January 27, 2020
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!
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?
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.
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