54 comments on “How to DNF in Two (Not-So-Simple) Steps

  1. I used to be a MAF, but when I started blogging and was introduced to SO MANY new books, I switched over to a DNFer. I just couldn’t force myself to finish this book that I wasn’t interested in at all, because there were so many more waiting on my shelf or Kindle that I knew I’d be into.

    I try my best not to DNF even now – it only happens every once in a while, when I TRULY cannot stand the book. If I’m just kind of wishy-washy, I’ll force myself through in the hope that it gets better.

    • A lot of times it depends on my mood or mindset at the time. Sometimes I’m more patient, sometimes not… which at first I felt was unfair to the book, but then I realized maybe I shouldn’t care about being fair to inanimate objects and instead worry about spending my time in a way that makes sense for me. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I really have never been one to MAF, because I’ll never manage to move on, and that’s not good because I am also a monogamous reader, can’t read more than one at a time. I’ve tried several times, and failed. So I have just resorted to continuing with my DNF status. (In most recent memory there was Treasure Island and Bridget Jones’ Diary. I’m still planning on going back to Jane Eyre once I get through The Big Reap).

    • I’ve found that I CAN read more than one at a time if one of those is a re-read… but I still don’t like to. I’d rather just lose myself in one story, finish it, then move on. But if I’m heading out of town and know I’m not going to have time to really get into my current book, sometimes I’ll grab something off my shelf and read that in any small snatches of time I do have.

  3. I’ve left books on the shelf with bookmarks stuck halfway in. I eventually get back to them but then I have to start over as I can’t remember the first part anymore. Round two usually goes better.

    I read another post on this recently where the blogger made a very good argument from a writer’s perspective: Even if you’re not enjoying it, are you learning from it? A bad book can teach you mistakes to avoid as a writer and then it’s worth finishing it. But if you’re not enjoying it, nor learning anything, put it down. There are enough good books out there to not waste time on bad or even simply mediocre ones.

    Wells’s Time Machine was much better for me than War of the Worlds. You might give that one a try.

    • Oh sure, there’s definitely more than one good reason to read a book. When I’m talking about DNF’s though, I’m primarily talking about reading for pleasure and entertainment. If the purpose is to enjoy myself, then… I should probably stop if I’m not enjoying myself. Reading to expand my knowledge… whole different story.

  4. I’ve been leaning in that direction lately. I did put down a book when I got Doctor Sleep out at the library because I knew that as a new release I would not get to renew it. So I put down Insomnia and picked up the Doc. I am now back at Insomnia. I had to backtrack a few pages to get into it again, but I did. I already unreserved a book after I read a review of it and decided it was not something I was going to read. It’s freeing!

  5. Yours is my exact, exact philosophy. The book will always be there! Especially if I’ve gotten it from the library, it’s easy and true to tell myself that I can always pick it up another time. And sometimes I do pick it up another time and enjoy it a lot. It’s not even lying to myself.

    • I didn’t start out with the intent of tricking myself, it’s just that over time I’ve come across some DNF’s that I know I won’t pick up again… but by the time I got to those books, I was okay with it. And even the books that I think I might… well, I might not, and that’s okay too. There’s just SO many books I want to read. But yes, if I ever change my mind, my DNF’s will be there waiting for me.

  6. I hate to DNF!!! I will struggle far into a book before quitting it. But I just have to sometimes. I am sooooo bored I am not even really reading anymore.

    • Some people have a 50-page rule, or a 100-page rule. (I’ve also heard 100 minus your age… I guess the older you are, the less time you have for books you don’t like.) I don’t have anything like that, it’s just more a gut feeling. Even though you don’t like to do it, it’s good that you can if you have to. Before my “epiphany” I wouldn’t have been able to.

  7. I’m adopting this mantra. I always suffer silently from secret shame while DNF-ing, because it feels like a failure. Saying “this isn’t the right book for me at the moment” and reminding myself it will still be there if I decide to revisit it is pretty liberating. Charleen, when did you become so wise? How can I grow to know all the things?

  8. I am a total MAF!! I have only not finished one book, but that was because it was really, really bad both in grammar and content!

    I think I simply do not DNF because I have become choosier in what I choose to pick up these days. I used to feel guilty about having to finish any book, but I haven’t found that in recent years. I still want to finish a book and figure out where it is going to go.

    • See, I feel like since allowing myself to DNF, I’ve become less choosy. Before, I was less likely to take a risk on a book I might not like, considering how often I got burned by books I thought I would like. And I’ve come across some pleasant surprises this way. But if I knew I was stuck with that book until the bitter end, I might not have picked it up in the first place.

