My Love/Hate Relationship With DNF

January 27, 2020

 My Love/Hate Relationship With DNF

My Love Hate Relationship With DNF

DNF=Did Not Finish

This post is inspired by my lovely blogging friend, Zoe, over at Reading By the Moonlight. Check out her post about why she has never DNF’d a book!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Are You a DNFer or a Finisher?

Some readers always finish every book they start. Other readers frequently DNF a book that isn’t working for them. Which are you? A Finisher or a DNFer?

In general, I’m a Finisher! In fact, I will put off starting a project because I know that once I start it, I won’t rest until it’s finished. So in my weird thinking, it’s better to not start it than not finish it. Does this same thinking apply to my reading life?

I certainly agree with the points Zoe made in her post about being a Finisher:

  • She has too much will power and she’s too persistent to DNF
  • She loves the feeling of accomplishment in finishing
  • She chooses her books carefully so she doesn’t frequently face the DNF dilemma

I strongly identify with all these reasons for being a Finisher. I can also add that, for me, having paid for the book is a huge factor in my deciding to finish or DNF a book. It’s definitely easier for me to DNF a library book! Also, I feel a huge obligation to finish an ARC (an Advanced Readers Copy that was given to me for free in exchange for a review).

DNF is an Option

Given my agreement with all the above, how did I end up in the DNF camp?

The more I read, the more I know what I like and don’t like, what works for me and what doesn’t, what appeals to me or unsettles me. Reading is a personal experience.

First, very rarely does my first impression of a book change throughout reading the book. I’ve forced myself to read a book I haven’t liked in the beginning and, sure enough, I haven’t liked it any better in the end. Forcing myself to finish it, doesn’t usually change my initial star rating. (yes, usually within the first few chapters I’m already thinking about a potential star rating). Sometimes I’d rather shelve it as DNF than give it a low rating. One book I forced myself to finish (because Marcus Zusak) was Bridge of Clay. My first impressions never changed, but I was committed to giving it a chance because of the author. My opinion after all that reading (over 500 pages!) wasn’t very different from how I felt in the first few chapters.

I have identified personal triggers and objectionable content. Even though I’ve checked several reviews, I can still end up with a book that doesn’t work for me because no two people read the same book. I know that intense thrillers and true crime can give me nightmares (yet I can read about WW11 atrocities with no nightmares?!). I have little patience for books with a great deal of profanity and crude language (it can spoil an otherwise good read for me). Child abuse gets a huge “no thank you.” Sometimes objectionable content can show up with no warning. For example, there is a cringe-worthy child abuse passage near the end of Never Have I Ever (this was an ARC and I felt obligated to finish it) that wasn’t mentioned in any review I read. I felt it was unnecessary and might have been included for shock value, so it ruined the book for me (and I don’t recommend it for that reason). That why I always give Trigger/Content Warnings. Paying attention to what works and doesn’t work for me has helped me decide to DNF a book with no regrets.

Feeling bored or not engaged will cause me to DNF a book. If I have to force myself to read it or have feelings of dread when I think about finishing it, I’m likely to shelve it as DNF. Even though I’m bored and less than engaged, beautiful writing will sometimes win the day. This was true of A Gentleman in Moscow. The first 2/3 of the book dragged but the writing is stellar and the character so unique that I pushed through and ended up enjoying and appreciating the read. It was helpful that the pace picked up in the last 1/3 of the book. I have found that breaking up a hefty book like that into chunks helps me get through it eventually.

Certain genres can trigger a DNF (or at least a fast and furious skim). The more I read, the more aware I am of not appreciating certain genres. There’s nothing wrong with the genres….they just don’t appeal to me. I now have the habit of usually resisting those genres.

I’ve taken this quote to heart: “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.” (Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). Yes, poorly written books get published, but reading great books (in my definition) helps me realize what other types of books I do not enjoy. This is all subjective! Sometimes I rate a book 5 stars and yet the person to whom I’ve given the recommendation reacts with “meh.” No two people read the same book and that’s OK! You can DNF a book that’s been recommended to you!

DNFing is the most difficult for me when I’ve purchased the book myself (rather than borrowed from the library) or if it’s an ARC (that I am obligated to review). Recently, I returned a book to Amazon that I bought on the Kindle…after reading 10% I knew it wasn’t for me. The return process for a Kindle book is easy (but do it right away). So far, I have never DNF’d an ARC although some have been laborious to read. I am committed to honoring my Netgalley obligations.

FOMO (fear of missing out) frequently leads to trouble! I love the hype of new releases and can jump into a read impulsively. Such a Fun Age and Nothing to See Here are two recent examples of popular books I hastily picked up (because there was no wait at the library) and DNF’d (I can hear the :::::gasps::::::!). Sometimes it’s difficult to admit you’ve DNF’d a popular new release that mostly everyone else loves!

If you’re generally a Finisher, DNFing gets easier with practice! There are too many good books waiting for you to stick with one that isn’t working! You can always pick it up again later!

so many books so little time
18″ x 18″ Cushion Cover


If I’ve made DNFing sound easy, it’s not! It’s truly a love/hate relationship and I agonize over every DNF decision because of my strong Finisher tendency!

