Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daisy Discusses DNF-ing

When you google DNF, you get a lot of pictures of Duke Nukem Forever (which I knew nothing about until about 2 minutes ago), but in the blogopshere it's short for 'did not finish'.

I used to ALWAYS finish a book I started even if I hated it and it was 1000 pages, I would stick with it. And I'd have a horrible time of it usually. Or it would take off after a while and I'd be happy I'd given it another chance.

These days, I just don't have the time to read books I dislike. It sounds kinda harsh, but I have to figure out how to squeeze reading time into my busy schedule and when I'm not enjoying a book, I don't want to waste that precious time on it.
And thus I've learned to DNF.

I don't like it, it goes against all my instincts, but sometimes finishing a book is just not worth it if I'm not into it. I like to think that I always give them a fair chance, and I'll read 50-100 pages of it before I decide whether or not to put it down.

Sometimes the story's just not grabbing me, other times I want to tear the book apart in frustration. But mostly it comes down to this: I'm not enjoying the book and I'd rather read any of the hundreds of other books that I've got on my TBR list.

As a blogger, I read a lot of books for review and I kinda panicked when I first felt the urge to DNF a review book. I mean, what do you do then? Do you still review them? Rate them on Goodreads/Amazon/anywhere else?

I think there is no perfect solution for this, but here's what I do: I don't review them, but I do rate them on Goodreads. I feel that even though I've only read 50-100 pages of the book, if I disliked it enough that I actually wanted to stop reading it, it says something as well.

So what about you? Do you DNF books? Feel this crippling sensation of guilt because you're putting it down before it's finished? Or a sense of unfulfilment because now you won't know how it'll all end? Do you write a review? Tell me!

45 comments :

  1. There are enough books that start poorly, but end strongly that I would not review it.

    A lot would depend on why I disliked it so much - but I rarely drop a book completely.

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  2. I find it quite difficult to DNF a book, because I've always been the kind of person who tries to get to the end just to see how it all turns out (and hope that it gets better as it goes along!). But I agree that as my reading time gets more limited, I'm becoming less tolerant of books I'm not enjoying. Great post!

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  3. In the past, I never, never would have left a book unfinished, even if I hated it. But now, I put books down if I don't like them or if I'm not in the mood. I don't want to waste my time on them. I have an 'unfinished' shelf on GoodReads. And I only rate them if I hated the book, not if I just wasn't in the mood.

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  4. I feel very strongly that readers allow themselves an exit strategy if a book just isn't working for them. Like you, I give myself a 50 -100 pages before I call it. If it still hasn't hooked me on some level by then then I'm just not the right reader for the book. I'll still write up a 'review' of sorts just explaining why I couldn't bring myself to finish it. And then I move on! No guilt. There are so many books and authors I'd like to know more about, peruse and read, that I just don't have the energy or the time to slog through something I'm not connecting to. If I forced myself to finish everything I started then I would never venture out of my comfort zone. By allowing myself an exit, I've been more inclined to sample widely and thus discovered a huge array of books and authors I might not otherwise have tried.

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  5. I can't not know what happens in the end, so I start skimming until I find out. Or, I'll just set the book back on the shelf and "claim" I'll get back to it... even though I have a feeling I never will. There are too many books out there, and if one isn't grabbing you, why waste your time (like you said)? We're book bloggers, we should be sharing the love of books we enjoy instead of the ones we can't finish. :) Great discussion post!!!

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  6. A crippling sense of guilt sums it up well for me. I really struggle with dnf'ing. I think it's about 2 books a year for me and that is after much gnashing of my teeth and hand wringing. I just had to dnf The Casual Vacancy after two weeks of trying. You're so right when you say that if you're thinking you would rather be reading anything else but that particular book, it may be time to give it up.

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  7. I now split my 0/10 rating into 'DNF' for the books I struggled with, didn't enjoy and won't go back to try again and 'Deferred' for the books I just didn't connect with but would try again. It's fairer than marking them all DNF and suggesting it's always the book's fault - quite a lot of the time it just isn't the right book at the right time.

