Discussion: Why DNFs Are Not a Bad Thing


It’s summer! Usually that seems to mean less obligations. More time for relaxing! Fun in the sun! But this year seems to be the busiest year I’ve ever had, with trips to take, weddings to go to, and my own wedding to plan. I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to get more selective about the books that I’m picking up and request less ARC/egalleys and I do think I’ve been doing a good job of that, but sometimes even the books that I THINK I’ll love don’t always turn out to be amazing for me.

I’m currently in a situation where I’ve started at least three different books and making it about 20% into them, I can just tell I’m not enjoying them. I’m not one who’s afraid to DNF and I always feel like I have good reasons to when I do, but it’s still feels like giving up sometimes and I just hate that feeling. With three books that I’m just not into recently, I feel incredibly guilty contemplating the big bad DNF for all of them, but sometimes not finishing a book is not a bad thing.

Firstly, putting a book down is a good thing for my reading schedule. If I’ve given the book a fair chance (which I always make sure I do), then what’s to stop me from saying that this book just isn’t working for me? I know I have a busy life. Besides that I have a busy READING life. I have a whole bookcase of books that are begging to be read, not to mention all of the other ARC copies — both physical copies and egalleys — that I still have to get to as well. Sadly, many a book has gone unread for the time being because I’m working my way through other books… So why force myself to finish a book that I’m just REALLY not enjoying and not spending that time on other books that I could be reading that I may totally love? It’s a better idea to just mark as DNF, know I gave it a really good shot, and move on to something that I’ll really enjoy.

DNFs often seem like the mark of death for a book, but really, I think it’s kinder than making myself finish something I’m really not enjoying. Sometimes I know it’s a case of, “It’s not you, it’s me” — and it truly is. There have been a lot of books that I really didn’t enjoy or that I chose to put down because I could tell they just didn’t jive with my reading tastes, and that’s okay! Not every reader will love every book. I do the best that I can to pick what I think I’ll enjoy, but sometimes I’ll try to get into it and just realize this book and I were never meant to get along. I think it’s a nicer thing to mark the book as DNF, explain why I wasn’t enjoying it, and move on instead of forcing myself to finish and writing a one or two star review saying how much I didn’t enjoy it. This system may not work for everyone because some people rate their DNFs as a one star book, but I don’t rate my DNFs for that reason — sometimes I really do think a book is that bad, but most of the time, I know it just wasn’t for me and I don’t think an author deserves a one star rating from me because I just wasn’t the intended audience! I think stopping what I was reading and not rating the book is far kinder.

Putting a book down also takes away that stress of feeling forced to finish it! I feel terrible not finishing review copies because I really do feel that obligation to read them since they were given to me for that expressed purpose… But I’ve been in a couple situations before where that weight has just been lifted off my shoulders once I decide to put a book down! I think that’s how you know you made the right decision!

And if all else fails, you can always come back to it! Even if you give the book away, you can always come back to it again. Maybe see if it’s at the library, borrow it from a friend… But if you feel that guilty about not finishing a book, you can always come back to it later! Maybe that will really tell you how you’re feeling about a book too. I usually put books aside and come back a couple days later just to see if I’m really feeling like I don’t want to finish, and usually my feelings haven’t changed, but it’s always good to have that option if you need it!

When it all comes down to it, I ask myself one question: If I weren’t blogging, would I keep reading this book? I never had a problem putting books down and walking away from them before I started blogging and before the days of ARCs in my world. Even if I had purchased the book or someone purchased it for me, I just didn’t feel any sort of obligation to read it. If I wasn’t enjoying it, I wasn’t enjoying it and I was picking a book to read for fun. Blogging is my hobby and as much as I do want to do these books justice and also feel responsible for reading ARCs I receive, I just have to know that not all books will be right for me.

I do still feel guilty for marking books as unfinished… but sometimes that’s a very beneficial thing to my reading experience, my blogging career, and even to the author. It seems like the most negative thing you could possibly do, but I don’t really think it’s terrible. I really try to finish the books I pick up, but sometimes I just have sort of cut my losses, so to speak and realize that a book just may not be ideal for me through no fault of its own.

