DNFing Books


What do you do when a book is not enjoyable and it’s proving to be a slog to get through? The obvious answer is you stop reading it. It’s taken me years to be even remotely okay with that. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, even difficult, unrewarding things. Why? Well, sometimes even when a book is not what I want, I find that I want the whole story. I want to “see what happens.” Sometimes it’s good, old-fashioned stubbornness. I don’t want to be beaten, I suppose. But this kind of behavior often keeps me too long on one book that I dislike or even puts me in a slump.

More recently it’s gotten easier for me to accept when I don’t want to keep fighting this pointless fight and the story isn’t even engaging me enough to want more of it. I generally don’t regret when I’ve put a book down for good. Still it’s a thing I don’t do often. I try to give a book every chance to win me, which feels fair. It has to be a very negative experience for me to give up.

Length of the book often comes into play. If it’s short and irritating, I’ll be more likely to finish it. If it’s over 400 pages and equally irritating, chances are it’ll go unfinished. I also tend to push through books that I feel like I “should” read. This is something I’d like to shed, because really that’s a made-up thing. If something considered a classic or an important read is giving you that much trouble, don’t feel beholden to anyone else’s opinion or what’s considered “book canon”. Reading should be about enjoyment first.

I’ve seen people use the term to mean something they’ll eventually come back to, and I don’t use it for that. DNF stands for Did Not Finish. I consider that pretty final. If I intend to come back to something, chances are no one will even hear about it until I do.

It’s difficult determining what standards you should hold yourself to as a reader. My general rule is if something is pushing all my negative buttons, which is hard to do, then I shouldn’t put myself through that. Also, if a book is exceedingly long and I have no desire to pick it up when I’m not reading it, that might be a sign. Everyone has to search their own reading habits for what their limits are.

What are your personal rules for DNFing books? Share them in the comments. If you found this at all helpful and want to support my blog, check out my Redbubble Shop. As always, happy geeking!


4 thoughts on “DNFing Books

  1. Canary says:

    I used to never DNF books – but I also had a lot more reading time, so I’d read power even the mediocre books. Nowadays, I am more protective of my time and I’m also less tolerant of certain kinds of storylines and story tropes that piss me off.


    • quillsblog says:

      I feel the same way about cherishing my time. As much as I don’t read a book because I want to hate it, I admit that I sometimes keep going so that I can review the book. DNFing a book doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have an opinion on it, but there are times when I want to accurately talk about what didn’t work for me or how I feel a book failed. That’s hard for me to resist, especially now that I run a blog where I get to talk about these things. So even when there are tropes that raise my hackles, I want to be able to fuss about it later.


      • Canary says:

        Agreed. And often, those books with annoying elements have something else going for them. Heaven knows, there are a ton of books I’ve powered through that were overall “meh” but the pacing was good enough that I could burn through it in a burst and then move on. Often, it’s the books that bore me that go to DNF, or the ones that just aren’t written well. But I have dropped books that make me too angry to continue (often because of a TSTL hero or heroine, or a romantic plotline I couldn’t stomach). Plenty of other books in the sea!


      • quillsblog says:

        Yes, this exactly. For me, boredom is far worse than if something actually made me angry. At least that got a reaction out of me. Boredom is just this empty space where I wish I felt something. Middle-of-the-road books are so much worse than really bad books. At least I get to rant about the really bad ones.

        Liked by 1 person

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