Confessions From an Outlier: Books on my DNF Shelf in 2022 #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge #WOYBC #DNF

Confessions From an Outlier: Books On My DNF Shelf in 2022

Contrary to how it may appear, I do not love every book I read. Listed here are the books that are on my DNF shelf in 2022.

Confessions From an Outlier: Books on my DNF Shelf (white text over a background picture of a tall stack of hardback books on a painted blue table)

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Is it easy or difficult for you to DNF a book?

Today’s post differs from most you will read here. Keen observers might notice that my monthly wrap-up posts occasionally include books that are on my DNF shelf. If you follow my blog you are used to reading enthusiastic book reviews and you might think that every book I read is a 4- or 5-star read. Some book review bloggers review every book they read on their blog. My preference is to rate every book I read on Goodreads, and promote my best reads here. There’s no one right way to run a blog. Although my reviews might lead you to believe that I love every book I read, I do read my share of duds and meh reads and experience an occasional DNF.

image of a girl reading with one hand while pulling a wagon piled high with books

Even though this isn’t my favorite post to write, I have thought quite a bit about underwhelming books this year, i.e. books on my DNF shelf. DNF is on the top of my mind at the end of the year because I think I beat my personal record for the number of DNFs in one year. I usually don’t rack up this many DNFs because I know my own reading tastes and can steer clear of books I don’t think will work for me. I only have FOMO to blame for this year.

Being an outlier for a hyped book isn’t always comfortable. I’ve been challenged a couple of times on Goodreads. My DNF might be your favorite book of the year, and that’s OK. If you want to respond to this post with “Bah Humbug,” I understand.

Related: “My Love/Hate Relationship With DNF”, What is Your Reading Style, Do Hype, Buzz, and High Expectations Affect Your Reading Experience?

A few observations before I begin:

  1. DNF is a legitimate reader response.
  2. No two readers read the same book; if a book isn’t to my taste, it might be exactly right for you.
  3. Reading is a PERSONAL experience.
  4. Being a mood reader contributes to DNFing; sometimes it’s not the book, it’s me.
  5. Reading books you do not enjoy can cause reading slumps.
  6. If you’re not reading a book for a class, you do not have to finish it!
  7. Sometimes not being in the mood for a certain book is a legitimate reason to DNF. (I’m a huge mood reader)
  8. If I DNF one of your favorite books and you DNF one of mine, we can still be bookish friends. Just because a book is not for me doesn’t mean it’s not for you!
  9. It’s important to know your reading tastes.
  10. High expectations can contribute to DNFing.
  11. A part of me would rather record a DNF for a book rather than finish it and give it a 1 star rating.
  12. DNFing becomes easier with practice!
  13. I can’t say this too many times….I’m not here to hate on these books….I’m only saying they didn’t match my reading taste.


***Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

Books On My DNF Shelf in 2022

(In no particular order)

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I may have already lost a few of you! This popular and hyped book is already on the top of many “best of the year” lists. Why did I DNF it at 7%? It was publicized as light, feel-good, and laugh-out-loud funny….and that’s what I was expecting and in the mood for. When I came across the rape scene, my expectations collided with my reading experience and I decided to DNF.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Another popular book that I DNF’d at 27%. I found the main character unlikable, immature, and spoiled. I had visions of this being another Eat, Pray, Love and I just couldn’t.

A Psalm For the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

I didn’t record the actual percentage read and I don’t honestly have concrete reasons for my DNF other than I just wasn’t feeling it. Probably a case of it’s me, not the book.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Once again, a hyped book and popular author resulted in a DNF at 23%. I didn’t like the main character, and that caused me not to care about the storyline. (It wasn’t the actual tennis because I did read every page of Open by Agassi!)

Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan

Best known as a popular narrator, I impulsively claimed FOMO and borrowed this from the library only to find out that her content is not to my taste.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This book appears on many favorites lists, and so I decided to give it a try. Meh. It didn’t hold my interest.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

This is a popular graphic novel for middle-grade readers. I don’t have a great deal of patience for heavily agenda-driven books and this just became tiresome. (not the issues themselves; but the lectures that soon overwhelmed the story)

French Braid by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is hit or miss for me. I was bored at 50%.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Honestly, I can’t remember exactly why I DNF’d this one at 19% other than just not being in the mood.