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  8. I have started talking about DNFs on the blog and I will always write something on Goodreads. I do generally give them 100 pages so I have a good idea of what I don't like. If I've only read a chapter and decided I'm not in the mood I won't, but I might pick those ones up again in the future. I think it's just as important to say why you don't like a book as to tell us about the amazing ones.

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  9. I feel so bad when I DNF especially if it's for a physical copy of the book that a publisher sent me. I feel less bad if it's an e-galley. I almost never DNF though, and I put the book aside to read later.

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  10. I definitely DNF but am willing to read more than 100 pages usually. If it is less than 50 it is usually 'I'm not in the mood'.

    If I DNF a review book, I email the author or publisher and state why and that I will not review but thank them and wish them the best.

    I do a DNF post at the end of the year usually. Thinking about it, I haven't DNF this year, yaaaaaay.

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  11. I had my first DNF a while back, and I wasn't sure what to do about it. I usually tend to stick with a book, but this one I just couldn't understand what was going on and really didn't like the writing style. I didn't review it either, but I did rate it on Goodreads. It was only a library book and not a review one, so I think if I get a DNF review book I'd be worried about what to do then, but I tihnk I'd tell the author and still not do the review.

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  12. It depends on why I DNFd. If it was because of poor writing, or confusing plot, or something like that I might discuss it on my blog. But, if it's because I just wasn't in the mood, or this was not a genre I usually read, I feel like that's kind of my fault, so I usually don't say anything on my blog. It just depends.

    It has gotten easier and easier to DNF as my TBR gets bigger and bigger. I still only DNF probably less than 5 books a year, so I'm pretty "tolerant" I guess.

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  13. I think I have only not finished one book. I just can't. If I pick up a book I have to finish it. I may put it down for awhile but eventually I get back around to it. Some books start out slow and etc but maybe the ending will make it all worth while but I'll never know unless I finish it.

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  14. I'm the same as you, before blogging I was such a completionist that I just *had* to finish books, even ones I hated. But with so many good books to read and especially because authors are waiting for reviews from me I don't have time to waste on books I don't like. So I have a DNF policy which I have learned to be very liberal with over the years: 50 pages for a normal sized novel and 100 pages for a chunkster. I always feel a sense of loss when I DNF the book but I no longer hesitate over it because I just look over at the next book I'm going to read and it will make me smile!

    What I do with the DNF is write a "comment" or "note" on my blog and on LibraryThing saying why I could not finish the book. Then on my blog I will include the publisher's summary and ask people to decide for themselves whether this is a book for them.

    Even allowing myself to DNF whenever it strikes me, I've only done it 3 times this year. I guess I'm pretty good at choosing books I know I'll like!

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  15. I'm with you 100% on this one. I used to finish them no matter what (hence why I have more 1 and 2 star reviews than most blogs). But anymore I just don't have the time...like you, I'd rather be reading one of the other hundreds of books on my TBR list that may be more interesting.
    I usually give it at least 100 pages, unless it's truly THAT horrendous and I can't stand to read more than a chapter or two. If I don't like it by 100 pages, I'm probably never going to (I've only recently learned this).
    As for a review...if I have enough material (read: complaints) to do a review, I do it. If there's not any specifics - I just couldn't get into it - I type up a post of books I didn't finish at the end of the month and give a very short description of why.

    Unfortunately, when I put books down I do get that sense of unfulfillment. But I'd rather move on to something better than force myself to read something I'm not enjoying to sate my curiosity.

    Great post!

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  16. I'm totally the same. I feel guilty and unfulfilled if I don't finish a book but at the same time I don't want to waste the few precious reading minutes I have on a story I'm not enjoying! Such a dilemma! haha! Great post!

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  17. I am a total DNF-er, but I used to be absolutely racked with guilt and would try my hardest to finish every book I started. What changed for me was a conversation with a coworker that I admired -- he reminded me that I'm not in school anymore, that I'm not going to get a failing grade if I give up on a book that I'm not connecting with. Since then, I'm much more willing to decide that a book is a waste of my time if I'm not enjoying it.

