The (Not So) Dreaded DNF

Many years ago, in the earlier days of my book blogging career, I was of the belief that it was my duty to finish every book that came my way for review. (I wasn’t one of those bloggers receiving multiple books a week, which made the idea seem quite feasible.) It was a holdover from my regular reading habits, where I managed to finish everything – mainly because I was pretty good at picking out books that I would, at the very least, quite like.

But once I became a book blogger of the kind that receives even the occasional book from publishers for review that attitude had to change. At first I managed to work my way through books I wasn’t exactly keen on, writing reviews that reflected that. It was a struggle but I sure as anything gave it my all.

Then I met the book that would change my mind on the idea of the DNF – the did not finish. Here is how I opened the review I wrote, all the way back in September 2011.

Those who know me will know that if a book is for review I will do more than just make a good faith effort to finish it. I planned to finish Crescendo, I forced myself to pick it up again and again and keep going. But I woke up the morning after going to bed at page 208, took one look at Crescendo and decided that any book that made my stomach roll at the thought of reading was not one I was going to force myself to finish.

I just could not take any more slut-shaming.

It’s been five years and I can still recall the visceral feeling of not wanting to read any more of Crescendo. Although I did not throw it against the wall, I finally understood what other readers were on about when they talked about such a thing.

I remembered then why I got into book blogging before: I loved books, I loved reading, and I wanted to share that love with other people. Forcing myself to finish a book that was upsetting me in any way was contrary and damaging to that love.

Nowadays my rationale can be summed up as: My time, money, and energy is precious and finite. I am not going to waste any more of it on something I am not enjoying. It’s really that simple.

So now if I am not enjoying a book – or TV show, or video game, or something else – I stop and take a moment to think. Is this just the wrong time for this book, and if I come back to it later will I enjoy it more? Or is it best to just set aside permanently and move on to something else?

There’s nothing wrong with marking a book as DNF. In fact, a review of a DNF can be a powerful one: after all, something (or lots of somethings) was not working, bad, or even just plain offensive. If I had read a review like my one for Crescendo, that spoke of constant slut-shaming, sexism, fat-shaming, and the glamorizing of a clearly toxic relationship – and it was so bad, it upset them so much they could not finish it? I’d want to know that.

And, in conclusion: Cousins. They were totally cousins. Reading for pleasure should be about just that: pleasure. If it’s not, whip out the old DNF shelf and get on with the next show! It’s safer for your walls that way.

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Catherine is a writer, reader, and general internet person from New Zealand. As well as designing book covers, she is one of the editors for Bibliodaze and one half of the vampire-themed podcast The Bloodsucking Feminists.

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  • Greg
    September 13, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Ha ha love that last line. 🙂 I agree- time is short and if a book isn’t working (or is actually upsetting as you reference) then yeah, I would DNF too. I know not everyone can or likes to DNF, but I will if I just can’t go on (and it’s pretty rare so not that big a deal).

    Nice post!

  • Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight
    September 13, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    How funny, I just recently wrote a post about why I don’t DNF lol. But I love getting to see other perspectives, and I totally get why people *do* DNF. If a book was bothering you THAT much, the way you described, then that makes complete sense to stop. Even if you’re just not enjoying a book, that makes sense too. Reading should be about pleasure, so everyone should read (and DNF) how they please! For me it’s just that I’m happier not DNFing, at least for the time being 🙂

    Also, having a kindle is what keeps my walls safe since there ain’t no way I’m going to throw that 😛

    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted: Book Review: Unhinged (Underworld Book 1) by Chani Lynn Feener
  • Natalie Reid
    September 14, 2016 at 4:37 am

    I’d be interested if reviewers DNF. The why it is a DNF is important as people have different preferences. I have DNF many highly recommended books because they start with really long detailed poetic descriptions of the scenery which I never seem to get into. I think if something has provoked a strong enough reaction in a reviewer to provoke a DNF the reviewer should have plenty of material for a review explaining why it is a DNF without torturing him or herself further.

  • Gwen @ The Book Lounge
    September 15, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I 100% agree. Once I made it ok to DNF my life has changed (well at least when it comes to reading). There are times I will still push myself a bit to finish and usually in the end I think yep I should’ve DNF’ed it.

    Gwen @ The Book Lounge recently posted: Where Are All the Fat Characters?
  • verushka
    September 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Here, here, well said! I totally agree, our time, money and energy is precious and should be spent on enjoyable things. I learned to become comfortable with DNF-ing and refuse to spend time not interested in any book any more.




Kiwi. Writer. Reader. Graphic designer. Video games enthusiast. Bloodsucking Feminist and co-editor of Bibliodaze . Knows way too much about vampires than is healthy. Doesn't care.

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The Cantia Covenant
The Necromancer's Daughter

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