If you are a Finisher, have I changed your mind?! It’s Ok if I haven’t….I simply want to present another option!


Are you a Finisher or a DNFer?


Winter 2019 TBR (update)

Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

How I Use Goodreads

Nonfiction/Fiction Pairings

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.


  1. Generally a finisher for many of the reasons you say – I tend to read books I think I’ll like, I feel obliged if it’s an advanced review copy etc. Even if I am really not enjoying a book, I tend to skim through to get a flavour of how the story goes.

  2. Great post Carol!!! I only started DNF-ing in the last year or so. But, will never DNF an ARC or a book I’ve brought or been gifted. If I’m not enjoying brought books I tend to put them aside and pick them up later. From all my gifted books I don’t think there are any that I haven’t enjoyed or even put aside. My family and friends know me too well. 😅

  3. This was well written and I agree with you to include the part about not changing the number of stars you rate a book.
    I am a DNF person. But I admit it is really hard and there are very few books I don’t finish. I have started cutting books that I don’t purchase sooner rather than later. Sometimes I’ve been known to abandon a book half way through. And then there are books I struggle through and get to the end and say I really should have given up on it.
    Reading is pleasure and escape for me so I have reached a stage that to tell myself I only have so much eyesight and time left so why waste it on something that doesn’t bring me satisfaction.
    PS The book I didn’t love that everyone else did was Cara Wall’s THE DEARLY BELOVED. I finished it but I would have been okay passing on it.

    • Thanks for commenting Sharon! DNF is a tough call! But you’re right in noticing that limited time remaining might add a sense of urgency to reading only the best books!!! I feel that too!

  4. Yes! I try to finish everything I choose to add to my TBR list, but then there are some that just don’t work out quite the way the synopsis or all those wonderful reviews say they will. That’s what DNF is for. And I have even had to DNF one or two from NetGalley. Both of them had downloading problems that didn’t allow me to read them and so > DNF. It is the last resort, but it is there.

  5. I’m definitely a ‘finisher’. I always feel as though I am failing if I don’t finish a book – especially if it is a book I’ve promised to review. Failing my own promise to myself AND failing to honor the hard work of the author.
    Sometimes a book reveals its magic in the later chapters and you’d miss it if you DNF.

    • I completely understand your feelings! Especially for ARCs. I’m so glad I hung in there with Gentleman in Moscow for the reason you cited! It was so beautifully crafted that I did feel I owed it to the author! (Good way to put it) but when the writing is mediocre and the content is objectionable I have an itchy DNF trigger finger! Thanks for commenting Lynne!

  6. Most of the time I am a finisher. I really hate to not finish because maybe the book will pick up, maybe there will be a great ending, maybe I will miss out on a greater message that I would not know if I did not finish. If I have received a book via NetGalley or a physical ARC copy (that I requested) I do feel obligated to finish it.That being said I am warming up to not finishing books that I have not committed to reading – life is too short to read a boring book!

  7. I’m definitely a finisher having only labeled one book as DNF ever. I have serious FOMO because even when I’m reading a book that’s weak, it often turns around. Plus, I’m really careful about the books I choose to start. Kudos to you for having the strength to stop.

    • Wow! That is an amazing record! ! I can definitely relate to strong Finisher tendencies!
      Sadly, Last year I DNF’d 9 I think…..and it’s usually books that have received lots of hype that I haven’t fully vetted. (Or that haven’t received many reviews) Thanks for commenting!

  8. I’m gradually teaching myself to DNF but I’m still first and foremost a finisher 😄 There have been books that I wanted to DNF after the first chapters but that I ended up loving (e.g. We Need to Talk about Kevin), but yes there have been some I ploughed my way through only to lament all the hours of my life I’d never get back 😅

  9. Great post! I am a finisher. Even in the few cases I give up, I often pick it up at a later stage and try again. This has paid off a couple of times, so FOMO keeps me going 🙂

    • It’s true that DNF is not an irreversible decision! Even though I tell myself I might get back to it, I usually don’t though. Thanks for commenting!

  10. […] I’m NOT afraid to DNF for several reasons: triggering content, excessive profanity (especially combined with other factors), boredom (nothing happening…feelings of dread and not of joy when I pick up the book, mindless scrolling social media instead of reading), not my preferred genre, disturbing content, and an overly done author agenda. I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with DNF here. […]

  11. […] I’m getting better at knowing my reading tastes and passing on books/genres that I know won’t be to my taste. I’m also not reluctant to abandon books that aren’t working for me. There are too many great books waiting to be read to make myself finish something that isn’t right for me at the time. Are you a fearless abandoner or a committed finisher?  […]

  12. Sometimes I force myself through a book I do not like. I usually skim through to the end or skip to the end so I can see what happened. I try to look carefully before I choose a book, but sometimes I still get one that is painful to read. I have quite a few good books that I started and want to finish, but had too many going at a time and my goal this year is to finish the ones I like.

  13. […] I’m getting better at knowing my reading tastes and passing on books/genres that I know won’t be to my taste. I’m also not reluctant to abandon books that aren’t working for me. There are too many great books waiting to be read to make myself finish something that isn’t right for me at the time. Are you a fearless abandoner or a committed finisher?  […]

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