So tell me! Do you DNF? Do you feel guilty for putting books down or is it just part of the natural cycle of choosing books? Do you always feel obligated to finish or do you think it’s better to just walk away if you’re not enjoying a book?

A big thanks to ChristinaNikkiGingerEstelleLauren, and Leanne for a great Twitter conversation about this topic and helping inspire this blog post!


Hi, I'm Brittany!
Hi, I'm Brittany!

I'm an avid reader, candle-maker, and audiobook lover! Here you'll find book reviews, fun blog posts, and my other loves of photography & craft beer!

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37 thoughts on “Discussion: Why DNFs Are Not a Bad Thing

  1. El @ Just Love

    I’ve actually been thinking about this for the last week. I bought an eBook from a popular author with mostly positive reviews, but only made it 1/3 through before I had to put it down. I’ve never done a DNF post on my review blog before, and have been trying to decide if I want to make this my first. I think your post has convinced me to go ahead and post it, though!

  2. Meghan K

    I’ve always feel guilty about DNF’ing. Always. I have to talk myself up to it, so I end up losing about a week as I struggle through the book or find something else to distract me so that I don’t have to read it. That’s when I usually realize that it’s time to just put it down and walk away. I have enough to read that I can’t just waste time fiddling with books that don’t interest me at all.

  3. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    Before I started my blog, I would finish a book no matter what. Now, I don’t feel guilty for a DNF at all. We simply can’t enjoy every book we read, so why bother? I don’t want to force myself to read something I don’t like when there are so many books out there that could potentially be a new favorite!

  4. Julie S.

    Ooh I really like that last question you listed. Yes, if I wasn’t blogging, would I bother continuing with this book? Well, probably not if it wasn’t a book club book or my friend wasn’t depending on me to read it because it was recommended by her. So, for the most part, yes, DNF is a great idea, and I think I also need to become braver in giving it the good try and moving on.

  5. Stephanie's Book Reviews

    I used to NEVER be able to DNF a book. Or a series! I’ve gotten much better at it this year, but I still struggle. Especially when it’s an ARC! I have one from NetGalley right now that I’m just not enjoying at all, about 15 chapters in. I hate not writing reviews for books from them, but I’m just not feeling it.

  6. Nikki

    Well, you know I DNF, lol. But this post really hits all the relevant points! It’s nicer to yourself to not make yourself read something you are very much not into. And it helps the reading schedule, so you have more time for books you ARE into and can gush about in reviews! I love your point about asking yourself if you’d DNF it if you weren’t blogging. That is an EXCELLENT indicator — if the answer is yes, why are you still reading?! Unless you’ve expressly promised a review of that book, you are not bound to finish it. There’s no reason you should continue in that unhappy situation. VIVA LA DNF!! ;D

  7. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    I think you hit the nail on the head with asking whether you would have kept reading this book prior to blogging if you weren’t enjoying it. I’d never heard of the concept DNF before blogging, actually, and it’s baffled me a bit. Before I’d purchase or borrow books with the assumption that I’d read them, but I never had any qualms putting them down after reading a few chapters if they weren’t working out. I never labeled that behavior, just decided that wasn’t the right book at the right time.
    Since blogging, there’s been only one book that I’ve DNFed (sort of…I still list it as currently being read on Goodreads because I’m afraid to make the DNF official). The problem I think at least partially stems from responsibility and the general openness of book blogging. Now everyone can see what book I’m reading through my Goodreads account and on my blog. I feel like I have more accountability for what I read. And, of course, now I usually can find at least a few people who’ve loved this book that I’m not currently loving.
    I think your points here are wonderful and I’m totally going to try to take them to heart. I do think it’s become harder for me to stop reading a book, but it’s also an important thing to do every once in a while.

