Shelf Talk: DNFing Books

shelftalk

Welcome to Shelf Talk, a bi-weekly discussion post that covers a variety of topics including, but not limited to, gardening, video games, cooking, crafting and of course books. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to see on future Shelf Talk posts, leave it in the comments or send me an email, and I’ll do my best to cover that topic in the future.

There comes a time in every readers life when we start a new book, but part way through we decide it’s not worth finishing. Of course this also can cause a dilemma, as we readers don’t always like giving up on a book. The reasons for not finishing a book vary greatly, from lackluster plot, to unbelievable characters to poor editing and so much more. But in the end, we all have to decide whether to continue on and hope that the story gets better, or to set it down, call it a loss and move on.

Many years ago, I had a rule when it came to reading a book. If I wasn’t loving it within 50 pages or 5 chapters (whichever came first), I would give up on it and move on. I figured that if a 200-300 page long book couldn’t draw me in within that time, there was no reason to keep going. I could put my time into other books that I would hopefully enjoy more.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when I joined the book blogging sphere, my tolerance for bad books changed. I tried to give every book I had a complete chance. If that meant slogging through 400 pages just to get to the end and say I read the whole thing, then that’s what I would do. It meant I hated some books a lot more than I should have, because I forced myself to keep going when I should have cut my loses. Now, it did work in my favor sometimes, as I would find the odd book that started out weak, but really picked up in the second half and I ended up really liking that book in the end.

Recently however, I have decided to review my reasons for not finishing a book, and accept that sometimes it is best to give up on them. A good example of this happened a few weeks ago. I was looking at my Goodreads page and noticed that I had two books in my “Currently Reading” list which had been there for quite some time. One was Stormrage and I was just over half way through the book. This book had been a slog fest from page one, but I really wanted to read the whole thing so I could say I had and then continue on with the last few books in the World of Warcraft series. But after it had sat there, half read since August I realized it was time to call it quits. I couldn’t recall what had really happened (I’m honestly not sure anything had happened story wise given how boring the while thing had been up to that point), so if I were to continue it, I’d either be lost or have to start again from page one – and neither of those options sounded good to me. The other book in that list was The Raven King. I started this book back in April but I quickly set it aside after about 100 pages (or about a quarter of the way through). I had enjoyed the first book in this series a lot, but each consecutive book was a little less interesting to me. This was another book I would have to start over again in order to finish. After sitting there for almost eight months, I knew it was time to move on.

So I listed both of them as DNF and moved on. Now I know some of you are probably yelling at me through your monitors right now, your fingers flying across the keyboard writing up a comment to convince me to not give up, especially over me not finishing The Raven King. But that is my choice. I am sure there have been some books that others have tried to read that I loved, yet they hated and perhaps didn’t even finish. Sure it sucks when that happens, because obviously we want people to like the books we like, but that’s not always going to happen.

The thing is, there are so many books out there, that I feel by forcing myself to see a book that I’m not enjoying all the way to the end, I’m taking away time I could spent on a book I will, perhaps, enjoy. If the characters don’t appeal to me, if the story feels flat or if there are way too many cliches in them (I’m looking at your love triangles!), then I will do what feel right to me and stop reading. There is always the chance that later down the road, I may wish to revisit a book, to see if my opinion of it has changed, but I can’t bother myself with bad books. Life is too short to suffer like that.

Going forward, I am going to be more decisive about not finishing books. I have hundreds of unread books on my shelves at home. Yup, you read that right, hundreds of unread books. So if I am to have any chance of getting through them all, I need to weed out the bad ones by putting them in the DNF pile and move onto the next (hopefully) good book.

There is no perfect formula when it comes to deciding when to continue with a book and when to give up. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. It is the same things that dictates whether we like a certain genre, author, etc. or not. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with not finishing a book. Others may disagree, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about the reader community, is that our opinions are all so different, yet we all get along because in the end, we all have a common love of books.

How do you feel about DNFing a book? Do you have a rule when it comes to not finishing them? Or are you the type to stick it out to the end no matter what?

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4 thoughts on “Shelf Talk: DNFing Books

  1. This year, I’ve been trying to get a little better at DNFing books. Like you, I have a 50 page or 20% (for eBooks) rule. If a book just isn’t grabbing my attention and I don’t care what happens after that mark, get it out of there!

    It’s hard though!

    Glass Sword was one of my most anticipated reads this year and I (painfully) got to the 50% and just couldn’t power through. I thought it was just a mood thing (I’m a mood reader) but when I had the opportunities to pick it up again, I just couldn’t do it! It was tough and took me 5 months to reach that conclusion but I’ve felt a lot better since I made that definitive answer.

    The hardest for me is review copies. I want to give them a chance and I’ve essentially agreed to review it so I feel like I am letting them down (which I totally am). But the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that I’m not going to enjoy every book; that doesn’t mean someone else won’t, it just isn’t my cup of tea and I could be spending my time reading a book I’d actually enjoy if I just put it down.

    • It certainly is hard, especially with review books and those you have been looking forward to reading. But sometimes it’s for the best just to give up and move on. I find this the trickiest with review books, of course, because I committed to reading them. I do tend to force myself to finish a review book no matter what, but there have been times when I just couldn’t do it. In those cases I contact the publisher about it, asking if they want on a review on what I read or to skip the review.
      I agree completely, not liking a book doesn’t mean everyone else won’t like it. Half the joy of being a reader is finding people who do and don’t like the books we have read, and discussing the reasons for their liking/not liking it.

      • It’s those constructive comments on why you didn’t like that I think are the key.

        I’ve had a few authors who are very willing to discuss why I didn’t like when I let them know I won’t finish it it because they appreciate the feedback. There’s no need to be rude about it either and I like to think I’m quite respectful when I do that.

        If I’m on the fence about picking a book up in the first place, I read a positive and a negative review to get a feel for what I can expect going into it. So as a reader, I really appreciate those well thought out negative reviews.

      • Exactly, even negative reviews, when done constructively, are a huge help to both author and reader. I try to keep my negative reviews to constructive criticism, but sometimes I slip and go full rant. I always seek out the negative reviews, whether it’s a book I’m excited about or one I’m not sure about, I find negative reviews help me understand the book better than the ones that gush about how amazing it is.

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