Chatterbox: To Finish… Or Not To Finish?

April 18, 2016 by Aila J. | Chatterbox, Features


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
No more;

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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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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52 responses to “Chatterbox: To Finish… Or Not To Finish?

  1. curiousdaisies

    I used to force myself to read through books I found terribly boring. But, since I started blogging and "So many books, so little time" became my moto I've started DNFing. It's OK 🙂
    My recent post April Reading Wrap Up

  2. I used to be very bad at this, I hardly ever DNF'ed a book, and ended up being angry with both myself and the book for 'wasting' my time.
    Now, I put a book down if I'm really not feeling it – no matte what the reason is. If I've read more than 40%, I'll do a quick DNF review to explain what didn't work for me, and what was good (if there was something good). If I stop reading before the 40% mark, I won't do a review, I will put it on my DNF shelf on goodreads only. And if it's an ARC, I'll send feedback through Netgalley, stating when and why I stopped reading.
    Great post, Aila!
    My recent post The Sunday Post / Weekly Wrap-up #80 – Almost time for BEA!

    • Thanks Lexxie!

      And I totally agree with you on all fronts! Stick it in a DNF shelf, write a quick review explaining why the book and you didn't click, and that's that. As much as I regret not giving a book my time of day, sometimes we just don't mesh well. And life is too short to be reading those kind of books, y'know?

  3. Rachel Lightwood

    Great post, Aila! Deciding when to DNF seems to be a struggle of all reader. Personally, I never DNF. Yep, I'm one of those people. i just cannot make myself. I'm too curious – even if I don't care about the characters/story, I still need to know how it ends. Or I'll think about it forever, it will haunt me. Not exaggerating. But I think the key to DNFing is to do what's best for you. If you don't like and want to put it down, do it. It's up to you – you're reading experience = your choice.

    And I can understand the struggles of reviewing a DNF. I think it's perfectly fine to review a DNF as long as you state how far you made it into the story. It's not 'lying' or anything.
    My recent post {Mirror Mirror} In Which Liza’s Shelves are Full of Fantasy

    • I ADMIRE YOU SO MUCH RACHEL FOR NOT DNF'ing. Like, you have no idea. :'D I wish I had your amazing powers, but alas, I am a weak mortal and can only label a book as "DNF."

      Seriously, a couple of commenters have said the same, and I can only imagine having the willpower to stick through a book I don't care about. But you're also right in the aspect that it's what's best for you. Each person will have their differences and ways of finishing a book.

      (But I still can't help but wish I were the strong type to not DNF lol)

  4. That picture is so adorable, Aila! I love it! I never really DNF books, usually because I convince myself to read a little bit more just to see if it gets better and I end up finishing the whole thing (e.g. The Passion of Dolssa). I did DNF two books this year, both because I couldn't get into the writing. I was reading The Chimes by Anna Smaill and after 5 chapters, I felt like I had no idea what was going on because the writing was so hard to read. I was just kind of reading without comprehending anything so I just gave up. And I tried to read Dreaming the Enemy since it's one of Jeann's radio books for next month but it was just so ridiculously boring and confusing. I guess I'll just tune in and hear what they all think of it 😀

    • LOL poor Jeann though, with Dreaming the Enemy. :'D Gosh I'm sorry you didn't like those! It seems like a smart move though, to put them aside early on.

      I'm actually surprised you gave The Passion of Dolssa 4 stars though! I saw it at the bookstore the other day and went like "Oh look, it's the JC lover." #sorrynotsorry (I will never get over her beloved)

  5. I think it depends on the overall feel of the book for me. Some I've put down after a few pages because the style of writing is something I've encountered before and couldn't connect to it, others I try to reach a quarter of the way through before making a decision. But whether it's my own purchased copy or review copies, the process is still the same for me. I think one of the worst things a reader can do is forced themselves to read something they're not enjoying, for me it's the quickest way to slide into a book slump. Wonderful discussion Aila, really enjoyed it <3 <3
    My recent post Lady Midnight Discussion

    • Thanks so much Kelly! <3

      And you're so right – a lot of other commenters were noting how if you and a book simply don't click, then it's not worth the book slump that can happen after reading it. Besides, life is too short to read books that we simply can't enjoy 😉

    • LOL it's less of a science for me, because my feelings and the books I DNF can just be so spontaneous (but I guess technically there's a science to THAT, too) ((god I love science)). I think in the end it's a combination of the book itself, my mood, and my current life situation. LOL "push through the pain," I admire you so much for being able to do that.