    1. Brittany Post author

      It’s hard to take the “leap” from not DNFing to putting books down! I still feel guilty when I do and I TOTALLY agree that once I started blogging, I felt much more accountable. I still do, but I just know I need to spend more time with the awesome ones that I still need to read!
      Thanks for commenting! Good luck 😉

  8. Jen

    Love this so much! I just had three in a row I quit reading, and I started wondering if I was too picky. Eek. Then I had two or three in a row I was in LOVE with, so I’m with you–why stress myself out over reading something I’m not enjoying? I love how you put it: would I finish this if I weren’t blogging? I’m going to start using that.

    Love when you post these, because it always feels like you’re talking me through my blogger insecurities. So thanks! 😀

    1. Brittany Post author

      OH yay! I’m glad it’s helpful too!! I think it’s REALLY hard to make the decision to DNF because it’s not something I take lightly. Even after putting a book down, I keep thinking how I feel bad… But it’s true that I still don’t want to finish it. Hey, you can always come back! 🙂

  9. Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook

    This is a great post, Brittany. I’ve never had any issue DNFing a book. Of course I try to give each book a chance, but sometimes it’s just not working for whatever reason. And, like you said, I can always come back to it.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Thanks, Quinn! I’ve usually been pretty good about DNFing, but I do always have DNF guilt. I think it’s starting to lessen a bit because I AM confident in my decisions but I still feel like I’m letting a publisher down if it’s a review book 🙁 Oh well, I guess it gets easier with time! 🙂

  10. Charlie Anderson

    I do DNF books. I’ve been book blogging for a year and a half, and I think I’ve DNFed three books. I do feel guilty, but at some point I stop feeling guilty. If the book’s summary does not line up with what the book is truly about (which I have found most often in books trying to push a religious standpoint), I don’t feel guilty at all because I see it as the author and publisher being dishonest, just to market and sell their books. I do feel very obligated to finish books, and sometimes I have to put it aside and come back to it later.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Yes, definitely! It’s hard but I do stop feeling guilty at some point because I still feel like I made the right decision for myself. I have no issue with being upset with a book that seemed misleading! That’s always really frustrating!

  11. Cora @ Tea Party Princess

    I always try my hardest before DNFing, I always give it a fair go. But sometimes it’s not to be. And I often come back to it at a later time in case it was me rather than the book.

    But I also leave a review if I DNF – just a few words on why it wasn’t for me.

    1. Brittany Post author

      It’s always hard to try to decide at what point to DNF! I do try to give it a fair go too. Sometimes I can tell early on and other times I push a little bit more. But yep! You can always come back! 🙂

  12. Christina @ Allodoxophobia

    You are speaking my language! I think that DNFing is just kinder all around. Why waste anyone’s time? It’s funny, I can’t remember one instance where I put a book down prior to blogging, but reviewing wasn’t my “job” then and I was a heck of a lot more selective about what I tried because I was purchasing the book. And about spending $, I’m still very selective, and I’m grateful about having the luxury to try something before buying it now. Sometimes I think DNF reviews are the most helpful, especially if they’re coming from someone with similar taste to mine, or wildly different taste even. It gives me a better idea of how well I might connect.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Yes! It’s very true. There are SO many books out there and no one will like ALL of the books. I’d rather say a few words on why it wasn’t for me and those may be JUST the things that someone else loves! I know with contemporaries I have a total opposite and basically whatever I love she doesn’t and what she loves I don’t so if one doesn’t work for me, that’s usually an indicator for her to pick it up and vice versa!

  13. Fry

    So guilty. I have several books I want to DNF, but just don’t have the heart to do so. I should probably just do it and stop having it loom over me like a cloud of suckage.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Haha it’s so hard!! I feel like I’ve been in a slump and I can’t decide whether to put these books off or just straight up not finish them! Always a tough call. But you can always mark them to pick them back up later and if you still don’t like them, DNF them then! 🙂

  14. Ginger @ GReads!

    My thoughts: reading should be enjoyable, no matter if you’re reading a book for review, or if you’ve picked one up on your own. I understand the guilt in not finishing a book, but if it’s just not happening for me, I will set it aside. I know I won’t like everything I read and I’d rather not spend time forcing myself to finish it when the next great book could still be out there.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Yes, absolutely!! There are just so many good books out there and reading is my hobby. It should always be enjoyable! Sometimes I just have to break up with books that just aren’t cutting it for me.

