Bookish posts

The Art of The DNF: Why It’s so Hard to Abandon Books And How to Deal With it

Schermafbeelding 2018-01-20 om 18.02.37

Let me paint a – probably – very familiar picture for you: You see a book. You read a little bit about the book. You might scroll through the reviews, and see some people raving about it. Your friend tells you that you need to read this book. So you do. You start it. You get 50, maybe a 100 pages in. And you’re just not feeling it. 

So you kinda want to quit. But at the same time, you really really don’t want to quit. you might feel this weird sense of guilt. I know I do.

Soooo.. What do you do? Do you finish the book because dangit, you’re not a quitter? Or do you decide that this book that you’re just not feeling, is not worth your time when your TBR is already never ending?

Feeling Guilty About DNF’ing

There are a couple of reasons why you might feel guilty for abandoning a book. If you spend your hard-earned money on it, you want to get your money’s worth! But there is another reason that I find very interesting, and that is that allowing yourself to DNF a book might be an acknowledgement of your own limitations. Especially if it’s some kind of classic that is just hard for you to get through, and you feel like it’s the type of book that you ‘should’ read.

For the longest time, I never DNF’d books. I hated quitting a book. I was not a quitter. I would push through no matter what. Abandoning a book felt like giving up. But gradually, as my TBR pile kept growing and my days got busier and busier, DNF’ing became a little easier. I realized how little time I actually had, and that I wanted to use that time to read books I actually enjoyed.

So how do you actually DNF something, then?

Just like with many things, the first time is the hardest. For me, when I actively decide to DNF a book, I never pick it up again later. That book is done for me. It’s a very different feeling then, let’s say, reading a book, then starting another book and putting the first book aside for a while. Because then I (might) pick it up again later if I’m in the mood for it. When I decide to DNF for good I will often actually give the book away or just get rid of it, because I usually do not enjoy having it on my shelf anymore. And when it’s out of sight, I feel a lot less guilty about DNF’ing!

Something else that has helped me with DNF’ing books is that I give myself a certain amount of pages – usually 50 or 75, and after this set amount of pages I ask myself ‘do I really want to continue with this book?’. If the answer is no, I quit. If the answer is yes, or not sure, I will keep reading, at least for a little bit. The reason I do this is because it’s much harder to abandon a book when you’re already 300 pages in, and I usually feel more guilty because I already spend so much time reading this book, and the time feels wasted.

I proudly DNF books now. I simply don’t see the point in continuing a book if I’m not enjoying it. If I don’t want to finish it. I can move onto bigger and better books that I’ll actually enjoy and that will stay with me forever. I still don’t DNF that often, but at least it’s an option now. And that certainly feels good.

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12 thoughts on “The Art of The DNF: Why It’s so Hard to Abandon Books And How to Deal With it

  1. I honestly think there’s nothing wrong with DNF’ing a book. We all have huge piles of unread books to get to and investing time in a book you simply don’t feel and can’t connect with? It sucks.
    I’ve set myself the rule of having to read at least 100 pages before I decide to DNF a book. Ever since I set that rule I only DNF’d three books. Most of them pick up by that mark and I’m simply a bit more picky to the books I request / buy as well. Apart from classics, I’m pretty sure I’ll like almost all books I have left to read. Classics are.. unknown since I’ve never read one yet, haha.

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    1. I agree! I like your rule of reading at least a 100 pages, seems like a good way to make sure you give a book a fair chance before potentially DNF’ing. I like classics, but more because I enjoy learning more about specific time periods and meanings behind the book and characters than for the stories themselves. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you!

        I’ve never really had a good relationship with history, if I can call it like that. Safer to say that it was my downfall all through high school, haha. Maybe that’s why I automatically shy away from classics as well..

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  2. I am a DNFer. Like you, there was a time when I found it hard to give up on a book, but I now at a place in my reading life that I want to read things I enjoy and not just say that I read a certain book. I actually think I’ve gotten better at discerning which books I will enjoy and which I won’t much quicker. I don’t have to read 100 pages, but can tell in the first couple of chapters. Makes me feel less guilty when I put down a book after 25 pages verses 125. Great discussion.

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    1. It’s great that you’ve gotten better at discerning which books you’ll enjoy and which books aren’t for you! I’m currently working towards that, but there are plenty of genres I haven’t really explored as much as I want to so it’s definitely a process. 🙂

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  3. I have such a hard time with DNF’ing! Unless it’s something I really hate from the start I have a bit of a habit of putting it aside ‘for later’ like you said, and then, even though I never pick it up again I won’t get rid of it. Usually I’ll just finish them anyway though. With that said, I really appreciate what you said about how it’s better to read books you’re interested in because time is limited. That’s what I’m trying to do but I’m not quite there yet. I might have to try giving myself up to a certain page though, it sounds like a good place to start. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, having trouble DNF’ing books a problem that most people seem to have so I like to see how others get past it!

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    1. No worries, you’re definitely not alone (hence this post!) I think it’s a process to get to the point where you’re comfortable DNF’ing, it took me a long time to get there as well. I’m happy you liked the post!

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  4. This is such a though provoking post! I have never really made the distinction between DNF and ‘might read later’. I always keep the books around even if DNF it and then later on try to read it again. Consequence? Same feeling. So reading about this really helps me in a way with how I deal with books I don’t like.

    I felt the pressure to read certain books, because they are classics or ‘you are not educated if you haven’t read this boos’ – so I felt really guilty after not finishing a certain book. I didn’t know why exactly, but this post gave me some insight in what it feels for you.

    Thank you for writing this and also for writing the other posts on books! I have this new inspiration to read books and especially books I wouldn’t have read before. Thank you again!

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    1. I definitely recognize the ‘you’re not educated if you haven’t read this book’ and I feel obligated to finishing them (remember when I tried to read Dracula? which I just didn’t like..) but if I really don’t enjoy the book, I’m not gonna force myself to finish it. Of course books are there to teach us something, but they’re also for pleasure! They should be fun more than anything. So I always try to keep that in mind. 🙂

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