18 Feb 2016

Why I DNF Books + When You Should Give Up And Call It A Day

One thing I never did before blogging was not finish a book. I would power through and finish no matter what, even if I wasn't a fan. This year though, I have started to change. I have set rules and limits for myself for how far I will go with a book before I decide I have had enough. And I think this is something we ALL struggle with: the question of when, why, and how we DNF a book -- and then what do we do after? So I'm going to run through how I determine whether I will continue with a story and give you guys some advice for how to come up with your own guidelines (or steal mine, I'm chill with that) and what to do once you actually HAVE DNFed a book.

Jamie DNFs A Book

This still doesn't happen very often, but I do have a shelf dedicated to it on GR. Actually, two sort of. I have an "on hold" shelf where I put books that I'm just not feeling right off the bat (~10% or less) that I think maybe I will come back to and give another chance. And I have my DNF shelf where I put those books that I just couldn't get through.

First In A Series/Standalone

But you don't care about that, lbr. So to the goodies. First up, a "checklist" for when to DNF a First In A Series/Standalone. These are always a little tricky because you have to give the book enough time to get past the character introductions and into the actual plot. 

So my thinking is...
  • If I'm not enjoying it after 25% of the book (or thereabout)
  • If I roll my eyes twice in a way that also make me want to bang my head off the table
    • This could be for any reason, but I know my reading style so if the plot is very trope-y but not well written, it will be a quick DNF for me
  • Insensitivity for trigger warning things
  • I can immediately guess what is going to happen (and I am right)
  • Writing style is making it difficult for me to follow the story (a la SHATTER ME)
  • I cannot connect to the characters at all (even to dislike them)
  • Poor grammar, lots of mistakes, etc. (only in finished copies, though)
  • Toxic relationships that are treated as being romantic

Sequel(s) In A Series

In regards to the Sequel(s) In A Series, I have a bit more that I look for before just DNFing a book. I also have some conditions that go along with them. If someone recommended the series to me, but I didn't enjoy the first book, I typically ask this person if the second one follows a similar route (because if it does, I do not continue the series). I do usually continue with the series, however.

But I follow these guidelines...
  • If I'm not enjoying the book after 15% (which usually gives enough time for a recap of the first book + where the plot is going)
  • If a character doesn't seem to be growing or very stagnant in their development
  • If the book follows the EXACT SAME PLOT AS THE FIRST but has ~some~ differences (i.e. location or name of the bad guy)
  • If I start reading and getting about half way and realize I do not care about the outcome of the story (a la SEA OF SHADOWS)
  • If it is a trilogy (or more), if the second book feels like it is just padding for the rest of the series, I do not continue.
  • Again, poor grammar, lots of mistakes, etc.
  • And, again, toxic relationships that are treated as being romantic

For The Books I Put On Hold

As I stated earlier, I put books on hold pretty early to eventually come back to them when I am more "in the mood" for them. When I do come back to them, I don't take very long to determine if I will continue with the story to finish it (maybe) or DNF it.

To determine what I will do...
  • If I still am having the same problems I was before I put it on hold (i.e. couldn't connect to characters, plot was a mess, etc.), I DNF it.
  • If I have let it sit on my "on hold" shelf for over a year, I DNF it. (Yes, this has happened)
  • If I find that I am enjoying it more this time, I continue
  • If it is a sequel, I usually give it another 10-15% before determining if I should DNF it.
But in all honesty, if I have it on hold for some reason, I typically will not continue reading it. The only exception is if I get busy and put it on hold so I can read a book for review, blog tour, etc. before I continue with it. And because I am a mood reader, sometimes it is just that I am not in the right frame of mind to read a book at that time.

It is always a tough call for me

Usually I read a little farther (or skim the ending) to see if I will enjoy the rest of the book. Sometimes I check GR reviews to see if people agreed with me. But the majority of the time, if I think the book won't be more than 2 stars after 25% of the book, I DNF it. It isn't helping me or the author for me to continue reading it just to hate it. 

When I do DNF a book

I usually give a mini review as to why I did so -- however, I do not rate the book (unless I got like 80% of the way through and something happened to make me DNF). I used to post these DNF reviews on my blog, but have since stopped doing that as they end up taking up space that I could use for other reviews where I actually rate a book. Therefore, I just post them on GR since most of the people who read my blog also have me as a friend on GR.
Example DNF Review
Of course, if you received the book for review you should still mention this in your DNF review. Yes, it sucks that you received a book from a publisher/author and you didn't like it, but that is the way of life. Not every book is for every reader. I know it is intimidating to email a publisher/author back to say you didn't like a book, but your blog readers are expecting you to be honest in your reviews and ratings. And honestly, sometimes it is fun to rant about what wasn't good about a book and get it off your chest.

