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:
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.
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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