DNFing is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way but one I’ll never regret. If a book isn’t for you and you aren’t enjoying it, there’s no point in forcing yourself through it. Life’s too short to waste on books you don’t enjoy.
That said, DNFing a book isn’t a decision to take lightly. So, here are six reasons you probably shouldn’t DNF a book.
1 ft – You Got Spoiled
Even the most careful of us can trip over a spoiler and send the reading experience we’ve previously been enjoying flying out the window. I sometimes inflict this on myself. When I’m really not enjoying a book, I sometimes look up a full summary to see if it’s worth pushing on to the end. That usually makes me realise that it isn’t and, now I have no reason to push on, I DNF. Even if you decide the ending is worth getting to, spoilers still skew your expectations and perception of the book. Often, in a negative way because, now, you notice a thing one character said that you know is going to lead to the Big Twist or something similar. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. In fact, there are some studies that show that spoilers actually don’t necessarily ruin your enjoyment of a story and make you appreciate the artistry of the book a bit more. So, if you get spoiled, don’t take that as a reason to quit. You might not be as excited for the end but you might end up enjoying the middle more than you would have originally.
2 ft – You Read A Bad Review
Reviews may have been the reason you picked up the book in the first place. You heard good things about a book, you slip into hype mode and you’re excited to see what all the fuss is about. Then, when you’re finally reading it, a review might pop on your feed that is less than glowing. It might say that, after a certain point you’re yet to reach, the book tails off and turns out to be a disappointment. In fact, it mentions something you find really objectionable (e.g. first book as guided tour of the world) later down the line. It might not be a spoiler but it will be something that tarnishes your anticipation of the ending and make you wonder whether it’s actually worth continuing to the end now that you know it’s going to be a disappointment. My view depends on the individual thing you find really objectionable and on the book but, mostly, I think you should press on. At least, now, you’re forewarned and you might not be as disappointed as you would be going in blind.
3 ft – You’re Reading Too Much
No such thing, I hear you cry! Well, as a person who can have as many as four books on the go, I’m inclined to agree with you but what you have to remember is that you have to keep those books on the go at all times. You also have to be tactical about what books you’re taking into your schedule. Definitely don’t try to read two classics at the same time. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re spreading your reading time too thin and you’re losing track of the stories, you may feel inclined to drop one or two. It’s a problem I face regularly but I find that just pushing through and finishing the problem book (usually, the longest one) is the best way to clear a space. Don’t drop books simply because your reading schedule is packed. Putting it on hold for a day or two is fine if you want to get other books out of the way but don’t leave it too long. I’ll get to why later.
4 ft – The Author Said/Did Something Bad
This turn of events is pretty rare but it has been known to happen. In fact, this happened to me last year: I was reading the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in June 2020 and it prompted me to re-evaluate my relationship with Potter, not just with the book I was reading. I decided to finish it anyway, in that case, but, if an author says/does something that you really can’t condone, you may feel like you can’t continue with this book in good conscience. You may even notice tiny warning signs of the author’s offensive views within the books that you never would have noticed before. Whether you DNF or not is entirely up to you and is dependent on the severity of the offence caused but, in my view, you should probably finish it if you’ve already started it. You’ve already given that author your money and you may not be able to get it back. You might as well get your money’s worth now, make a decision on whether to consign the book to the charity shop bag when you’re done and make a promise not to give them any more of your money in the future. Or, if you really want to finish the series, do what Amber @ The Literary Phoenix suggests and offset reading problematic authors by giving to relevant charities.
5 ft – You Heard The Series Isn’t Good
Reading the first book in a series can be rather hit and miss. The author is usually just finding their feet in the writing world. They’ve got some good ideas but haven’t mastered the execution just yet. They do their best to avoid all the first-book pitfalls but end up toppling into them anyway. Top that off with the necessity of building a whole cast of characters and/or a big fantasy world from scratch and you get a big ask for any author. You, as an experienced reader, know this. You know that the first book in a series is rarely the fan favourite and you’re willing to give a few flaws the benefit of the doubt in the hope that the author will have learned from their mistakes in later books. However, you may hear rumblings that the series doesn’t get better. You may be warned that you should get out while you can before you waste any more reading hours on this series. It begs the question whether you should finish the first book you’re already reading if you know this is the peak of the series. My advice is that, unless you find something in the particular book you find really objectionable, just finish it and leave the series at that.
6 ft – You Read It Too Slowly and Lost The Plot
This is one I fall into with monotonous regularity. Balancing a full time job and other commitments and trying to muster up the self-discipline to give myself reading time is very difficult. If I’m reading a heavy fantasy like Elantris with interlocking plotlines and character arcs, I can find myself in a situation where I can’t remember why this character is there and why they’re doing that. It ruins my enjoyment and it gets me very tempted to just throw in the towel. However, this is a very easily rectified mistake. Before you put the book down, look up a summary online. Be very careful not to go too far. Just refresh your knowledge, make a promise to yourself to give this book the attention it deserves (I have a hard time keeping these promises so don’t worry if you don’t) and press on.
Which do you think is the worst reason to DNF? Have you DNFed a book and lived to regret it? Let me know in the comments below!
I hope to see you again very soon.