    In fact, sometimes I wonder if I'm not giving a book a fair break, giving up on it too fast, but I have a HUGE backlog of books, and there's always another book that I'll enjoy so much more.

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  18. I always feel really guilty about not finishing a book but if I am hating every moment of it, I think what's the point. I'll get about half way through and then stop and later wonder if I should have just pushed through. Often, I'll come back to the book a while later and try it again and hope that I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    I will only review the book if I've gotten far enough into it to write something substantial or if I am able to pinpoint specifically what my problem with it was. Mostly, I'm too annoyed to write about a book if I feel I've wasted my time reading it.

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  19. I wish I "DNF-ed" more than I do. I usually feel a sense of obligation to finish a book. However, there are just some books that I can't make myself finish-including Neuromancer by William Gibson and anything by Faulkner I've ever read (with the exception of "A Rose for Emily"). More recently, I received a book for review from LibraryThing and it was just-unreadable, IMO. I read the first 50 pages, skimmed the rest, and wrote a review specifying how much of the book I had read. I think that's an opinion valuable enough to merit expressing, but it's only fair to state that you're unaware if its gets better later.

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  20. I hate DNFing, but sometimes I just have to - I can't force myself to read books I don't enjoy, and a few times it's pushed me into a huge slump.

    I do rate DNFs, but only those I have no intention of ever trying to read again, and I do always point out some good points, although what I'll do if I ever DNF that has NO good points.....argh :)

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  21. The older I get, the more I am inclined to DNF if I really do not like or really cannot get into a book. I don't have that much time left to waste and there are many very good books out there. Dee

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  22. I've had to do the same thing because of time. My rule is if I still hate the book halfway through, it's not worth it to continue.

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  23. Daisy I am the WORST at DNFing. I just always HOPE that it will get better. It's a compulsion. I wrote about it this year on my blog and vowed to try harder to DNF things by doing my Reconsider or Release feature to have people tell me if they think I should pick it up or put it back down so maybe it'd help me more. I still don't DNF a lot of books but it's helping!

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  24. I also have always had a strong reticence to abandon any book I have started reading. There have been some along the way that were so bad (for me) that I stopped reading but generally that has been tough to do. Lately I have come to the realization that there is only so much time in life to read and it's better to abandon a book you are not enjoying than waste that precious time! I like your suggestion of leaving a rating and review on Good Reads even if you haven't finished. It's nice to warn people.

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  25. I think this is an important conversation for book bloggers to have. As professed lovers of the written word, I think we all feel some form of guilt when we run across a book we don't like or don't finish a book. However, there are so many books out there and not enough time to read them all! My TBR list is pushing 500, and I am finding less and less time to read. We need to be realistic, and we shouldn't waste time on books we don't love. I've only recently decided to also embrace the DNF. I even created a shelf on my Goodreads for these books. This decision came after I read (or attempted to read) several unsatisfactory books. I do think it's important to review in some medium DNFs because there was something about this book that turned me off, and my job as a reviewer is not only to laud the books I love but to fairly assess the ones I don't as well. The key is that - to be fair and explain while I didn't like it, others may enjoy it. Thanks for beginning this honest conversation!

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  26. I haven't DNF'd a book for review yet. Actually, I haven't DNF'd a book period...except for a few books at college, but those don't really count, right? I've put a book down as a not-right-now read, but pledged to return to it when I'm in a different, more amiable mood. I think if a book was downright unreadable, like not just I'm not feeling it, but I will NEVER pick up this book again, I'd post a short review on Goodreads stating my problem(s), how far I got, and a 1-star rating. But if I'm planning on re-visiting it at some point, I don't do anything except move on.

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  27. I've not not felt the need to DNF a review book yet, but I've done that with library books. There's a few I guess are technically DNF because at the time my library holds come through I am just not in the mood for that book, so I stop and put it on hold. Some when the due date is coming, I just don't care if I finish it or not, so I stop. Most end up being like this. Get so far in and just don't care so I stop. There has one I gave up because the main character was just so annoying- 40-50 pages was more than enough.

