Let’s Talk: Not Finishing Books


Ah, the age-old dilemma every voracious reader or book blogger encounters at least once in their life: what to do about books you want to DNF.

For the uninitiated, DNF stands for Did Not Finish—an acronym used to describe a book that you, well, did not finish. In this post, I take this to mean that a person has stopped reading a book and has no plans on finishing it ever (as opposed to just temporarily dropping or re-shelving it for eventual reading).

As a reader, quitting a book is fuss-free, but for us book bloggers, the pressure to finish books is even realer, especially when it comes to ARCs or other books we receive for review. In many of these cases, reading is not solely for pleasure anymore (though hopefully a large aspect of it still is); it is also so we can give feedback and be useful to the larger reading, writing and publishing community.

I quit books. I’ve quit many, many books in my lifetime, and I’m sure I’ll quit more. Usually it’s because of one main reason: my time is limited. We only have 24 hours a day and 7 days a week here! I already have enough trouble trying to balance between work, life, family and friends, I certainly don’t have the time to read books I don’t enjoy.

In saying that, I do occasionally finish books I don’t enjoy because of various reasons, many of which are examples of the sunk-cost fallacy and definitely NOT a good way to make decisions. But alas, here I am! The following are the types of books I tend to not DNF, regardless of how much I want to.

1) ARCs or books I’ve received in exchange for an honest review.

When I receive an ARC or a book for review, I feel obligated to give an honest feedback. Some people opt to simply explain the reasons why they’re quitting the title and that’s completely fine, but to me, I’d rather finish the whole book and then review it in full.

At least this way, I can in all certainty say that I’ve given the book a fair chance and that I know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, sometimes the book ends up surprising me and I end up enjoying it too—Rebel of the Sands comes to mind here because I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book and was so, so tempted to just put it down, but I powered through anyway because it was an ARC. Thankfully I ended up generally enjoying it.

2) Books I’ve purchased.

Money is hard-earned, guys, especially when you’ve got other expenses such as food and rent and bills. When I dislike a book I’ve purchased, I usually just temporarily re-shelve it—believing that one day, one day, I’ll be in a very particular mood for that particular book. 😛

I’m definitely likelier to put down books I borrowed from the library or e-books than physical copies I own. My investment is little, so I don’t feel as bad or wasteful not reading cover to cover.

3) Hyped books.

In my experience, a hyped book tends to go both ways—either it surpasses my bloated expectations or it’ll fall off the cliff into the abyss so hard, so fast I can’t even see it anymore.

But so it goes: I’m much more willing to give hyped books more of a chance than obscure (for lack of a better word) books. If so many people absolutely love it, maybe they see something in it that I don’t. Maybe it’ll get better in three chapters. Maybe in time, I too will love is as others have.

4) If I’m past the halfway mark.

If I’ve read 50% of the book, I’m a lot less likely to quit it than if I’ve read, say, 5% or just barely started. My thoughts usually go along the lines of: I’ve come this far, might as well. Even though I hate this… but might as well.

5) If it’s a part of a series I’ve been following for a while.

This is sunk-cost fallacy at its finest, I swear. It’s no secret that I have a complicated relationship with the Throne of Glass series. Here are my ratings thus far, and you can really see that none of these books, bar one, have received favourable reviews from me:

In all honesty, a part of me thinks I should just drop the series altogether — I feel like it’s a bit unfair for me to keep giving it low scores, and I’m actually also about 80% sure the fifth book won’t change my mind. Another part of me, though, feels like I’ve invested an x amount of time already, so I might as well just see it until the end.

6) If it’s a book I was SUPER excited about.

Call it denial, but I’m definitely less likely to DNF a book if I’ve mentioned wanting to read it many, many times. It’s like I feel if I wish hard enough, read long enough, the book will turn out as wonderful as I envisioned it to be.

7) If it’s a book by an author I love.

If it’s a book by an author whose books I’ve really enjoyed before, I’m much more likely to give the book a chance. There’s a bit of a benefit of the doubt here for sure, along the lines of: This is an author who has impressed me before, surely this book will as well… maybe in three chapters. Five chapters. OK, ten. OK… maybe not.

Do you DNF books? Why or why not? If you do, what kind of books do you DNF and what kind of books do you not DNF? 🙂

83 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Not Finishing Books

  1. I am so bad at DNF-ing books I’m hating. I get this weird sense of combined guilt, annoyance and FOMO. Like maybe it’ll get amazing and I’ll be the only one who misses it because I was a quitter. But then I also totally resent the book for making me feel that way and end up taking twice as long to finish it because I never want to read the damn thing.

    It’s possible that books I hate cause me far more anxiety than they should.

    I think, weirdly, that since I’ve started reviewing I kind of enjoy reading books I hate a bit more. It’s fun to plot how I am going to pull them apart in my review, especially if there is something in them that I find particularly offensive.

    All that said, since I’ve graduated and I now spend the vast majority of my time at my uninspiring job, I have gotten a lot more selective about the books I read. I don’t want to risk wasting the little time that I have on a book that is doing nothing for me.


    • Oh god, I also have a bit of FOMO going on but rather than ‘it’ll get amazing’, it’s more like ‘I need to know what others are talking about!’. Such a complicated relationship we have with books we don’t enjoy, haha. 😛

      I agree with you that since I started reviewing, I enjoy not enjoying a book more than before! I also agree that some books are easier to review than others (i.e. if they have problematic issues to call out and if I have VERY STRONG FEELINGS about them) rather than if they’re just boring.

      I wish I was more selective with books! I still haven’t quite perfected yet my ‘criteria’ for choosing what to read next. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh I agree with all of these- fantastic post! I’ve got better at giving up on books but these are all factors why I might force myself to continue with something I didn’t like. It’s particularly true of series- for some reason if I’ve invested time reading 2 or 3 in a series I don’t like, I’ll continue, just cos… :/


  3. I’m very much the same way with actually DNFing a book. I just feel as though for me to truly have a fully formed opinion to dislike something I ought to give the entirety of the book a try (sequels notwithstanding) just so I can be like: “this is not done well. this was derpy. lol at this part” and actually be sort-of more credible?

    But for those that I [have to] put down, I’d like to think that I’d one day get back to it — and surely I will because most of these happen when newer “in demand” releases beckon to be read haha.


    • I think finishing a book you don’t like definitely gives you more credibility in that you can say for sure you have read everything and now have a clearer picture.

      And totally understand, haha. When ‘in demand’ titles are released I kind of drop pretty much everything else and make room to prioritise. 😛


  4. This is a great post! As book bloggers we put so much pressure on ourselves it’s like we are inflicting self stress on ourselves! If a book is really hyped I will read it till the end just encase something happens which makes me look a book (which is unlikely). I have this weird thing with hardcovers as well because I spent a lot of money on them I need to read it, so that the money isn’t a waste.


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