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

When I saw the recent release in this series, I thought I should start with this first one because I’m a diehard “read in order” reader. I DNF’d at 16% because of frequent body shaming.


Have you ever DNF’d a book?
Did you DNF a book this year?
Do you find it easy or difficult to DNF?
Does a book on my list shock you or cause dismay?

 I’m linking up with Deb @ Deb’s World and Sue @ Women Living Well After 50, Donna @ Retirement Reflections, and Jo @ And Anyways…. for the December installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge.

Whats On Your Bookshelf Challenge

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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All books I review are bought or borrowed from the library unless explicitly stated that they are free (arcs).

Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website receives all credit for book covers and author photos used in the creation of a blog post.



  1. I can understand why you didn’t finish Carrie Soto is Back. It wasn’t my favorite read either. I was surprised that people voted for it as the 2022 best historical fiction on GoodReads.

    I usually figure out after the first chapter if a book isn’t for me. One of my 2022 reading goals was to read a fantasy novel, and I picked Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. It’s a Rumpelstiltskin retelling with loads of five-star reviews so I thought it would be good. Well written but I DNF at 25%. Fantasy just isn’t my genre.

    • Thanks for keeping me company on Carrie Soto! I think it might be the name popularity of TJR that accounts for some of those votes! Yeah, fantasy isn’t my fav genre. But maybe there is one you’d love. Don’t give up!

  2. Oh yes, I definitely DNF books. Sometimes I put them aside, thinking I might come back to them when my frame of mind is different but I completely agree that life’s too short to force yourself to read something unless you absolutely have to.

  3. Oh yes; Lessons in Chemistry was a huge DNF for me; I hardly made it into the book and just could not. One Italian Summer I kept reading… but mainly just to read about and picture the island. I couldn’t have cared less about the main character or the weird time warp component that I actually rather hated. It just ended up being a blah book for me that I should have probably set aside. I used to really try to finish each book I started and now I have no qualms about setting one aside if it hasn’t gripped me by the 3 or 4th chapter.

    • DNFing does get easier! I did read the last chapter of Italian Summer for closure. I felt sorry for her husband! Thanks for sharing and keeping me company in the cold land of outlier!

  4. This may not be your favorite post to write, but I always enjoy your thoughts about the books you DNF. I used to have the mentality that I had to finish every book I started. With age, I’ve decided life is too short to waste time on books I’m not enjoying. Unless I have made a commitment for a blog tour or another type of required reading, I really don’t have trouble moving on. Sometimes I think the more popular a book is, it increases my expectations, and that can be a bad thing for my reading enjoyment.

    • Thanks Gina! I agree about the danger of high expectations! Although I try to vet my arcs as carefully as I can, I have struggled through a few! Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying! 🙌

  5. I don’t like to post poor reviews on my blog either. If I don’t like a book, I’ll just put a short review on GR and I won’t put it on my blog. And I agree, we don’t all read the same and our life experiences shape what we like and don’t like in a book. But, I do like to know why someone DNF’s a book, I think I’m just nosey that way. :).

  6. I have dnfed two reads this year Carol. Dead Real by Helen Durant, and The Guest Room by Rona Halsall. I would like to think it’s because I have been a bit more discerning with my requests this year. The only dnf of yours that I have read was Carrie Soto is Back, and I loved it. Maybe not initially, but as the story progressed I became more enamored. I too have a hit and miss relationship with Anne Tyler, more miss than hit so I no longer request her books. Happy reading my friend. May 2023 be a truly joyous year for you. ❤📚🎄

    • Thank you for your thoughts Sandy! I’m probably too quick to DNF these days! I’m happy that Carrie Soto was a good read for you! I have found that unlikable characters is a DNF trigger for me. May 2023 bring us both some fabulous reads! Merry Christmas 🎄🎄🎄

