete it.

Do you DNF books?  If so, what are some of the reasons which prompt you to DNF a work?  What are your thoughts on DNFed book reviews?

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I’m a 20 year old college student with a love of reading and a high tolerance for caffeinated beverages. When I’m not wrapped up in my pre-medical coursework, I’m usually engrossed in a fantasy or psychological thriller, interspersed with the occasional young adult novel.

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