  15. April @ Bookishly Speaking

    Yes, yes and yes! I am a big support of the DNF. For me, it may not be permanent– it could just mean it isn’t a good time for me. I may come back to it and finish it later (ex. One Hundred Years of Solitude took me three separate tries to get through.) Sometimes, my brain just isn’t in the right place for me to read that book.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Yes, definitely! I’ve put some on hold before and come back… Some I pushed through a little bit more and others I decided still weren’t for me. But you can always come back! 🙂 I know I’m a mood reader so sometimes it’s just my mood and not the book.

  16. Charleen

    I totally agree, although I find it interesting that you had no trouble DNF’ing before you started blogging, whereas I’m more likely to DNF a book now than I ever was in the past. (Though I am less likely to DNF an ARC than a library book.) But I’ve become such a happier reader since embracing the DNF. Whenever I come across someone who says, “I wish I could, but I just HAVE to stick it out till the end,” I just sigh and think “Ah, that used to be me…”

    And then immediately direct them to my “How I Learned to DNF” blog post.

    But yes, a DNF doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, just that it wasn’t the book for me. And if that ever changes, and I suddenly find myself wondering what happened in that book I DNF’d a year ago… it’s not like my DNF erases it from existence. It will always be there if I change my mind. (Not that that’s ever actually happened… but it’s still a comforting thought.)

    1. Brittany Post author

      Thanks, Charleen! I absolutely agree. I think people think negatively on DNFs because it’s so bad that a person didn’t want to finish, but I do agree that a lot of my DNFs were just not books for me and that’s totally okay too! (I usually don’t change my mind once I move on either!)

  17. Rebecca @ The Library Canary

    I am so bad at DNFing. I just feel so guilty and I sit there wondering if it will get better. Even at 70% in… I’m trying to get better about it, but it’s still SO HARD for me to do. But there are so many books out there, on my shelf, on my Kindle and you’re totally right. Why should I waste time on a book that’s not working for me when I (literally) have over 100 other books just waiting to be read? *sigh* It’s a work in progress. Hopefully I will get there one day, but it’s still a struggle.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Maybe someday 😉 It’s very hard! Especially if it’s something you’re not used to doing! I think the guilt is just the hardest part to get over!

  18. Amanda @ Book Badger

    A year ago I didn’t know what DNF’ing was, tbh, a year ago, I was just getting back into reading, so the DNF for me is very recent. Late last year I forced my way through a lot of books for the sake of reviews and the blog, but now, nah. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it, if I do like it, I will. There’s been books I considered dnf’ing but didn’t, and with those, it’s a ‘I have faith kind of feeling’, where-as there are books I DNF’d really believing I wouldn’t gain anything from them if I continued, so that’s that. I think it’s okay to DNF, even you didn’t like it, you could give it away, drop it off at the library and let them have it, or gift it to someone, that way, the book doesn’t just sit there sad and lonely on your shelves 🙂

  19. Kaniesha @ Deux Lectrices

    I DNF’d way before I started book blogging but I’ve definitely been worse about it and I’ve only dropped two books this year that I just couldn’t connect to. I did read 80 pages into one, and 80% into another, so I think I was invested enough to know I really wasn’t going to enjoy the ending. Nor enjoy spending the extra hours to finish them. I think it’s alright to be picky about what you’re reading!

    A lot of time and effort goes into reading, like everything else and you shouldn’t force yourself to finish them just because “you don’t want to give up” when there are SO many more books out there. If there was a limited supply of books, maybe this discussion would be different, but there’s not!

    But despite my claims, I do have obligation issues when DNFing but I try to get myself away from that because it seems a little obsessive and not-so-healthy.

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