  7. HI, Carol – I’m not very good at not finishing a book once I start it. I wish that I was. It is something that I am working on.
    The only book from your list that I have read is Lessons in Chemistry. I had much difficulty getting into the early chapters. I had heard the hype about how brilliant it was, that it was unputdownable and laugh-out-loud funny. In truth, I put it down several times. Non-stop laughter it was not. Another early barrier for me was that the beginning reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – a book that I did not love. Quirky main character. Check. Gut-wrenching trauma. Check. More gut-wrenching trauma. Check. Unfair societal systems. Check. Sombre themes mixed with wit and sarcasm. Double Check. But as the book progressed, I surprisingly found myself getting into it. And I greatly enjoyed the ending. As book ending are I big deal for me, I was ultimately satisfied. I do totally get why many readers could not get past the first 7%.
    Matthew Perry’s recent memoir I finished but also did not love. I do understand why many others loved it. That’s what I love about books – there’s something for everyone, but there is no one-size fits all.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Reading is soooo personal. I think the marketing for Lessons in Chemistry missed the mark a bit….at least I had the wrong expectations. I agree with you about endings. I need them to be satisfactory. Often I lower or raise my star rating based simply on the ending! I decided to steer clear of the Perry book. It seemed to be a book about addiction and I have to be in the right frame of mind for that heavy and sad content.

  8. I rarely DNF books. I’m far more likely to skim read through to the end. The two that I haven’t finished this year have both been quite grim in their subject matter. I don’t mind some darkness but not when it’s unrelenting. I agree about Lessons in Chemistry, I did finish it as it was an ARC but it didn’t really do anything for me.

    • I could double this list if I added books I have skim read just to finish! (The new Louise Penny being an example….really can’t handle child sexual abuse). I wholeheartedly agree with unrelenting darkness! That’s a definite DNF trigger for me! I need glimmers of hope! I chose not to read the Matthew Perry book because I feared it would be too grim for me. I barely made it through Sally Field’s! I did hear that Lessons in Chemistry gets better as you read more but I just couldn’t. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Fab post Carol! I DNF a lot but rarely talk about it on the blog. I’ve given up on a few books I was really looking forward to this year. The ones I can think about right now are Midnight in Everwood a retelling of The Nutcracker that just didn’t work for me at all. Thrown a contemporary fiction that I found quite boring and wasn’t bother about the characters. Act of Oblivion by an author I normally love, but it just didn’t go any where.

    • Thanks Nicki! It’s rare for me to draw attention to it as well but as I racked up the number this year and some of the books were popular, I decided to write the post. I hope the take away is that even though a book is popular and will make all the best of the year lists, it might not be the right read for you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Nicki!

  10. I always appreciate when reviewers are honest about the books they read! It’s helpful for the rest of us when choosing which books to read and which to set aside, and you are always so generous and thoughtful in your opinions—even when they aren’t glowing or in line with what other readers are saying. Your list speaks to how different our tastes can be. French Braid was on my list of favorites for the year. I also I liked New Kid a lot but agree the agenda was too heavy-handed (I knocked off a star because of that), and I finished One Italian Summer but definitely didn’t love it.

    I didn’t DNF any books this year, though I did have a few unpopular opinions. I did not care for The Violin Conspiracy and did not like The Maid, The Cartographers, or The Guncle nearly as much as others seemed to. I also learned that Colleen Hoovers books are not for me, which is certainly a minority opinion!

    • Thanks for your kind words Kendra! I’m happy to hear you loved French Braid!
      🤷‍♀️ I just started Violin Conspiracy……we’ll see!
      I could double this list if I added books I skimmed just to get through. Cartographers falls into this category. I steer clear of Colleen Hoover and Elin Hilderbrand!
      Reading is a personal experience! And high expectations definitely affects the reading experience!
      I have noticed that I don’t have the patience to stick with books like I used to. I’m quicker to DNF these days.
      Merry Christmas and happy reading in 2023 Kendra! I love that we share a love for books and reading! Which reminds me…..when will you write your own book?

    • I knew this would collide with many readers’ best of year lists! Reading is such a personal experience! Thanks for commenting! Happy reading in 2023!

  11. I have the occasional DNF and usually figure that it’s me more than it – wrong book for the wrong time, or reading too far out of my genre, or I’m just not in the mood. There are others that other people adore that leave me cold. It really is like meeting people – sometimes you click and sometimes you don’t.