    I rate and typically review the portion I read, and if there was a certain reason that made me stop, explain that. Especially if the vast majority of reviews are polar opposites. Just so anyone who has similar tastes to me can read it and have a better idea if it is right for them.

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  28. It is really difficult for me to not finish a book, but at the same time I don't see the point in continuing if I am getting no enjoyment from the book at all. I used to make myself finish every book I picked up, regardless, but when I started blogging I ended up spending more time on the books I enjoyed and writing reviews on those. I do write up DNF Reviews but try to point out good/bad and keep it nice because it could be a book that others would love! Plus, it's rude to completely tear apart a book because the author put tons of time and love into that book. I will try to point out what I didn't care for, and why, so people know what made me put it down and if that's something that they don't really care about then they could end up really liking the book!

    great post!
    Laura @ The Little Pink Book Boutique

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  29. I'm pretty bad at DNFing books, but with practice, I've been improving by leaps and bounds. There are simply too many books in my house to keep reading books that get a negative answer to the the question, "Do I actually *care* what happens?" after 50 or a 100 pages. My most recent DNF was tricky. It was very well written, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. By the halfway point, I realized that I need not pick it up again because, though the writing was good, I wasn't invested in the characters or the plot, so reading the rest was bound to be dissatisfying. I'll usually give a review book a little extra effort if I'm on the fence about it, but if I'm reading it and actively disliking it, I've been known to DNF a review book every now and again, too. At some point it's no benefit to me or the book/author/publishing house/publicist if I beat the dead horse of a book I'm not enjoying because the longer it frustrates me, the more it will show in my review.

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  30. Interesting discussion! I find that I'm actually finishing more books now that I know I have the DNF option. I'll write a short review explaining why I couldn't finish the book, point out some good points, and leave it up to the reader if they want to give it a shot. Sometimes it's just not my type of book, but others may love it. Still working on the guilt, but it's getting easier!

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  31. I used to feel so guilty about DNFing books, but these days I've come to realize that there are soooo many books published and honestly some of those books just are not good. Life is short so why should I finish something that is really awful? I typically only DNF if I've read at least 100 pages and I have some major issues with the content, have found holes in the plot, it's so badly written that it's ridiculous, or I'm just not interested.

    As for reviewing I automatically rate it a one because there was clearly something wrong with it if I couldn't finish it and then I explain why I couldn't finish it. Once in awhile though if the tale continues to be on my mind I will go back and finish it and update my review and my rating.

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  32. That's such a hard topic! Personally, I HATE not finishing a book, BUT now that I have so many to read, I don't like forcing myself to finish something that I'm not enjoying at all. If I've made it far enough or if the book is short enough, I'll push through and finish it. It's a touchy situation though and it really varies when I decide to DNF a book. One I really didn't like at all, but I still finished it. Another was just okay, but I kept pushing it off so finally 4 months later I just marked it DNF and decided not to waste my time anymore because clearly I wasn't enjoying it.
    Great post! Love talking about it!

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  33. I don't like to not finish books either, but I have to agree. I just don't have the time to read books I don't like. I don't do anything with them though. I just delete them from my GR entirely and forget about them. Is that bad? There are only a handful that I haven't finished this year... I don't know if I should start a GR list for them? (Do they have private lists?) But I normally go about 50 pages and if I'm not the least bit interested, I go on to the next thing.

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  34. I hate not finishing books and still have a shelf of books with bookmarks where I left off. I always intend to finish them and have at least once gone back to a DNF only to finish it later and LOVED it. I do still review on Goodreads...sometimes with a star-rating of some kind, sometimes without. But I'm always honest and say how far I got and why I gave up (example: Fifty Shades of Grey...so bored by it).

    Great post! I love to see how others handle their DNFs. (And Duke Nukem? Yep...not familiar with that either!)

