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I used to believe that no book deserved to be DNF-ed; the author worked so hard, it would be considered a cruel punishment.
For those who are not aware, DNF stands for “Did Not Finish”. This abbreviation is used in multiple ways, races, projects, etc. To readers, it means they were not able to finish a book for one reason or another.
Again, I struggle with this. I hated admitting I couldn’t finish a book. In some twisted way, I was under the impression that it somehow diminished my status as a self-proclaimed “book nerd”. Instead of facing that, I decided it was better to make myself finish the book and drag my bored self through it.
When I Started
It was not until COVID-19 pandemic that the idea of DNF-ing a book became even plausible to me. Due to the subsequent quarantine, I was determined to read all the books I owned. I mean, when would I get another chance?
Over 2020, I found myself in reading slump after slump. All because I kept forcing myself to read this specific list of books and refusing to read any other. What used to be a fun, leisure, casual hobby had begun to feel like a chore, like reading for school (I’m looking at you, Lord of the Flies).
Especially the times when it seemed like I kept picking books I didn’t really like, which when you are in a slump… every book is not one you like. Ah, the curse of the book slump cycle.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any grand moment of realization that setting aside a book was acceptable, at least none that I can pinpoint. Yet I ended the year with a completely new view on the topic: I was under no obligation to read every single book in existence, let alone love and devour every single book I came across (que the gasp!). With 500,000 (even this a very low-ball estimate) books published each year, it simply is not possible.
So, When Should You DNF?
That being said, I don’t take the decision to DNF a book easily. I typically give the book about 60-100 pages, or about 1/3 of the way in before I think about it. Some of my favorite books have slow beginnings and still drew me in later on, so I try to give everyone the benefit. But if I just can’t get into it, or I find myself dreading the next time I plan to read, I’ll DNF then.
If I DNF, the reason can usually fall into one of two categories, time or mood.
When I force myself through a book I’m not enjoying, I read less overall. As mentioned before, it begins to feel like a chore. By setting aside a book that’s hindering my love of reading, I can move on to books that interest me and that I want to read.
Additionally, DNF-ing DOES NOT mean you won’t ever come back to it. As any mood readers can identify with, very often a book does not interest me at a particular point in time, yet I might find the time, energy, or interest a week, month, even years later.
What if I can’t DNF? What if I have to finish this book?
Sadly, DNF should not be applied to school books or other instances, you really should read those even when you don’t like it. From personal experience, I have gathered a few things that have helped.
Procrastination is a real threat, as many people are already aware. By taking the precautions and lessening distractions when reading, you can eliminate (or at least decrease) the amount of temptation enticing you away from your reading.
READ 1 CHAPTER AT A TIME
It may be appealing to read it all in one go, to get it over with. However sometimes it may be helpful to read in bite-sized chunks. Because a chapter is much shorter than a full book, I personally feel as if I am not taking up so much of my time trying to get through a book.
Mood reader hack: have another book on hand to read if the other is slumping you down. I typically read a few books at a time so if I find myself dreading reading, I can read more of one that helps me to remember why I enjoy reading.
Since I’ve started allowing myself to be open to DNF books, I’m able to enjoy reading at a higher rate than before. And just because you DNF a book does not mean it was a bad book or that the author sucks. I feared that somehow that I, a college girl in the middle of the midwest, would offend an author because I hadn’t connected with their book. But that is NOT the case.
Everyone has tastes when it comes to literally everything, food, clothes, music, art, jokes, etc, etc. It makes sense it would be the same for literature. AND THAT IS OKAY. It can still be good and well written and still not be your taste.
How about you! Do you dnf books? Why or Why not? (And if yes, when do you officially dnf?)