  12. Hi Carol I am with you in the DNF camp and totally agree with all your reasons. I used to push through books I didn’t like just because I had started them. I’m older and wiser now! I’m fine with not finishing a book if it doesn’t grab me and I’m not enjoying it. Sometimes I will go back and try at a different time because perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood or I was too busy to really appreciate the writing. Although there are definitely ones that I wouldn’t revisit. Thanks for your post and contribution to our #WOYBS link up and I look forward to you joining us for our monthly #WOYBS in 2023. Best wishes for the Festive Season and Happy Reading in 2023.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying! May your reading be delightful and your DNFs few in 2023! I’ll be back to participate in What’s On Your Bookshelf in the new year!

  13. Hi Carol! I will definitely DNF especially if there are triggers in the book, I’ll pass it on in that case but If I think it was my mood I’ll set it aside to come back to at another time.
    I’m on the side of loving Lessons in Chemistry, thankfully I was able to bypass the abuse scene and enjoy the rest of the book. I liked the quirky characters and how they approached life. Are there sad parts? definitely but also laugh out loud funny parts. Kind of like life itself.
    I haven’t read the other books but am thankful for the heads up on the Louise Penney book, absolute no for me on that content.

    • I’m happy to hear you enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry! I’m definitely an outlier! Based on the blurb my expectations were way off. I think it helps to have a heads up. I’ve read difficult content that I was able to get through when I wasn’t surprised by it. Re the Penny book, she does handle it sensitively….no explicit details. It is a good book, just a bit darker than usual. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Laura!

  14. I am pretty quick to DNF a book these days. I am very much a mood reader and often times I just am not in the mood, but more often when I DNF it is because of personal taste or preference. The review that is up on my blog right now is one that was over-hyped and diminished the reading experience for me, but I did finish it. The other thing I am finding is that reading tastes can change and that’s okay!

    • The pitfalls of being a mood reader! So often I’m simply not in the mood! It’s difficult to explain to someone who is not affected! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Now I’m curious about your current review (hops over to check!).

  15. This was a great post Carol! I must say I DNF a few books and agree with you that it’s often me and my mood, not the book – depending on what’s going on in my life. It is a huge thing to me! I haven’t actually read any of the books you have listed but have heard a lot about the Lessons in Chemistry one, I’m not that tempted to be honest. Thanks for joining us for WOYBS, it’s always great to have your thoughts and reviews. See you in 2023!

    • Thanks for commenting Debbie! Life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying! Looking forward to some great reads in 2023!

  16. I love your list of points at the beginning, Carol. I don’t DNF often, but when I do, it isn’t necessarily because the book but is bad, but it has something that I don’t want to read, such as vulgarity or bodyshaming or even women changing themselves for a man etc. I agree, a DNF is better than a 1 star review. Great post.

  17. I like the fact that you DNF because of the characters. If there is no character with any redeeming qualities, that’s it for me. Ex: The Silent Patient.There are other books, too, but everyone in that highly acclaimed book was either cheating or lying. No thank you!

  18. I like that you DNF because of the characters. If there are no people with any redeeming qualities, that’s it for me. The Silent Patient comes to mind. It was highly acclaimed, but everyone was cheating or lying. I don’t care to read about that.

  19. I’ve hit a record year for DNFs also – I’ve long gone beyond the stage of pushing myself to read something I am not enjoying. I review them only if I’ve read a significant % of the book.

    I’ve hesitated about the Anne Tyler because she is also hit and miss for me. She writes beautifully though I often wonder what point she is trying to make

    • I guess Tyler specializes in character studies. But so does Backman and Joyce….theirs are more dynamic. Tyler’s are too quiet I guess. I can’t explain it! Life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying!

  20. I liked the series with Slightly South of Simple. This one was not my favorite. It think that Caroline and her body shaming was part of her neurosis and intended as humor. The first book I ready by this author had some stuff i though was odd at first and then realized it was humor. I really liked her book The Wedding Veil with its history of Edith Vanderbilt and the Biltmore Estate.

    • I enjoyed The Wedding Veil as well! I almost didn’t read it because of my DNF experience! She’s a popular author and I’ll continue to give her books a fair try! Thanks for commenting Sue!

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