Jo Talks Books: On My Problems With DNFing

Hi everyone! I know, I know, it’s really late for me to be doing my first (and probably only) discussion post of the month, but in my defence, I have been really busy what with coming back from Uni and then being on holiday! This was a discussion post I had planned to do a while ago, but being me, I got distracted with all the other things I wanted to talk about that I totally forgot about it. Luckily I hadn’t really planned anything to talk about this month, so I figured why not use this? So what I’m going to be talking about today is DNFing books and how even though it’s been something I’ve been working on, I still find it really hard to put down books that I’m not enjoying.

For those of you who aren’t bloggers or maybe aren’t familiar with the term DNF, it stands for Did Not Finish, ie those books that we put down before we make it to the end of them. I’ve always had a problem with this, but becoming a blogger has created new challenges for me in this department, which I will discuss over the course of this post.

Currently on my Goodreads DNF shelf, I have four books. Yup that’s right. Four. I have probably not finished more books than that over the course of my life, as obviously not every single book I’ve read/tried to read is on my Goodreads, but I’d guess that the number of books I’ve not finished is probably still in single figures, quite an achievement for someone who has read as many books as I have. However, my desire to complete every single book I pick up is not always a good thing as it has meant over the years me struggling through books up not really enjoying just to finish them. So why do I do it?

Well first off I have a closure problem. This is true for my life, not just specifically books, I like things to be finished, to be tied up in a nice neat bow (which is more of a problem in life as things don’t necessarily come with a nice neat bow, but that’s besides the point of this discussion) and if I drop a book before I’ve read the ending, then I never get to know how things turn out and I find that infuriating! I need to know that everyone’s okay! This is why I’m so picky about series that I read, I need to be pretty confident that I’m going to love it before I read it as if I don’t like it, I will be stuck reading it for however many more books there are just because I’m desperate to know how things work out. It’s the same for movies and TV shows, I won’t stop watching even if I don’t like it very much because I need to see how things turn out!

I also feel like I owe it to both myself and the author to finish their book. After all, they worked really hard on it and if I don’t make it to the end then I’ll feel really bad because they spent years working on this book and I can’t even make it through a few days/weeks to finish it? Just seems wrong to me, even if I know I’m not enjoying it. Plus I spent my money on that book (usually) so I’ll feel like that was a waste if I don’t finish the book. It’s perhaps slightly easier to not finish books that I’ve got on Netgalley or been sent by publishers because I didn’t pay for them but then you have the whole guilt of letting the publisher down malarkey to deal with.

Becoming a blogger has produced added challenges in my difficulty DNFing, for a number of reasons. Firstly because I now have Goodreads, which in some ways is great, because it gives me a way to track what I’m reading and see what my friends and fellow bloggers are reading but it also means that I feel more pressured to finish every single book I read, as I know the book won’t count towards my Goodreads challenge if I don’t finish it (honestly I could do a whole post on the pros and cons of Goodreads, which I think I might!), so this means that I’ll always be pushing myself to finish whatever I’m reading even if I don’t enjoy it. I also feel like I have to finish everything because if I don’t then I can’t write a review for it and I’ll feel like I’ll be letting everyone who reads my reviews down, which is ridiculous and makes no sense but there you go!

It’s also hard to tell when you should give up and decide it’s not for you. After all a lot of books are slow in the first half but get really good in the second half, so you think, well maybe this is just a slow starter and it will get better. I don’t want to miss out if it does get really good! It’s the same with series, even if I’m not a big fan of the first book, I will still try the next one because I’ve often found the second book in a series improves on the first one, and I’m glad I do this because if I didn’t then I would have missed out on a lot of what are now my favourite series. So when do you decide a book is not for you? 10 pages? 20? 50? 100? There’s no defined place where you can be like, ah this book isn’t for me. I like to give a book until halfway through, but by that point, I’ve already invested so much time in it that I want to read to the end! Yet dropping the book before then feels like I haven’t given it enough of a chance! It’s a vicious cycle.

Also if it’s a book that “society” thinks you should read, like a really important classic or something then you’ll feel really bad about not finishing it because this is something that you’re supposed to love and find really important and be like “yes you have to read this before you die” and you just feel a little embarrassed that it’s this big classic you’re meant to have read and you couldn’t finish it. This happened to me with Jane Eyre, I just couldn’t finish it, it was too boring, but I still feel a little guilty to this day because it’s Jane Eyre! Which is ridiculous because you should be able to finish/not finish whatever books you want, no matter how important other people think they are.

