To read, or not to read, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Cliches and Holes of outrageous Books,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of words,
And by opposing end them: to finish, to suffer
I think that we can all agree on how we’re drowning in a TBR pile and have too little time for all the books out there, which brings us to the concept of DNF-ing books. I do it, you do it; let’s face it: sometimes we just don’t have the time to read something we’re not enjoying. But recently I’ve been going through a DNF crisis – especially with review copy books. When is it good to put a book down? If I’m over half the book and I’m not feeling the book, can I label it “DNF”? Is it fair to put this down if I’m only 10% into it? Should I rate the books I didn’t finish? WHAT IS MY LIFE?
At this point I take a deep breath and tell myself to calm down. Okay, it’s actually not as bad as that. The most important question for me is, “Is it worth it to put this down?” I know a lot of reviewers come into a book and just can’t get into it after the first 10% or so – be it because of the writing or just a particularly irritating main character. When that happens to me, I end up not rating it because it’s just a “not my cup of tea” situation. I don’t straight-out dislike it; it’s just something that doesn’t fit my style. And chances are, it’ll probably be good for someone else, so I wouldn’t want my extremely biased rating to affect their own decision on picking up the book or not.
The next tier I go through is 20%. This is usually when I suck it up, even if I didn’t like the first 10%, and forge through it. But if it’s just absolutely unbearable, I make myself put it down. I think I also stop at 20% because it’s still pretty near the beginning of the book so I’m not invested in the plot, and I have a good feel of where the story is heading (and I’m not a fan of it).
Signs that show that I’m ready to DNF include:
- Frequent glancing at the page number/percentage
- Sighing and yawning throughout
- Finding my attention drawn to other things
- Making excuses to put the book down
- Picking up the phone to complain about the book to friends
- Finding myself scrolling through Twitter after picking up the phone
- Complaining about the book (usually through gifs) on Twitter
But the next stopping point is about 60-70% of the book. (Yes, what a jump.) After the story gets rolling, I can read through things pretty fast, no matter how cringe-worthy it can be. However, I start getting bored once again if nothing is happening within the first half of the book. A problem right now with a book I’m currently reading is that I feel as if NOTHING is happening and I’m 78% into the story! I got advice from a friend to keep reading since I’m already almost done, but I’m seriously quite done with it. At the same time, it’s a review copy sooo I might as well forge through, right?
Which brings us to the next topic! With each review, I try to give the best feedback I can give. So it would definitely benefit me if I make myself finish a book. But if I’m really not feeling that the book and I are clicking, then it’s time to put it down. Here’s what I think: if I take a long time trying to figure out whether to continue on with a book or not, then chances are I’m not too invested in it and can use my time on better pursuits. Even if it’s an ARC. Because your audience and publishers always want honesty (as it’s the best policy, am I right), and you’re only losing if you force yourself to finish a book you’re not enjoying. So while I understand the philosophy of finishing a book to further enhance your review for a review copy (even if you’re not enjoying it), I really don’t see the point in subjecting yourself to that form of mild torture.
Another point I’d like to make is that the less strict you are in DNF’ing books, the more you can do it, which equates to more time for reading! This is another argument I have with myself when choosing whether to DNF a book or not. The conversations usually go like:
“Alright Aila, I think we can go through 200 more pages? It’ll only be like a couple of hours.”
“Yeah but Aila, those 200 pages can be used for a book that is more worthy of your time!”
“Okay you right you right… But I need more content to write in my review! Ya know, gain more of a view of the book so I can thoroughly explain why I didn’t like it?”
“Yeah but Aila, if it doesn’t click with you, then you have to let it go. Sometimes you have to realize that the best things in life only come if you don’t have other things to distract you from it.”
“Wow, wise words, Aila.”
“Yeah man I know. 😉 ”
(Nahh I don’t talk like that to myself, but the concepts are the same.)
So those are a few points I consider when I’m trying to figure out whether to finish a book or not. In the end, reading is supposed to be fun and if I’m suffering while reading, then obviously something isn’t going right in the equation. What are your own thoughts for DNF-ing a book?
What are some common reasons on why you don’t finish? Do you ever force yourself to finish reading a book your friend recommended or one that you’re reviewing? Or are you the type to finish reading, but only so you can point out some humorous things in the book that made it so cringe-worthy?
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