Guest Post | Stop feeling guilty for DNF-ing books!!

Here we are with another guest post! Thank you so much for bookwyrmbites doing so!

Lets see what she has to say about DNF-ing books.

*hands mic over*

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You probably know the feeling: your TBR is calling in the distance while you struggle through the book you’re currently reading (actually me rn THE STRUGGLE!), trying to convince yourself that it deserves a fair chance, and you won’t be able to give it a complete and accurate review if you don’t read through to the end, and the world building is kind of interesting, and …

Stop right there. If you’re at least 75 to 100 pages in — or 20%, if you use an e-reader — odds are you have a pretty good idea of where the book is going, how compatible the writing style is with your reading preferences, and whether you even care about what happens to these characters. Which means that you can make an informed decision about whether it’s worth your time to keep going. (These numbers are mostly arbitrary, based off what I’ve seen others use and what I myself have used. Of course there are exceptions, and ultimately it’s up to you.)

books file on shelf

It seems like every reader has their own opinion about marking books as DNF (Did Not Finish) and moving on; despite the wording of this post title and the fact that I do take a stance on the topic, I’m not actually here to tell you what you should think or do. Instead I’ll explain how and why I DNF the way that I do, and you can agree or disagree in the comments since this is meant to be a (civil) discussion. 

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As you’ve probably gathered by now, I am firmly pro-DNF. Which is not to say that I don’t feel guilty or regretful when I do, in part due to the reasons I’ve already mentioned — though I’ve noticed that it gets easier and easier the more I do it; while the downsides don’t become any less valid, I’ve experienced the benefits so that I can keep them in mind instead.

Possibly one of the biggest controversies surrounding DNFs is whether it’s ethical to review the book. You don’t know where the character and plot arcs end up; maybe the things that were bothering you end up being thoroughly refuted and resolved. (Apparently this is usually the case, based on the indignant/defensive author comments I sometimes see on my Goodreads reviews … but I digress.) Can you really judge a book without having read all of it?

My answer is yes. In the first place, reading is meant to be an enjoyable activity. So if you’re not enjoying the book, seriously, just stop reading. And reviewing is meant to reflect your thoughts about the book, whether your intended audience is other (potential) readers of the book or the publisher/author who provided you with an ARC; if you stopped reading, there was probably a reason that your audience would like to know about. Where did the author lose you? What parts of the book did you find problematic and/or annoying?

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I’ve always written reviews for the books I DNF, because that feedback can be just as valuable as a review of the whole book. As long as I clearly specify how much of the book I actually read — typically a quick line before my review: “DNF at 21%” — and don’t pretend that I did finish the whole book, I don’t think it’s a problem. And for what it’s worth, publishers and authors have thanked me for my DNF reviews and continue to approve me for ARCs. (As an aside, I’ll confess that sometimes I finish a book out of spite and/or hatred, just so that I can say that my opinion held throughout the end and my issues with the book definitely weren’t addressed. In hindsight it’s rarely worth the time and (emotional) energy, and usually just results in an extra long, extra angry rambling review — but I still do it for some reason.)

And another issue: do you count a book you’ve DNF’d towards your yearly reading goal(s)? Although you didn’t finish reading it, you did invest time and energy into getting as far as you did, so I think it’s valid if you want to — especially if you only count it as a fraction of a book, proportional to how much you actually read: if you finished half the book, you count it as half a book; if you finished 34%, you count it as about a third of a book, et cetera. Personally I don’t do this since I just let Goodreads keep track of how many books I’ve finished, but the reasoning behind it makes perfect sense to me. By the way, if you input the date you finished reading / officially DNF’d the book, Goodreads will count it as read even if you put it on a DNF or any other shelf! (Though if you want to count them as partially read, you’ll have to track it manually … might I suggest using a spreadsheet?) ooooh

If moving on from a not-great read isn’t motivation enough to DNF, I keep in mind that there are so many amazing books that I have yet to discover, which I could be reading instead of struggling through one I’m not enjoying; cliche though it may sound, I really do believe that life is too short to force yourself to finish books when you don’t want to.

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Of course, all of this is just my personal opinion and how I approach DNF-ing. It works well for me, but might not sit right with you for any reason. Which is totally okay, because as we all know reading is a highly subjective, individualised experience. It’s okay to change your mind based on each book, or your mood, or just go with your gut; it’s okay if you just don’t want to DNF at all. Whatever works for you, works for you.

Thank you, Anisa, for having me on the blog! I really enjoyed writing this post, and I’d love to hear how y’all feel about DNF-ing books. you’re welcome 🙂 glad to have you here 

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What do you think about DNFing books?Do you agree with Isabelle’s view?

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