  6. Great post, Aila! I like your signs that show that I’m ready to DNF. I used to be a reader that finish the book no matter what, it was so hard for me to DNF. Nowadays it comes for me easily. I usually DNF a book if I can’t get into the story at 20 % sometimes earlier. My motto is “life is too short to read books I don’t enjoy.”
    My recent post How Hunger Games movie changed my reading life

    • WHAT A WONDERFUL MOTTO THAT IS. Now all we need to do is design it and make it a print! But seriously, I totally know where you're coming from and agree 110%. Let's use time for books that make our heart swell, instead of shrivel. 😛

    • LOL "to-be-read-in-10-years'-time pile." I have one of those too! But I always look at those books and scowl because I'm never in the mood to finish them. Even if I kind of want to, in the back of my head. 😛

  7. " Do you ever force yourself to finish reading a book your friend recommended" *awkward laughter* I hope Bec isn't reading this xD I've picked up and forced myself to finish two books she recommended to me, even though I ended up giving them one or two star ratings – I just had to finish them. If I'm not into it at 10% the thought of DNFing first crosses my mind. I will usually give it until 30% before I fully decide though. I usually do review DNF books because if I couldn't finish it, that's a problem. I'll make it clear I didn't finish the book in my review though. Great post!
    My recent post 5 Things About Waer by Meg Caddy

    • LOL GIRL I do it all. the. time. It's actually quite sad, but I'm always brutally honest to the recomendee when that happens. And hope that they get the message that similar books aren't my type. But yeah, I always stick around hyped series too to see just what's so special about them that everyone around me is raving about. (Totally not ashamed for following the crowd lol)

  8. Sooo trueeee Jeann. It's definitely not worth going through the torture and potential reading slump when forcing myself to finish books that I'm just not into. And you're right – by that point I have enough to rant about that makes for a worthy review – or, er, rant. 😛 (Although I do find rant reviews much more fun than the norm, if only because the things people point out can be quite hilarious).

  9. cassietheweird

    I used to be strongly against DNFing books…and more often than not, I would enjoy the ending enough to pick up the second book and then love the rest of the series.
    However, at some point I decided that there were too many books, and I would have to DNF some.
    Also, when I have a stack of books due back at the library, I do a speed read through in which each book has 100 pages to impress me otherwise it doesn't get finished.
    But I'm still not great at DNFing. Just the other week, I came very close to DNFing a book…only to discover I was 92% of the way through, so I really did not want to DNF with 50 pages to go.
    Of course, those last 50 pages were just as bad as the first few hundred pages. Like, I was reading on the train, banging my head against the window because I hated it so much.
    I really should have DNFed.
    My recent post March ended, I didn’t notice…

    • That speed read sounds like a really good idea! That way you know if it's worth your time or not lol.

      Omgggg but I would've been in the same boat as you, not gonna lie. I mean, what's 8% more of a book, right? Sigh, at least you have something noteworthy to write about in your review for that book! :'D

  10. I don't DNF at all, so yep, there are quite a few books that I have to force myself to finish. And I'm not entirely sure WHY I do that, except for the fact that I'm stubborn and I don't want to leave a book unfinished. Especially if it's a review copy! Although given how much free time I have on my hands (basically none) I should probably think about DNF'ing…
    My recent post Swan Lake and A Book Haul and University Updates

    • Omg! I ADMIRE YOUR PROWESS IN NOT NOT FINISHING A BOOK (those double negatives though lol). Seriously, that's amazing! I can't see myself doing that, only because I'm so fickle sometimes with stories that I find uninspiring, which leads me to DNF'ing. I think it's wonderful that you can do that!

  11. bingeingonbooks

    Yeah,I can relate to a lot of this. I used to feel like I had to finish EVERY single book that I started. Then I realized how many books I had on my TBR and that I just can't waste my time on books that are really bad. For me though,I very rarely DNF a book past 50%. I figure that if I have made it that far,I might as well go the rest of the way. Crazy,I know. Great post.

    • Nooo, I totally get you! It's like, "well, I'm halfway there, so the end's not too far off." 😛 I usually do that to some books, but others can be just too frustrating! But I definitely, at that point when I'm so invested in the plot + characters, skim to check out the ending at least (LOL)

  12. I find it very hard to DNF books because, as much as how tempted I am to toss the book across the room due to utter frustration, I just can't bring myself to do it sometimes because I started on this book, therefore I must finish it. I feel very weird if I don't finish a story — it's like I started out on a fictional story and I left it hanging simply because I didn't want to. I don't know if this is just me, but leaving a story hanging because i didn't finish the book makes me feel really really weird.

