Do you DNF (do not finish) books? Do you call it that or do you call it something else? Do you tell people when you DNF a book or do you act like you never read it at all? How have your DNF habits changed over the years?
In a word, yes
. I have a DNF shelf at Goodreads, and there are currently ten books on it. They’re not all there for the same reason, but more on that in a minute.
For me, DNF means any book I quit halfway through that I don’t consider myself “currently reading”. Now, things tend to linger on my currently reading shelf for quite a while, many long enough that they could be considered on hiatus for large stretches of time… but the difference between a temporarily hiatus’d “currently reading” book and a temporary DNF for me is investment: Do I feel as if I am currently invested in finishing the book? If so, it’s a current read. If not, it’s a DNF.
My DNF habits haven’t changed much, honestly. I’ve never done it much in the past, and I don’t do it often now. My last DNF was at least six months ago, if I recall correctly–possibly a year. In the future, I may fall head-over-heels in love with the convenience of the DNF; for now, though, I definitely prefer to push through boring books. (It helps to be a swift reader with a tendency to binge.)
But like I said, I do DNF, and I have several reasons for doing so. Here they are, in no particular order:
Reason #1: I totally wasn’t enjoying the book and have no intentions of ever picking it up again.
by Virgil Allen Moore was the first book I ever received for review, and I DNF’d it within the first fifty pages or so. As I explain in my review
(also my first!), the lack of editing combined with my lack of interest in the plot made me procrastinate for days, and eventually I simply gave up and admitted my very first DNF–at least, my first DNF after learning that it was a thing.
The other book that falls into this category is The Company by Robert Littell. It was a big fucking book, and from the brief bit I read, it seemed super dense and super dull. I only read a few pages before realizing that sinking my time into reading that 800-page behemoth was probably a bad idea, and I eventually donated the book to a local thrift store. Hopefully whoever grabbed it after me was better suited to it than I.
Reason #2: The book bored me… but I may pick it up again.
The first time this happened to me was with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I’m honestly not sure how much of the book I got through before I returned it to the library, but I was definitely not connecting with the plot and decided to return the book to the library.
I intend to pick this one back up eventually, but it’s likely going to happen in some far off, distant future. In all honesty, I may never get back to it. I like to think I will, though.
The second example of this for me is Everneath by Brodi Ashton. I believe I got about halfway through the book before I simply lost interest. The plot was boring me, and I wasn’t connecting to the characters. I procrastinated for days, and then the book was due back to the library. I thought about binging on it the night before the due date… but I ultimately decided to DNF, at least temporarily, rather than waste a night on something I didn’t expect to enjoy.
I may pick the book back up someday, but with so many other things on my list that I actually expect to enjoy, I can’t say for sure whether it’ll ever happen.
Who knows, though. Maybe someday I’ll give it a second chance, and it’ll totally click with me. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.
The third example is What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz. It was the first Koontz novel I tried, and my interested tapered off about halfway through. I debated finishing it because I don’t recall thinking it was bad… but I ultimately returned it to the library without finishing. I own a bunch of other Koontz novels, though, and after I’m finished reading them, I’m going to reevaluate whether What the Night Knows should stay on the DNF list or not.
My fourth and final example is The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I tried to read this on the recommendation of a teacher when I was fourteen, and in retrospect, I simply wasn’t mature enough for the book. At the time, the themes made me very uncomfortable, and I abandoned it within the first few chapters.
I definitely intend to give this one a second chance, now that I’m equipped to handle the subject matter. I have no idea if I’ll enjoy it, but that’s an entirely different matter.
Reason #3: It was a school-assigned book, and I lost interest partway through. I’ll revisit it someday.
You know the whole “brilliant but lazy” trope? That was me in high school. I took the advanced level classes and kept my grades in the A-B range… but I also didn’t actually do much work. (Kind of makes me wonder what my grades would have been if I’d had even the slightest motivation.) The structure of the classes made it absurdly easy, especially on Lit tests; a brief overview of what happened in a particular book and the ability to use context clues in the questions/prompts was enough to create the appearance of having read the book. And once I figured out that I didn’t actually need to read them, I just kind of… didn’t. Assigned reading is the only boring kind of reading, at least to me.
Two of the assigned books that I started reading and abandoned fairly quickly because they didn’t capture my interest were Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Both, coincidentally, were assigned as summer reading… and I had much better things to do with my few short weeks of warmth, sunshine, and freedom.
I intend to get back to both of these books, eventually. I didn’t even abandon them because I disliked them; I simply disliked being told what to read, and that cast a serious shadow over both experiences. I definitely plan to pick these up again on my own terms, and I hope to enjoy them.
Because, seriously, assigned reading sucks the fun out of books.
Reason #4: It’s on temporary hiatus.
This would be where Paradise Lost by John Milton falls. I started reading it during homeroom toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, and before I got very far into it, it was time to turn in our textbooks. As it was in my Lit textbook, I lost access to my copy… and somehow getting my hands on another never made it onto my list of priorities. I kept saying I would do it, and now here I am five years later, with Paradise Lost still marked as a DNF.
Hopefully it won’t take another five years for me to finally get to it. (There’s just so much other stuff to read!)
Reason #5: The Unwilling DNF
How do you DNF something unwillingly, you may be wondering. Easy! Lose access to your copy of the book. Lose access to the only copy of the book available to you.
That’s what happened to me with Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon. I received a copy through my state-wide library database and binge-read it the night before it was due (I tend to procrastinate with library books, so this isn’t unusual for me), but I only managed to get halfway through before I was simply too tired to read any more. I intended to request it again.
When I went to make the request a few days later, however, I was immensely disappointed to see that the library that owned the only copy had marked it non-requestable for state-wide patrons. Since I didn’t–and don’t–have the leisure cash to spring for a copy from, say, eBay… I’m out of luck, I suppose.
My library has recently changed their ILL system, though, so perhaps it’s time for me to try once again?