10 Popular Books I Did Not Finish #DNF #TopTenTuesday #itsmenotthebook

As an addicted, compulsive, die-hard, enthusiastic, and relentless reader, there are books that I did not finish. Today, I’ll focus on why I DNFed them and why that has more to do with me than the book. No two persons read the same book because each individual brings unique life experiences, connections, expectations, and reactions. I do not want to disparage the books in this list because many other readers love them. They just weren’t to my taste or didn’t come to me at the right time.

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a graphic picture of a blond girl holding an open blue book

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Recent Books I Did Not Finish.

(In no particular order)

The Reading Experience Did Not Meet My Reading Expectations

Many others have loved Lessons in Chemistry! You will find this immensely popular book on many best-of-year lists and I’m a huge outlier. I picked up this book when I was in the mood for a light, humorous read because this is what the book blurb promised. As I came across the rape scene at approximately 7%, I was done. This was not “laugh-out-loud funny” or matching my mood or my expectations. Other readers have suggested that once I get past that part, the rest of the book is lighter and funnier. But once I’m done, I’m done. She lost me at 7%.

Content Doesn’t Match My Reading Taste

Kissing Kosher is the most recent book I DNFed. Although the premise is cute, the story is culturally interesting, and it includes an (invisible) disability, it also promotes recreational drug use. I’m fine with using medical marijuana for chronic illness, but this story appears to embrace and encourage a general lifestyle of drug use. Some readers might have no issues with this, it just isn’t isn’t a part of my lifestyle and not to my taste.


Character-driven stories like the Lincoln Highway can be a struggle for me. I read 50% before I set it aside. The boys were supposed to be going to the west coast, but they ended up going east. I admit that I’m an adrenaline junkie who is always looking for something to happen. At least, I need to fall in love with the characters. I did read the last chapter for closure. Sometimes this will encourage me to pick up the story again, but not this time. I did love A Gentleman in Moscow by the same author.

Too Long

The Bridge of Clay is probably my most disappointing DNF. I highly anticipated this new release by the author of The Book Thief. Although this is beautifully written literary fiction, it’s overwritten in my opinion. It’s also character-driven and sad. Its target audience is young adult, and I find it difficult to imagine that YA readers would be engaged for 560 pages.

Sad People Living Sad Lives

I’m usually intrigued by complicated family drama. However, Commonwealth was a slow and depressing reading experience for me and filled with unlikable characters. This is a book I set aside numerous times. All the glowing reviews encouraged me to keep picking it up. I skimmed at least 50% of it. It’s a book I should have DNFed, but my DNF muscles were not well developed at the time, and I wasn’t secure as an outlier.

Magical Realism Usually Doesn’t Work For Me

I prefer my fiction realistic. The magical realism in One Italian Summer is an element I’m learning to avoid. In addition, I didn’t appreciate the way the main character treated her husband!

I Need Likable Characters

Carrie Soto is Back is an example of an unlikable character that caused me to DNF this popular book.

It Just Didn’t Work

Nothing about Thank You For Listening worked for me. I’m not sure if it was the characters, the meta vibe (a book about an audio narrator by a popular audio narrator), the false identity trope, or the hype.

I’m Bored

The Narrowboat Summer bored me even though I loved Meet Me at the Museum by the same author. Again, character-driven fiction is a risk for me.

Troubling Content

Hour of the Witch was a DNF for me because of the content: domestic abuse, physical and emotional abuse, suicidal ideation, revenge, and violence. Often I can deal with difficult content and other times I’d rather not. This is a case of the latter. I abandoned it at 60% but I did read the final chapter for closure.


Well, I’m feeling rather negative after writing this post. I’d rather not dwell in negativity. I need to reinforce the idea that many (most) of these books are very popular and it’s a case of me and not the book. No Two Persons read the same book!

Have you loved one that I DNFed?

You may be interested in this post I wrote about my love/hate relationship with DNFing

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  1. I totally get you. For me, I struggle with quite a few popular books. I go back to them from time to time but I don’t feel absorbed. Normal People is like that.

    • Then there’s books like Normal People that I don’t even start because I know enough from the mixed reviews that it’s not a match for my reading taste! Hype can negatively affect the reading experience!

