To DNF or Not to DNF? Join the Debate!

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I actually can’t remember the last time I DNFed a book. In fairness, a lot of the books I read are for my degree modules so kind of require me to power through, but even when reading for pleasure I tend to cling on until the bitter end.

Over the years since I started blogging, I have noticed that so many other book bloggers aren’t afraid to call it a day if they’re not hooked after x number of chapters. This has got me thinking – could becoming a more ruthless DNFer improve my reading life?

The Issues: Pros of DNFing

  • More & better books!

I’m sure every bookworm is familiar with the half-pleasurable, half-painful realisation, upon walking into your favourite bookshop, that you can never read all of the books.

DNFing means you can waste less time reading books that just don’t quite do it for you, and focus on the multitude out there that will shoot straight to the top of your favourites list.

  • Encourages experimentation

If you’re secure in the knowledge that, if you don’t like a book, you’ll be able to just give it a pass after a few chapters, this may give you the confidence to try something new. It’s likely that you’ll give something a little out of your comfort zone a chance, rather than sticking only with books that immediately sound right up your street.

  • Avoids reading slumps & keeps up momentum

That sinking feeling you get when you know you probably should be finishing that book – but you just don’t want to? It can have ripple effects beyond the book itself and reduce your enthusiasm for reading in general, leading to the dreaded slumps.

On the other hand, being a ruthless DNFer means you’re more likely to highly rate books and feel motivated and positive about your reading life.

  • More likely to meet reading goals

Whether you’ve set a Goodreads challenge or are trying to read more diversely, trawling painfully through a book that you’re just not enjoying is bound to hinder you in reaching these goals.

See my post: New Year Reading Goals: Pleasure or Pressure?

DNF Books Debate

The Issues: Cons of DNFing

  • How do you review a DNF?

This is one of the issues at the forefront of my mind when I shy away from DNFing. Can you review a book you never finished? What if it’s an ARC or gifted copy? Sometimes I want to finish an especially problematic book so I feel like my rant will be fully qualified!

  • Sometimes it’s worth the wait

I recently sat down to watch a film with my family. The first scene consisted of a teenage boy looking at a porn magazine. Out of the blue, a car crashed into the side of his house driven by the porn star featured in said magazine. We gave each other a look…okaaaay??? And gave up after about three and a half minutes.

A couple of weeks later, driven by sheer lockdown boredom, we decided to give the film another shot. And spent the next couple of hours laughing until we cried – it was brilliant! (The film was Nice Guys, in case you’re interested). My point is, sometimes dismissing a story too quickly might mean seriously missing out on what’s to come.

  • Fear of becoming a ‘lazy’ reader

The above point about encouraging experimentation can work both ways. I worry that dismissing a book because it doesn’t immediately seem to fall into my usual niches will make me a ‘lazy’ reader, reluctant to shake things up and try something new or more challenging.


Now it’s over to you! Do you DNF and why/why not? Is it acceptable to review DNFs? How long should you give a book a chance for? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments, I would love to hear from you!


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31 thoughts on “To DNF or Not to DNF? Join the Debate!

  1. I tend to cling on with books as well, particularly ARC’s because I don’t feel as though I can honestly review something I haven’t read all the way through. I do think as well that being gifted a book makes me feel more obligated to keep going whether I want to or not. I’m far more likely to DNF one of my own books 😊

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    1. Thank you for the comment Jessica! That’s true – I don’t read ARCs because of time pressure, but I think I would definitely have the same problem as you. It’s weird that not having paid for a book, because we’ve received it as a gift or ARC, makes us more likely to finish it! 📚❤️ X x x

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      1. Yes it’s odd, I think I feel a sense of obligation because a publisher has approved the copy not only for free but in advance of publication. Even so, I do think it’s OK to DNF a book if you’ve given it a fair chance, perhaps I’ll be braver going forward…or I’ll try at least 😂

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  2. In general, my reading habbits have changed quite considerably over the years. When I was at school, and even university to a certain extent, I was certainly much more likely to DNF a book than I would be nowadays. This is possibly due in part to the fact I have acquired much more patience, but perhaps more importantly, I am now in much more control of my reading choices than I ever was as a child or young adult, as books were often chosen for me by other people, and I hadn’t yet discovered my own tastes and preferences. I try to read fairly broadly, but where possible, I always look at a brief sample of a book before purchacing, so am more likely to instinktively choose books I know I will be able to finish. Having said this, I am still not against the notion of a DNF in principle, as reading for pleasure should never become a chore, and life is too short to force yourself to read books you don’t like. Thanks for another great discussion question. xx

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Alyson! We definitely get better over time at choosing books we know we’ll enjoy. But accepting DNFs in principle, as a sort of trial and error, can help us feel more confident branching out once in a while! X

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  3. This is such an interesting topic and I know that many readers feel differently about DNFing.