I also do not mark these books as "read" on GR (although I do wish they still counted towards my GR challenge). I feel as though because I didn't read all of it, it is not considered "Read" to me. Plus I like having these books on an Exclusive shelf on GR and you can't have your cake and eat it too with those. 

What You Could Do

Every reader will be different, but you should be semi-consistent in how you decide to DNF a book that way people know that you aren't just DNFing on a whim or because you are having a bad day (although those are still perfectly valid reasons). 

I would recommend...
A Page Number or Percentage
Having a specified number of pages or a percentage will help you stay consistent in determining whether or not to DNF a book while still guaranteeing you won't spend too much time on a novel you would end up not liking. Like I said, I do about 25%, but you could do 5%, 10%, 40%, whatever. It depends on YOU, your reading speed, how much time you want to give books, etc.

Specific Things You Don't Want To Read About
For me, I don't want to be triggered/have a panic attack while reading. That means I will stop reading a book if certain things are mentioned and not handled in a good way. Sometimes it can be just the way that it is written, but if you don't like it, then don't continue. Don't put yourself through that torment just to say you finished a book.

I would have some sort of guidelines about when you stop reading because the plot is predictable, the characters make you want to jump into the pages to stab them, and there are so many tropes (that maybe aren't uniquely written/created) that you want to rip your hair out. This is also how you can learn what you like in books and what you don't -- you will start picking up books you really enjoy more often than not.

Now the tricky part...

Do you rate the book or not?
I think this is 100% a personal choice. I do not rate books that I DNF at 25%, but I do rate books that I dislike at 40% and read the ending. It is totally your call, but again I would recommend some guidelines so that you remain consistent with your rating of DNFed books. If people are consistent it makes it much easier for your audience because your reviews are your brand. I have also started rating DNF books on Goodreads so others can find my reviews through their rating.

When it comes to DNFing
Stick to a checklist or some mechanism to determine if you want to continue with a story. Don't be afraid to DNF a book. Reading is all about enjoyment and if you aren't enjoying a book, don't be afraid to put it down and walk away.

When it comes to DNFing

In my humble opinion, if you aren't enjoying a book, you shouldn't continue reading it. Especially as a blogger, we have so many books to get through to keep our blogs running smoothly! It isn't worth spending hours upon hours on a book we aren't enjoying when we could be reading something that actually makes us happy (or cry but in a good way). Don't be afraid, little chickadees! Just stop reading, tell people why, and move on! (That's good life advice for anything tbh: if you don't like something, stop doing it and continue down your path to glory).

Do you have a process for DNF-ing a book? Are you going to take some of my advice?


  1. These are some great tips!

    I'm a little like you: I tend to have a 50-page limit for a book I'm not totally into. At 50 pages if I'm just not feeling it, I will DNF it. I usually don't rate it but will post a little review on Goodreads for my own reference really. I do have some DNF reviews for my blog, but they are posts that I keep on standby in case I have no new content for the week (as such, they get pushed back CONSTANTLY).

    Though I've noticed that if it is a review copy, I tend to bypass this rule and read the whole thing. Part of it is guilt that I received this book and I should give it a fair shot but then I start to wonder if that does more harm than good. I'm currently undecided about that. We'll see how it goes this year.

    I do have a list of books that I just couldn't get into because of my mood that I've DNF'd temporarily. I hope to get into them again once my mood is right.

  2. DNFing has always been a struggle for me, but I've been doing it more and more lately. I've realized that life is too short to waste my time forcing myself to read something I'm not enjoying. What I love most about blogging (aside from reading awesome books) is being able to rave about them and getting all my friends to read them too. Reading books I hate really doesn't help me with that XD I normally give a book around 25% before DNFing though, and I never do a full review of it because I don't think it's fair. Lovely post!

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  3. Some great tips here! I think I'm the same - I used to force myself to finish reading every book I read before I started blogging but not so much anymore. I think that's partially because I'm SO AWARE of how many other good books there are, and how I shouldn't force myself to read it if I'm not connecting. Great post, Jamie! :)

  4. You have good reasoning when it comes to DNFing. I very rarely do it... but when I am reading a book and I find myself at loathe to read it and therefore stop reading my other books because I am avoiding having to get to that one... then I know it has to go!

  5. I try to give a book at least a 25% chance before DNFing though if it's especially bad (i.e. excessive eye rolling moments, TERRIBLE writing) then it might be a little less, maybe 15%.


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