  9. I have to really, really, really dislike a book in order to DNF it. I’ve only done that with three books so far in my entire reading career. I’m not afraid to DNF something…I don’t have some kind of rule against it…I just don’t do it that often.

      • Oh, I remember. Hahaha!

        In Cold Blood by Truman Capote–got fifty pages from the end and just couldn’t finish it. It was boring and repetitive.

        Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel–couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. Blerg. I don’t like her writing style and I also found it boring.

        The third book is not a popular one and not really worth mentioning. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but I definitely wasn’t in the mood for it and I didn’t really care about the subject matter.

  10. Each to their own but I’m a huge fan of dnf’ing. No guilt, I don’t think twice about it. Why spend hours doing something I’m not really in to. I like the way you eased in to it by saying ‘not now’, great way to start :-)

    • For me, it wasn’t so much a guilt thing. It was more a type A personality thing (can’t handle leaving something unfinished) combined with a curiosity thing (maybe it really would get better). But yeah, after easing myself into it, I don’t really have an issue with it anymore.

  11. I love your advice. I am terrible at not DNF’ing when I should. I have DNF’d exactly two books ever (1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and Middlemarch by George Eliot)…and I still feel lingering guilt over not finishing either of them, even though I totally DETESTED them. I need to learn to LET IT GO!!!

    • The next time you feel like DNFing a book, just set it aside “for now” and move on to a new one. If you absolutely have to go back to it, it’ll be there. But there’s certainly no harm in giving it a shot!

  12. Hmm. I understand why telling yourself that “you’re not feeling it” may be a good way to get used to abandoning books, but honestly? Some books are just bad. Sometimes you stop reading a book because it’s not worth reading. Ever. I used to never abandon books, but in recent years I’ve started. And then, yes, sometimes a book just isn’t appropriate at the moment and I set it aside to be finished later, but more often than not if I can lose interest so completely, it says something about the book. Trying again later may change that, but probably not…

    • True… but for those who simply can’t stop reading no matter how bad the book is, it’s a nice little gateway fib. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Well, I don’t nearly read as much as you do, but I do like to finish my books, even if it takes a while. I di read multiple books at once though, not always but sometimes I set one aside when it’s not working that well for me, like that Sherlock Holmes book right now.

    However, there have been a couple of books I DNF over the years, the first that comes to mind is Moby Dick. i don’t think there will ever be a good time for me to revisit it, ha.

  14. I find this post quite interesting. I do think it’s quite a simple concept that we overlook. Of course the book will always be there! And of course there are times when it’s easier to read a book than others because we constantly change! Yet for some reason us readers always like to see it as the end of the world kind of thing.

    I’m actually with Christine on this one. I don’t mind my MAF status. It rarely turns out that I dislike a book that much, and if I do I feel better that I gave it a full chance. I feel like if I were to DNF and come back, I would have to reread the bits I already read and that would bother me. haha. To each their own!

    But I’m glad it works for you and hopefully it’ll help some unhappy MAFers out!

    • That’s the thing that I don’t get about reading multiple books at a time. I feel like every time I switched from one book back to another I’d have to back up and get myself back into it. It’s not so much an issue if I come back to a book years later, because in those cases I’d expect to start over… but if I was just reading something a week ago, I’d be frustrated because I KNOW I just read this, but I just can’t remember it all!

  15. ‘It’s not the right book for me right now’

    I tell myself the same thing; I’m a monogamous read as well, so I can’t struggle through a book, I need to get to the next one which I may enjoy as opposed to sticking with one I’m not.

    I also tell myself it is okay to not enjoy a book, if everyone liked all the books it would be weird.

    • Oh, absolutely. And I don’t expect to enjoy all the books. But for some reason I still had a hard time with, “If you’re not enjoying it, it’s okay to stop.”

  16. As a multi-reader, I can say I have books that sit and languish on my shelf for eternity (potentially). I don’t give up, exactly, I just don’t pick it back up. Mansfield Park is this way, it just sits on the shelf – 30% read – until there is nothing else in the world that I would want to read. In other words, forever.

  17. Just stumbled on your blog. Yes, I DNF and have even written DNF reviews (only on what parts I read). I don’t want to waste my time laboring over a book and my time is important to me. If it’s a book that is bad then I’ll never pick it up again but if there was potential for me to read it at another time then I just set it aside. I read in moods too so….yep, I DNF and don’t regret it.

