The issue of DNFing books is a commonly discussed and pretty polarizing one in the bookish community.
A lot of people try to push through books no matter what whilst other DNF books they’re not enjoying regularly.
So, why should you DNF a book and when might it be best not to?
What does it mean to DNF a book?
For those not familiar, DNF means do-not-finish, i.e. putting down a book before reaching the end.
This can mean putting a book down after the first chapter or 500 pages in.
Why do we feel like we have to finish the book?
So, what is it that makes us feel like we need to finish a book? There are a few reasons…
Of course, one of the major (and valid) reasons is the money spent on the book itself.
I know for me at least, I spend a while choosing which books to buy and I like to think I’m getting my money’s worth reading them.
Perfectionism and societal expectation
Our society focuses an unproportionate amount on success. Even when it comes to a hobby that should just be for fun, like reading, there is a lot of pressure to ‘succeed’.
So it’s easy to see why not finishing a book often feels like a personal failure. When I’m struggling to keep reading, I often find myself asking: is it because my mental capacity isn’t as good? Am I not concentrating properly? Maybe if I just stick it out, I can force my way through it.
That comes down to personal perfectionism but also societal expectation that whatever we do should be done well, or at least completely (which is totally untrue!).
Pressure to finish ARCs
Many Bookstagrammers receive ARCs (advanced reader copies) from publishers. Often, this means there is a little extra pressure to finish the book, especially if the ARC was gifted in exchange for a review.
This comes up especially with classics or particularly popular books.
If you’ve been on Bookstagram for even a few minutes, you’ll know that there are certain books that make up the holy grail (I’m talking ACOTAR, The Cruel Prince, Shadow and Bone, etc.). these books are discussed so often that it’s easy to feel excluded if you haven’t read them, or didn’t enjoy them.
And the same goes for classics! As an English lit student, there are some classics I have to read for class, but there are also classics that I just feel I should read (and enjoy!), simply because a lot of people have.
Why dnf a book?
On the other hand, there are a LOT of reasons why you might not want to finish a book (and surely just not enjoying it should be enough!).
Life is too short to do things you don’t enjoy
Reading is only ever meant to be fun (unless you’re reading for a class/ work). So why force yourself to keep going with a book that you’re not enjoying?
I often find myself a lot more willing to stop watching a show I don’t enjoy than stop reading a book. Perhaps that’s because we attach more value to books, often viewing them for more than relaxation.
We only have a finite amount of time on this earth and definitely not enough to read every book. There’s no reason to focus on books you don’t enjoy (just because you think you should read them or they’re hyped)- just move on.
It’s problematic or triggering
If a book is harmful or is personally triggering (even if it’s one you think you ‘should’ read), you don’t have to keep going. In fact, you should definitely sop!
Books are not worth sacrificing our mental health for, even widely read classics that a lot of your peers may have read.
There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ genres
All genres are incredibly difficult and all are equal.
A reader is not better or more intelligent for reading classics, just as another reader is not stupid for reading romance or fantasy.
If you force yourself to read genres that you don’t actually enjoy, you will end up struggling through a book and feeling like you want to DNF.
Reading starts to feel like a job
Remember earlier when I said reading is supposed to be fun? Well, it really is.
If you’re forcing yourself to plough through books, reading becomes more of a chore than a hobby (and that’s no fun for anyone).
This is also a clear sign of an impending reading slump. If you start feeling like you’re dragging yourself through a book, the best thing is to quickly move onto another one you think you might enjoy, or do something else creative like watching Netflix, listening to music or going for a walk.
When you maybe shouldn’t DNF
Like with anything, there are of course exceptions.
- If you’re reading a book for class or for work, it’s probably a good idea to keep reading even if you’re not loving it. To make the challenge a little easier, take it in small chunks, and highlight passages to help you remember key points.
- If you’re only a few pages into a book– I try to stick to the golden rule of giving a book 100 pages before giving up on it. a lot of books do have pretty slow starts, but most of them pick up after the first few chapters.
- If the book is part of a series you want to continue– as an example, I read the Throne of Glass series last year. I loved the first few books but got a little stuck on the 4th and 5th as they were from POVs that I didn’t enjoy quite as much. However, I knew that I wanted to read the other books in the series (even just to see how it ended), and in the end, I was glad I pushed on.
My followers’ thoughts
I asked my followers for some of their thoughts when it comes to DNFing, whether they DNF books often, and if they think there should be less stigma surrounding it.
Here were some of their replies:
- If you don’t like a book by halfway, don’t finish. Reading should be enjoyable!
- If you DNF, you can spend time on a book you do enjoy.
- I don’t DNF much because I feel like I owe it to myself and the author to give it a read. However if I start dreading reading, I’ll stop. I definitely feel there shouldn’t be a stigma.
- Life’s too short to keep reading a book you hate. But give the book a fair shake.
- Read what you love, forcing yourself to finish is more work.
- We are pressurised by society to enjoy a book because we spend money on it. Reading is supposed to be fun, not a duty.
Do you DNF books often? What are your thoughts on the issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or in my Instagram dms.