I also don’t feel like I can fully form an opinion on a book I haven’t finished. I’m constantly changing and reevaluating my opinion (and final rating) of a book whilst I’m reading it and if I don’t get to the end, yes I can say if I did or didn’t like what I did read, but I have no way of forming an opinion on the book as whole. Though I will say that I’ve usually made my mind up about a book by the time I’m about halfway through and it will take something major in the climax to change it-but then if I never read the climax, how will I know? I could be hating a book most of the way through and then get really engaged at the end (this has happened before) but if I don’t give myself the chance to get there, then I will never know. It’s the whole closure thing again, I need to know the whole story in order to fully form an opinion on it and if I don’t then the only opinion I’ll have is that I didn’t love it but I want to know what happened in the end!

I have been getting better at not forcing myself to read books that I don’t love, I know there’s so many books out there, heck so many books already on my shelves, that there’s no reason to push through with stuff that I’m not enjoying. But it is still very hard to overcome the urge to find out what happens at the end, even if I wasn’t a big fan of the beginning and middle. I always used to actually flip to the last page (yes I know, I know I’m horrified at me too, I still self spoil a bit, I’ve been getting better at not doing it though!), to find out what happened at the end before I’d even started reading because I was so desperate to know. My need for closure is something that I don’t think will ever change, but I have been trying to work on the issues that Goodreads presents, by making sure that I have a manageable challenge and space to DNF if I want to. I also occasionally read books that I won’t review for the blog (very occasionally, I’ve only read one this year), so that I don’t feel like I have to review every single thing I read. And I think I’m getting better at telling when books are not for me and I should give up, although I don’t always do so!

Over to you! Do you have difficulty in putting books you’re not enjoying now? Any tips for me as to how to be better at it? Will you carry on series when you didn’t enjoy the first book to see if they get better? Let me know in the comments!

I’m not sure if I’ll get another discussion post up before the end of this month, but if I do, it will be about the Pros and Cons of Goodreads (and yes I had that idea whilst writing this post!) and if not then that will be my first discussion post of July. In the meantime, the next that you’ll hear from me will probably be on Tuesday for my latest TTT post!

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8 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On My Problems With DNFing

  1. Donna June 25, 2017 / 7:23 pm

    I used to be like you – my sense of closure wouldn’t let me not finish a book – but I’m getting better at giving up on them now. Goodreads actually helps me, because I can go and look at what other people think and if it’s clear the book doesn’t get better, I feel less guilt at putting it down! For netgalley books, I just send the publisher feedback that it wasn’t for me and leave it at that. For series it really does depend on how much I struggled with book 1. If it’s a debut, I’m more likely to be generous and give book 2 a go. If it’s an experienced writer and I really struggled with book 1 then no, I won’t try book 2. I just ask people who do carry on for spoilers!

    • iloveheartlandx June 27, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      I’m glad to hear there’s hope for me then! I would do that, but I don’t want to get possible spoilers! I do the same thing for Netgalley, but I still feel a little bad about not being able to finish! That makes sense, I will still usually continue on though, no matter who wrote it or how much I struggled. Your method sounds better though!

  2. judithcmoore June 26, 2017 / 7:55 am

    I’m awful at giving up on a book, which is all the worse when you’re stuck in something really long!

  3. Sara (@Forever17Books) June 26, 2017 / 1:46 pm

    This is very much me as well! I have a hard time not finishing because I need to have closure. It’s super rare for me to DNF and I’ve probably only done so a handful of times over the past few years as well. I had a book I DNF a couple weeks ago and everyone else seems to love it but by 20% I just had no connection and hated that I felt no desire to pick the book up everyday. It was my first DNF in probably a couple years. lol

  4. delphinespublications June 27, 2017 / 1:44 am

    I definitely can relate to your feelings on DNFing books! Even if I absolutely abhor the characters or find the plot totally cliché or ‘cheapish’ I find it difficult to simply put the book down and move onto something else. Sure, it takes me longer to finish and I find myself often pausing to think about what exactly of the book I don’t like, but NOT finishing is just no possible for me.
    Thanks for the great discussion post and sharing your bookish thoughts!
    I look forward to reading more from you soon – Happy Reading 🙂

    • iloveheartlandx June 27, 2017 / 12:22 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way! No problem, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Aww thanks, happy reading to you too!

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