  18. Last year was really the year for me where I decided that it’s enough. When I was younger I finished every book I started, but when I grew up DNF became easier. It still hardly happened, but last year I DNF a couple of books and man, that felt good! So I now have the policy that around the first 50 pages I must feel excited to read. If I don’t like it, I quit.


    • I still have yet to come up with a rule as to WHEN I can DNF a book. Sometimes I can tell within a few pages if the style is just wrong for me. Other times I get halfway through the book… and then, of course, I’m thinking that since I already made it this far I might as well keep going… but I’m trying to get better about that too. It’d be more of a waste to keep reading something I’m not enjoying than to “throw away” the time already invested. Thanks for reading!

  19. I try to finish books, but I have never been one to plough on through to the end if I wasn’t enjoy it. In my opinion, life’s too short to spend your time on books you don’t enjoy when there are so many awesome books out there that you will.

  20. I always have at least 3 but more likely 5-7 books going at a time. I have no problem DNFing. If the author wanted me to finish it, they should have written a better book. This is not my job. I read for fun and if it’s not fun, I can’t be bothered. Most of my DNFs I have no intention of going back to, ever. A select few will get a second look, but for the most part, I delete them from my Kindle or toss them into the donation box. They’re gone, good riddance.

    • It’s good that you don’t waste time thinking about them. More often than not, as soon as I start in on the next book, I’ve forgotten all about the one I set aside… if I can’t help wondering how it would have turned out, I figure that’s a sign I should put it back on my TBR.

  21. I DNF all the time. :)
    There are so many great books out there that I will never have the time to read so why spend the little time I have on books that just don’t hold my attention?
    Like you said, who knows, I might get back to them at some point, but usually, if I lose interest, 99% of time I will not go back.

    • I’ve been thinking during this discussion… it’s funny that one of the main arguments for DNF’ing – too many books, too little time – is one of the main arguments AGAINST re-reading… and yet I do that all the time! (Maybe that’ll be my next discussion post.) I guess it just comes down to doing what’s right for you, whatever that is. Thanks for stopping by!

  22. I agree.. Sometimes it is better to wait. I have a Sherlock Holmes book that I go back to every so often. Thanks for the information.

  23. I almost never DNF. I can count on one hand the books I have DNF’d. So I guess that makes me a MAF type of reader. But I am also a multi book at one time reader. I read a short story anthology in between my each book (usually one or two short stories between each novel). I also start multiple books at once. I will read 10 to 50 pages of a book and if it doesn’t grab me right away i will put it down and pick up a different one and read 10-50 pages of that. I will do this with about 2 to 3 books at once and then read the one that i’m feeling more in the mood for. Sometimes I never put the first book down and then just continue to read in a mad dash til I’m done. Hence sometimes on my goodreads shelf I’ll have like 4 books in my currently reading lol. Just because I don’t decide that day to continue reading it that day – means that the other one demands my attention more. I might even save it for several weeks or months from then. Heck BLOOD RED ROAD I set aside for 6 months at only 50 pages in before picking it back up and devouring it in one day. I also like to have different books around the house. There is sometimes a different book I’ll read at lunch or at bedtime or when I’m out and about on errands. Because at bedtime I might know that one will hold my interest more and keep me awake where as another one I will fall asleep on its pages.

    But really I think I never have more than 3 books “going” at once. I’m usually actively reading one book and the others I’ve just “started” until I find the mood for them. When I push and try to read if I’m not in the mood for it, I don’t end up enjoying the book as much.

    • I do think the whole DNF/MAF thing is different if you have several books going at once; it’s not such an absolute thing. I’d imagine it takes a lot more for a multi-reader to give up on a book for good.

      • Oh yes, a lot. hah. Even then sometimes I push through. Usually that’s because I want to feel justified in saying something if I already have something in mind I want to say in a review.

  24. I have had DNFing on my mind all day, and decided to write a quickie post. I hope you don’t mind if I link back to here — your words of wisdom are terrific!

  25. I am actually one of those MAFers that can read more than one book at once. I read several at once (including one with my husband, one with my son, and a couple on my own). That being said, if it’s a book that probably should become a DNF, I usually finish about 10 other books before that one finally gets done. I usually alternate between the books I’m reading pretty evenly, but when I hardly read a book (or give myself rewards: i.e. read to page 50 and you get to eat some chocolate!), I know I really don’t like it. Hence why I need to learn to DNF. Seriously.

    Thanks for this post!

    • It really is tough to get used to, not knowing how it ends or whether it gets better. But it gets easier with time, and it’s worth it. Glad I could help!

Comments are closed.