Every time I pick up a book I hope it will be the best book I’ve ever read but that’s sometimes not the case. In fact, sometimes I’m reading a book and it’s not going well AT ALL and now I’m confronted with the fact that I might have to DNF a book. Now some readers and reviewers will never mark a book as Did Not Finish and will find a way to push through to the end. I used to be one of those readers but as more time went by and my To Be Read list got bigger and bigger, I realized I didn’t have enough time to waste it on a book I wasn’t enjoying.
So, how do I determine it’s time to DNF a book? After all, I want to give the story a fair shot and sometimes books get better as they go and I just need to get through a rough beginning. But sometimes they don’t get better or sometimes they’re just not for me and that’s ok, because every book isn’t meant for every reader. Other times there’s a bigger problem with a book like poor writing, problematic content, or a weak plot and this is a whole other reason for DNFing a book.
But what about a book that I’m just not enjoying? Well, I have a few guidelines to help me decide it’s time to let go of a book.
To start, I try to get at least 25% into a book before giving up. Sometimes those first chapters are a bit wonky or slow and then things really start to kick into gear. Since I’m reading romance, I also try to make sure I’ve met both love interests and they’ve spent time together on the page. Some characters are better than others and sometimes I like characters more as a couple than individuals, so I like to give the book a chance to show me that.
Another sign that a book isn’t working for me is that I keep checking how far along I am and wishing I was closer to finishing. It’s never a good thing when you can’t wait for a book to just end already. This pretty obviously tells me I’m just reading to finish and not reading out of enjoyment.
As a book starts to lag for me I also ask myself if I’m feeling invested in the characters’s love story. If I don’t really care about the characters and their romance then I’m probably not going to like the book overall. It might just be that the characters are hard for me to relate to or maybe their relationship is too simple or on the other hand too complicated. I know myself well and I know what I like so I can usually tell when it’s not going to work.
Other times I’ll DNF a book because it breaks one of my reading “rules” meaning the things I just can’t forgive or get behind as a reader. These rarely happen but they include characters that cheat, characters that abuse their loved ones, or characters that get enjoyment out of hurting or being cruel to others. These are obvious STOP and DNF moments for me because they’re clearly against my reading preferences. This does mean that I stick to my comfort zone pretty regularly and I’m ok with that because life is short and I want to read books I know I’ll love.
Now it might seem like it’s easy for me to DNF a book but even with these guidelines I still struggle with doing it. I know how much work a writer puts into their books and I hate when I don’t enjoy them. Other times it’s a popular book that everyone is raving about and I feel like something is wrong with me because I don’t like it. Or maybe it’s an author that I already love and it feels even worse to realize I might DNF their book.
It’s always a hard decision and I do my best to give a book a fair shot but ultimately I have to do what’s best for me.
Do you have a system for DNFing a book?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.