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  35. I've started DNF-ing more. If it doesn't interest me, I stop reading it. I hate admitting it though. I've toyed with posting my DNF but unsure about publicly stating my failures :(

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  36. If I'm not feeling a book, I have no problem adding it to the DNF pile. I heard Nancy Pearl (she is this readers' advisory librarian) say to give a book a try by reading 50 pages (if you are over 50, she said that you have enough experience reading, and every year over 50, take that many pages away from 50 - for example if I was 55, I should read 45 pages of a book) and if I don't like it by then, to DNF it. But she also said that just because you didn't like it one time, doesn't you mean you won't like it another time in your life, so to reserve the right to go back to it later. Does that make any sense?

    That is what I try to do. I don't review books I haven't finished, though. I just don't feel right reviewing a book I haven't finished.

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  37. If I've requested a review book, then I'll always finish it. If it's one that's just been sent to me, then I will just give up. I never review books I haven't finished, though--I don't think that's fair.

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  38. It depends how far I am into a book before I DNF it. Sometimes I can just tell that I'm not in the right mood, so forcing myself to keep reading would be unfair. IF that's the case, I'm certainly not going to review it. However, some times books just really stink, and I WILL say so in a note on Goodreads, though I likely won't bother to devote space on my blog.

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  39. I love that you put some children's books in your list, too! Those stay with us!

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  40. I very rarely DNF. No matter how much I dislike the book, I usually still want to know how it turns out and know that I haven't given up prematurely (what if the end is brilliant?!) I also feel like I've wasted time if I don't finish, although I'm not sure why the time spent reading a book I didn't finish is more wasted than the time spent finishing a book I didn't like.

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  41. I learned a long time ago that life is too short to read books I don't like. If I have to force myself to read it, then chances are it's never going to grow on me. If a book really doesn't grab me, often I will skim it to find out what happens. I have no problems reviewing a book and saying I couldn't finish it. I usually try and link to one or two other reviews that might show the book in a more positive light. Sometimes I've gone back to books that were DNF, but most of the time, my first instinct to stop reading is correct.

    2 Kids and Tired Books

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  42. I recently came to the same conclusion...that life is too short and that there are too many great books on my TBR (not to mention my wishlist) to force myself to finish books that I'm not enjoying...whatever the reason may be. And I 100% feel that it is important to share my thoughts on the portion I did read b/c I would want to know if someone else had issues with a book before I picked it up. If all we ever write are postitive review as book bloggers then I feel we are doing a diservice. I like to stress though that the book was a DNF so no one reading my Thoughts gets the impression that I am informed on the book as a whole!

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  43. I agree with you, there are too many books out there to be enjoyed to struggle through one that you're not enjoying. I don't write reviews on my blog for DNF books, but I do sometimes like a mini-review (more of an explanation) on Goodreads. If I really dislike what I've read of a title I will give it a star rating as well as a DNF classification. If it's just a "not the book for me at this time" type of DNF then I generally won't rate it.

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  44. When I DNF a book I put it on the DNF shelf and write a few comments about not finishing it and perhaps why. But I don't click any stars. I don't know if this counts against the book's rating. (I hope not) If I ever go back to the book I'll know what I was feeling the first time and try to continue from there. Most of the books I've DNFed lately have been my own fault or lack of setting aside the time to focus on the book. So I don't feel right giving it stars but I'm ok with explaining why it is on the DNF shelf.

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  45. I have no qualms over DNF-ing a book. If I don't like it, I don't like it. And finishing it won't make me like it any more. What would I be gaining from finishing a book I did not like? Far less than finishing a book that I loved. Or even just liked.

    I don't mention every book I DNF on my blog. How can I offer my thoughts on a story that I didn't bother finishing? But, there are a few that I mention, and those are the books that while they didn't hold my interest, I can tell some other bookish person would appreciate them. Maybe the story was fresh or the writing was great but I personally couldn't connect with the characters. Or maybe the stories were interesting, but I thought the writing was a bit stuffy. Reading is such an subjective experience. Just because I disliked something doesn't mean everyone will dislike it.

    Figuring out which DNFs to share and which ones are really not worth mentioning can be tricky.

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