The Dreaded DNF. . . (A Behind the Bookwyrm Feature)

POSTED ON February 7, 2018 BY Austine IN Behind the Bookwyrm, Guest Post

As I’m inching towards the 100-page mark of a first-time read, my heart rate quickens. No, not because I’ve reached a good part (or maybe, it depends!), but because this is the point in which I have to make a decision. I think we’ve all encountered it at one point or another. I’m talking about the ultimate bookworm dilemma: see the work through to the end or throw in the towel aka D..N…F. (Did Not Finish).

Over the Christmas holiday, I was gifted a cute shirt labeled with “Bookmarks are for Quitters”. The sentiment, which is lovely and comical as my entire family knows I am a bookworm, also made me ponder what it means to quit a book – not necessarily putting a pin in it to continue it later but completely giving up on it. Lots of thoughts race through my head as this decision weighs on me, especially if I am reviewing a work by an author/publisher who submitted a request. I developed this mental checklist as to whether or not to quit and mark a DNF:

Previous Ratings

The moment I begin to have my doubts of whether or not to finish, I do a brief look at the ratings on goodreads for that particular book. Recently, I was on the verge of DNF-ing and one look at the ratings showed me the book rated no lower than a 3…. Ok, so there must be something wrong with me, right? Then, I started this rabbit hole down into thinking maybe those reviews were skewed – skeptic that I am, it goes through for a minute and then quickly exits my thoughts as I become a realist/optimist. Alright, maybe I’ll give it a go a bit longer.

Synopsis = Full Narrative

Still, a few pages later and I am not convinced. Next, I reread the synopsis and any marketing blurbs that have been shared and marketed. Scratching my head, I wonder, “What I am reading does not match up with these statements”. Or at least I am having a hard time seeing the connections in addition to feeling engaged with the narrative. Should I quit while I’m ahead?

Pre-Determined Page Point

For some reviewers out there, a DNF is not a big deal. I met a woman who owns a library-themed bed and breakfast in Michigan whose entire BNB is covered wall to wall with books – so much so that each room has a theme/genre/color-scheme. I asked her one morning over breakfast if she had read every single book she owned. Without skipping a beat, she informed me that life’s too short to read books that don’t grab your interest. Each of the books in the BNB she has read at least 50 pages of if not more depending on if it kept her attention. Knowing how many written works are out there in the world, it makes sense to not waste time on ones you don’t have a connection with. However for me, I feel that sense of guilt, maybe because one day I hope to write a book and will dread that day if and/when a DNF comes my way!

The Last Straw: A Gut Feeling

Being transparent, a DNF is a part of the process, honestly. That is the risk authors accept by sharing their work (not just authors but anyone producing anything to someone other than themselves). We owe it to each of these creators to be honest, so that they can continue to grow. It could be a reality check that, hey maybe this is not for you or time to hone in on what unique attributes you bring to the craft that can be expanded on to make it better. I also wonder why (or if it is in the works) goodreads does not have a DNF rating ability in their 5-point scale. That’s where we can mark it in the written review, I guess.  At some point, I feel I just know when I am personally not getting what I need out of the work.

.    .    .

So, the next time a group of friends recommend a book to you with glowing reviews and/or a book you’ve seen splashed over all social media and advertisements does not meet your expectations before you’ve closed the back cover, think about that DNF. It can be a dreaded act, but as some have mentioned in the bookish community lately, goodreads (and reading in general) is for the readers.

Happy reading!


Courtney @ Incessant Bookworm

Looking around every room in my house, an ethnographer would think that I value knowledge and the written word. Guilty! As a child, I loved the movie Matilda, especially when she brought her little red wagon flyer to and from the library, books piled in as she stopped outside the playground and read. As I transitioned through high school and college, I learned to carry a book with me everywhere I go thanks to The Gilmore Girls. You could say most of my dreams of curling up with a good book have stemmed from fictional characters, and I am not ashamed!

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Behind the Bookwyrm is a guest post blog series where members of the book community come to NovelKnight to share their thoughts, opinions, interests, and anything in between! This series is intended for book bloggers, booktubers, bookstagrammers, booklrs, etc. If you’re using a platform to talk about books, then this is for you!

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11 responses to “The Dreaded DNF. . . (A Behind the Bookwyrm Feature)

  1. I haaaate DBF’ing books because it makes me feel so guilty, but I was reading a book yesterday where I knew it just wasn’t for me at all. When I checked goodreads the book was rated quite low and there were reviews from other readers who felt the same as me, so it made me feel a lot better about letting myself DNF! As you said, there are so many other books waiting to be read that there’s no point suffering through something simply for the sake of finishing!

  2. DNF’ing books can be so hard! I’m always afraid I’ll miss out on something – what if it gets better?? I also strongly believe that you can learn a lot from books you don’t enjoy, both as a reader and a writer. But if it’s really, really hard to keep reading I’ll give up. That lady with the BNB had the right idea – life is indeed to short to waste on books you don’t enjoy!

  3. Getting comfortable with DNF’ing books is a work in progress for me. Especially when it comes to galleys or books that are “winning all the things” and “getting all the raves”. But, I’ve learned that forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying leads to a reading slump, which means all the other galleys (authors, publishers) I feel a responsibility to are paying the price for my inability to give in and let go. And it means I’m missing out on reading books I’ll really love. Every book is not for every person, and I try to remind myself of that when I realize a book and I simply aren’t a good match.

  4. I used to feel guilty about DNF-ing a book until I realized the same thing as that woman. I don’t want to crawl through a book because of some imaginary obligation.

    That first point is exactly the reason why I don’t read reviews for a book before picking it up. Unless I have a lingering doubt about whether I’d enjoy the book or not, I don’t usually look at Goodreads. If I see a low rating it ruins the entire book affair for me!

  5. I used to finish every book I started. I gave up on that though. Life is too short. I agree. If I am not enjoying it. Why waste my time. I had to do that for school now I don’t have to finish those.

  6. Yeah I am not a dnfer. I’ve dnf-ed a handful of books over the past few years. I always end up seeing something in them so I tend to trudge on.
    I mark dnf books on goodreads by having made a dnf shelf a feature shelf. That way they are marked away.

  7. I hate DNFing and don’t do it often but I refuse to go beyond 50% if the book has no redeemable qualities. Unless it’s a book I bought and not a NetGalley bc books I bought I pay for an Earcs I just pick tons without really put much thought into

  8. life really is too short to waste time on crappy books that just feel wrong… 🙄
    I’m lucky and haven’t come across many bad books recently, but when i do, i just drop them and forget about them

  9. Sometimes I DNG a book because it’s just not for me. Frogkisser! is a great book and I’d have loved it when I was 12, but I just couldn’t take it anymore and ended up DNFing it. I added a shelf to my Goodreads so I can mark a book DNF without having to rate it, and I made sure to note that I didn’t finish because it just wasn’t for me, not because of anything actually wrong with the book. Those are the hardest DNFs. Usually by the time I DNF a book, I’m so irate about the things bugging me that I’m ready to RANT about exactly why it’s so awful, haha.