  2. DNFing is getting easier for me, but it’s been a journey. I use your method of reading the last couple of chapters for closure. Occasionally, the end has intrigued me enough to go back & see how it reached that conclusion…but not often. Lol

    • Yes, DNFing does get easier with practice! I’ve never regretted DNFing a book. I figure if I do regret it and change my mind, I can get it again!

  3. I’m a fairly brutal DNFer. Like you, once an author has lost me, they’ve lost me. I won’t finish the book and I’ll be very unlikely to pick up another book by them. Totally not fair since even my favorite authors occasionally write books I don’t love, but there you go…LOL

    Happy TTT!


    • I’m quick to DNF but I don’t love talking about it! I always worry I’m dissuading someone from a book she might love!

  4. It’s always interesting to hear other reader’s opinions! I LOVED Narrowboat Summer and it propelled me on to watch Prunella Scales & her husband Timothy West in their narrowboat canal journeys show! Amor Towles just goes no where for me though. I dnf Lessons in Chemistry, too. I liked Carrie Soto–not as much as I liked Daisy Jones, but I still really liked it. I liked her Dad especially. I was loved watching tennis back then. Tracy Austin is my age and I loved seeing the rivalries with Billie Jean King and Chris Everret and the others back then.

    • After loving Meet Me at the Museum, I had high hopes for Narrowboat. Have you read the Agassi memoir, Open? Loved Chris Everett! Did you play tennis yourself?

  5. This may have felt negative to you Carol but I found myself smiling after reading your post. You have said things I often just think about saying!! Well done 🙂

      • Many thanks, maybe I should get more brutal but I tend to try and push through. I read a book recently where every character was awful and the story was dark – I said why am I reading this but I still finished it.

  6. I agree with you on Lessons in Chemistry. It came highly recommended but left me lukewarm at best (and I did finish it).
    I was a finisher from childhood, but I read a lot of self-published books these days (in a spirit of solidarity with the brother/sisterhood) so I allow myself to give up on those. Although the first book I gave up on was something called Eragon which was published by a well-known publishing house. I got about a third of the way through, and was bored.
    It gets easier with practice. Nowadays, if I find I’m putting off picking up the book, I give it up.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cathy! I also read an occasional self published book and have come across a few gems! The last book I had to push myself to pick up was Covenant of Water….there are some page turning sections and others that are meh. But I’m glad I finished it because of those really good parts….it’s just way too long (700+ pages). Right now I’m struggling with The Postcard….it’s due back to the library soon but I don’t feel motivated to renew it.

  7. I can definitely relate to DNFing when the content or book itself doesn’t meet my expectations, and certainly not liking the writing style can be a factor too (as well as a book that’s just too long or overwritten). I did finish Bridge of Clay, but didn’t like the writing at all (and probably should have just put it down, but I kept going to see if it would get better!). I finished Lessons in Chemistry and liked it mostly (not a rave like most people), but I agree 100% about the rape scene. The book is billed as laugh-out-loud funny, and that’s unforgiveable when there’s rape content (which is largely glossed over).

    • Yeah, at that rape scene I thought what am I reading?!
      We all had high hopes for Bridge of Clay! I wonder if he’ll write another? I think it took him 10 years to write Bridge.
      I just started The Postcard which I’m struggling to be engaged with.

  8. I find it hard to DNF because I tend to be ever hopeful when it comes to books and I get the fear of missing out on something good if the book gets better after the point that I DNF it. I really should get better at it though, I have definitely wasted time on books in the past that I really should have DNF’ed. I totally get your reasoning for Lessons In Chemistry, I really struggle with that kind of content, and though I can and have read books with sexual assault or rape, it’s definitely something I need to have prepared myself for and I would be very taken off guard if I was expecting a light, fun read and that was one of the first things that came up in a book. I’m also not so good with magical realism: I find it hard to accept magic in books set outside of a fantastical world, I need rules that govern the magic and a reason for it being there, magical realism generally has neither!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2023/07/25/top-ten-tuesday-430/

  9. Great post, Carol. We all DNF books for different reasons and that is great. There are so many great books out there and as you said, No two people read the same book. I read and liked 2 of the books you did not, Thank You for Listening and One Italian Summer, but I agree about the ways she treated her husband was upsetting.

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