When is it acceptable to DNF?
“DNF: Did Not Finish.”
DNFing is what readers do when they’ve reached a point of disinterest (or loathing in my case 😝) with a book and cannot go on. Some view it as giving up, as a failure. Others view it as maximizing reading time for books that are actually good. Still, even when DNFing does happen, no one really seems to talk much about it. They kind of… shovel it under the rug with the dust bunnies like no one’ll notice.
As a voracious reader who never seems to have enough time for all the books I want to read, I’m rather baffled by the negative connotation that DNFing receives. I feel like DNFing should be natural. I mean, the first thing you learn as a writer is “You can’t please every reader.” As such, not every book is going to be interesting to me, but we act like we should like every single book. We act like every book should be a gift that’s amazing and should be cherished.
Even those who view DNFing as maximizing time for other books don’t really talk about those DNFed books. They just push them aside and move onto the next one. At best, they’ll offer a tiny snippet about the book, but nothing nearly as great or as voluptuous (because that sounds like a good word to use here 😅) as their regular reviews. But shouldn’t they be even bigger than their regular reviews? Shouldn’t we have a lot to say if we’re willing to completely stop reading a book altogether and never touch it again?!
I know I had
PLENTY to say!
Just recently, I DNFed a book for the very first time! EVER! It took a LOT for me to do this, and I truly tried to push my way through to the end. I made it through 50% of the book before I finally said: “NOPE. I quit! I cannot take anymore of this GARBAGE!” And it was only after a heaping pile of reasons had accumulated that I resigned myself to DNFing because I, like most if not all readers, hate DNFing. (I’m of the group that views DNFing as a failure. Like I didn’t try hard enough with the book.)
I think this was especially hard because I’ve done an amazing job never DNFing before this!
Just one peek at my reviews by rating will show I’ve given some awful ratings to books. One biohazard symbol (aka star) means that the only good thing about the book is that I managed to finish it. In other words, I somehow managed the will power to drag myself through the finish line. I completed that horrible excuse for fiction. But… that was it. Everything else was awful!
So… why do I force myself to finish a book when I absolutely hate it?
As someone who receives books specifically to give my honest review of that book, I hate DNFing. It feels like such an unfair response. I mean, the publisher/author/whomever could’ve sent the book to someone else, someone who might have actually enjoyed it. So, I feel an obligation to at least finish a book because I was selected to receive one of a very few copies.
Additionally, I hate DNFing books because I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to review it. After all, I didn’t read most of the book. I have no idea what happens in the end. I have no idea if it gets better (or worse) or what not. I made my decision on only a portion of the entire story and that somehow feels unfair, feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to judge the book without getting to know it fully yet. Perhaps this is the same for you and is why DNFs are so covered up?
However, after DNFing a book, I find I may be the opposite of that ideology. Rather than trying to cover up the DNF and pretend like it didn’t happen and mask my inability to finish a book, I broadcasted it. I justified my reasoning for giving up on that book. I wanted everyone to know that I tried my absolute darndest to finish it and just could not make it for (insert a gazillion reasons here.) That makes it feel less like giving up to me and ranting is actually EXTREMELY therapeutic. 😉
But what do you think about DNFing?
Do you boast it or cover it up?
Let me know!
And check out my discussion from last week:
“Notating… in Books“