The Art of DNFing

So far, this has been a week of firsts for me: I successfully parallel parked between two vehicles (and freaked my mom out in the process),  I donated blood, and I marked a book as “DNF.” Guess which one I was the most proud of? Yup, the DNF.

For some reason, I always had to finish a book. I would struggle through books that couldn’t hold my interest in the off chance that they would get better, especially if they were books that everyone else seemed to love. And I didn’t stop there. If the book had a sequel – or even five – I’d always end up reading it, even though I didn’t enjoy the first one, because something amazing could happen and I didn’t want to miss out on it.

It wasn’t until I attempted to read Fifty Shades of Grey that I was cured of this compulsion. I struggled through the opening chapter and by the time I made it through ~100 pages, I knew that I couldn’t finish the book. Without a second thought, I created a “DNF” shelf on Goodreads, added Fifty Shades to it, and picked up another book. And you know what? It felt good. There was no guilt, no shame, and no burning desire to find out what happened next. No one judged me for marking it unfinished and, most importantly, the world didn’t come to an end.

This experience made me rethink my reading process. I’m no longer going to force myself to finish a book that I’m not enjoying; I’ll give it ~100 pages and if I know that it isn’t suddenly going to grasp my attention, I’m going to set it aside. After all, life’s too short to struggle through bad books!

What do you do with books that you’re just not that into? Leave me a comment below.

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  • Before blogging, I DNF books all the time! But in my attempt to expand my reading comfort zone I’m trying to do this less. However, I’m not ashamed to DNF books I absolutely cannot read which is why I have a DNF rating on my blog. As for what I do with DNF books, I either give them away or sell them to a used bookstore.

    P.S. I’ve heard soooo many things about Fifty Shades. I don’t think it’s my kind of book, but I think I would partially read it for a laugh.

    • It seems like you have a pretty good system for DNFs! And good for you for working on expanding your comfort zone – that’s something I really need to start on.

      Fifty Shades was definitely not my kind of book. I knew that before I started reading it but I felt like I had to give it a try – for some reason I can’t say no when people offer to lend me books. Oh, there were definitely lots of scenes that made me laugh and roll my eyes, haha.

  • I used to be like that. There was a time when I just HAD to finish every book I started, even if it was terrible. My TBR pile is enormous now, though, in comparison. And I simply don’t have the time to struggle through a bad book when I know the next one I pick up has the potential to blow my mind, you know? So if it’s not working, I just put it away. Sometimes, I find I return to it years later and end up liking it. Sometimes, I just get the feeling I never will.

    Like you said, life’s too short. 🙂

    • Exactly! At the rate my to-read pile grows, I’m always afraid that I’m never going to get around to reading all of the books on it – and I know that if I spend my time struggling through the ones I don’t like, I definitely won’t have time for the ones that look a lot better.

      My mood affects my reading experience, so there have been many cases where I’ve given a book another chance years later and ended up enjoying it.

  • 100 pages will now be my limit for books that I really want to put down immediately! I am reading Tithe by Holly Black and wanted to stop reading it in the first chapter. It is still not my favorite, but the story is developing, so I am hanging in there.

    • Some might take a lot less time to put down depending on the writing style, etc., but 100 pages is generally a good limit. I read Tithe years ago, but I don’t remember anything about it (with the exception of one scene because it was… strange). Hopefully it gets better for you!

  • It’s taken me a while to get comfortable with the idea of not finishing a book, but after a couple of years in university not reading many books for myself, I realized that the down time I’m given to read a book of my choosing, I don’t want it to be one that I’m not enjoying. What’s the point? There are so many wonderful books out there to read, so why spend our time reading something we don’t like when we could pick up another book that’ll tickle our fancy more.

    • University definitely cuts into reading time – in my first year, I think I only read two or three books because I was so busy with textbook readings, labs, etc. After all that, you definitely need time to unwind with a book that you actually enjoy.

  • I eased myself into DNFing by saying I was just setting it aside “for now.” I’d try it again “later.” By now there’s no fooling myself. Not to say there aren’t books that I genuinely will try to get back to later (usually classics or heavier stuff that I just can’t wrap my head around at the moment) but the majority of my DNFs are for good… and that’s okay.

    Not only am I a happier reader, not forcing myself to slog through a book, thinking “but it might get better” every time I wished I could give it up… but I’m more likely to branch out and try new things, knowing that I don’t have to read a whole book (or worse, a whole series!) if I’m just not into it.

    • That’s definitely a good way to get yourself used to leaving books unfinished. I completely understand – certain books are more enjoyable when you’re in a specific mood/frame of mind and some just aren’t the right fit for you at all.

      I’m so glad that this has had a positive impact on your reading life! : )

  • Before blogging, I never thought about DNF a book. I felt like I had to finish the book and I always thought ‘it might get better.’ Nowadays, I don’t care. If I don’t like it, I quit. I might pick it up later (sometimes I’m just not in the mood for a certain book), sometimes I put them away forever. There is not enough time to force yourself to read horrible books 🙂

    • I think it’s so interesting how moods can impact a reading experience. I’ve had so many cases where I’ve given a book a second chance under completely different circumstances, and ended up enjoying it. Agreed! Life’s too short, and our to-read lists are far too long for that! 🙂

  • I am kinda the opposite, I leave books for a bit and say I’ll go back to them when I am more in the mood, sometimes I do, but more often I don’t. I need to stop that, especially since I want to write a review on my blog for some of them, but luckily for me, for every 1 book that I’m not amazed with there is 50more that still need to be read. Also I do it with books I do like, just need to read another for r4r or ARC and forget to go back 🙁 need to start a better filing system for books I think.

    • I have a bad habit of putting down books and forgetting to go back to them too. I’ve started stacking books up beside my bed with the ones that need to be read first at the top of the pile so that all of the books I’m reading/about to read are in one place. When I finish a book, I put it back on my bookshelf (or in the return to library pile near my door). I haven’t come up with a system that works for ebooks, though.

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