    But I DNF all the time. My tbr is never ending and I just don’t have the time to struggle myself through books that I’ll end up resenting. That’s not good for me or the author, because it will eventually reflect in the reivew.
    Reasons why I mostly DNF is because the style of writing doesn’t sync with me. Sometimes it’s the story that I could care less, but most often it’s the writing style.
    Also, there have been maybe a handful books over the last 5 years that I gave a second and third chance and I’m glad I did so.
    But I read around 250 books a year, and probably DNF an additional 100 a year. I never feel like I’m missing out by not finishing a book. 😀

    ~ Corina | The Brown Eyed Bookworm

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    1. Thank you so much for the comment Corina! Woah, you read an insane number of books every year!!! That’s very impressive and certainly shows how DNFing can stop us wasting time on books that aren’t really for us. Thanks for sharing this insight 📚❤️ X x x

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    1. Thank you very much Stephen! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles to DNF. Your point about falling behind targets is interesting – I always feel like if I’ve invested time getting to a certain point in a book I might as well finish it and ‘tick it off’ 📚❤️ X

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  4. I’m a definite DNFer! When I have pushed myself to finish a book I’m not enjoying I have never ended up enjoying it in the end. I have skimmed lots of books to get the gist and to read the last chapter for the resolution! If it’s an ARC, I push myself to finish. I try to screen my arcs carefully so I don’t get caught in the DNF dilemma. There are too many good books waiting to be read to get stuck in one that’s not to my taste!

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  5. I think that there are people who always finish books, no matter what (my mom and sister) and those who don’t (me). I tend to be more likely to finish a book if it is a classic or I feel that it will improve my mind or relationships in some way. I always try to give a book a pretty fair chance, not quitting until I’ve read a decent number of pages. That said, if I am reading a book for enjoyment and am not enjoying it, I may stop.
    In terms of ARCs, yes, I try to finish in return for the gift of the book and the need for an honest review.

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  6. I have gotten pretty good at picking books I know I will enjoy so I very rarely DNF books but I have no problems DNFing one if it’s not working for me. I reserve 1 star ratings for DNFs. I will then write in my review how much I was able to get through and why it wasn’t working for me up until that point. I don’t really have a set number of pages/chapters I will give it before DNFing usually if it gets to the point where I am literally having to force myself to read it and I’m not enjoying it I will DNF it.

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  7. I just DNFed a book yesterday. I read a lot of biographical and historical fiction, so if I come across a book with too many errors, that can be enough for me to DNF it. However, if a book is really well written, I might be willing to overlook errors like that. Also, a book that is error free but isn’t well written, or is too confusing (too many characters I can’t keep track of, or if they describe action in a scene and I can’t picture it in my head), then I’ll stop reading. But the idea that I’m willing to DNF a book could open me to more experimentation is a very interesting idea. I might do that more. Thanks.

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  8. I rarely DNF. I have had some experiences with books which didn’t grab my attention and I did a halfhearted DNF. But I always feel bad not finishing a book and on a later attempt, I ended up loving it. That was the case with Mrs Dalloway which became one of my favourite books (at my third attempt!!)

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  9. I have the hardest time DNFing a book. I’ve DNFed two books in my entire reading life. Given that, I try to be really selective with what I read. I don’t tend to pick up something I don’t think I’ll absolutely love. I am trying to be better DNFing when the book doesn’t work for me so I can focus on other books that I do, but I just feel guilty not finishing a book. Especially if it is one I’ve bought or an ARC. – Amber

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  10. A thought-provoking post! On the face of it there is on reason why someone should continue reading a book that do not enjoy anymore or that does not impart to someone knowledge. Even though I have always been against DNFing, I recently realised that there are in existence certain books which you cannot do anything with but DNF. Now I do understand people who sometimes DNF certain books.

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  11. I like to think of it as putting a book to ‘one side’ until I’m more in the mood for it. I realise of course that 8/10 I probably won’t return to it, particularly if it’s slowing my reading down drastically, but just recently I have set two books aside and picked them up a month later and enjoyed them. So there is that.
    Lynn 😀

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