    But I totally get you!! And I completely agree with the points that you mentioned because I actually experienced and felt the same thing. What I do when I am more than halfway through the book (around 6o% and above), I SKIM the pages real quick and just take a glance at how the story's going so far, just so I know and will be satisfied eventually HAHAHA. 🙂

    Great post Aila <3
    My recent post Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

    • Thanks Jillian!

      Omg girl, I know how you feel about not finishing a story though. That's why I usually end up skimming the end too because at least I know what goes on in the end, and saved myself some time and torture. (Sometimes I am way too harsh at books for my own good.) Seriously, my eyes usually race towards the end and my friends go like, "DUDE did you even read it?" LOL

  13. This is always such a struggle for me! That fake conversation you have? I actually have it because I can't make a decision! I am right now trying to decide if I need to DNF a book (I am only at 12% and I have only DNFed that quickly once before and it was because it was just THAT bad- this book isn't that kind of book, so I don't know what to dooooo). I am terrible at not finishing. I have only DNFed 3 books ever. So… yeah. Because I feel guilty for DNFing too soon, but then if I make it pretty far, then I feel like I will have just wasted my time completely if I DON'T finish it. I just wish I could do it more easily- because even though yes, snark is fun review fodder, I STILL feel guilty when I write a bad review. A DNF would almost be easier!
    My recent post Cover Reveal & Giveaway | Crystal Crowned by Elise Kova

    • For real Shannon! Sometimes writing a bad review is not worth the trouble, when you can easily just set the book aside and pretend it never happened. (Well, that's what I do at least LOL)

      But OMG!! Only 3 books?? Go you girl 😀 I can't say the same for myself (seriously – too many books, too little time), but that's freaking amazing. *applauses at your prowess*

  14. I can completely see where you're coming from. For me personally, if I'm not enjoying a book I DNF it. If I already know I don't like it, why keep reading it when I can be reading something much better? Thanks for sharing Aila and, as always, fabulous discussion! <3

    • Aw thanks Zoe! <3

      Completely agree with how you decide whether to DNF a book or not. Sometimes it's just good to set things down when you're not feeling it.

  15. Jen @ YA Romantics

    Love this post. So I'm a bit OCD, and used to have trouble with DNF, but no more. If I'm feeling your warning signs by about 15-20% (the biggest sign for me is that it's taking me FOREVER to get through a book) then I DNF with no guilt. If I do happen to make it to the 60-70% mark, then I typically skim the rest. I'd never really thought about it, but I have to either get out early or just stick it out.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    My recent post Runaway Royal Brides Part I: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

    • Ooh, I'm also a fan of skimming the end of the book once I've dedicated myself to read 60-70% of it. (I mean, why not? At least I'll know how everything ends up LOL) I'm definitely with you on DNF'ing if I'm not interested 20% in!

  16. I definitely think if you and a book are not clicking and you've forced yourself to read it enough and you have a pretty good idea of what you don't like about it, then it's time to move on, even though it was a review copy. You probably have enough material to rant about it and tell us what didn't work for you then! Also forcing yourself to read books you're not enjoying is a surefire way to get into a reading slump. Lovely post Aila!

  17. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I've DNFed books before… but I can't do it too often. I don't like the idea of abandoning a book because "it may get better" even if it never does lol. I'm going to have to get better at DNFing books because I tend to go into huge book slumps if I force myself to finish horrible books. Great post, Aila!

    • Omg yeahh book slumps are definitely the worst. D: Lol sometimes I stick through if I hear from friends that it gets better, but usually I DNF when it seems like there's no hope. I don't mind skimming throughout the later pages of the book too, to see if there's anything worth reading later on.

  18. My most common reason is I either find the book very unrealistic or I hate the voice of the writing and it's hard to get into. Or I just hate the characters in general. It's really different with every book. I've DNF a book when I was like 85% into. I was beating myself up over it because I was so close to finishing it. But it was just so boring for me and it felt like I was dying of boredom and I didn't want to finish lol.

    Sometimes I can tell right away when a book just isn't for me. It was like that for The Crown's Game. I read like 10-30 pages and I was bored out of my mind 😐 But I ended up continuing and got to the halfway mark when I DNFed. Should have just listened to my instinct. That time wasted could have been used to read a book I could like.

    ~ Karina
    My recent post Bookstagram 101: Improving The Quality of Pictures

    • Omggg girl you're so savage when mentioning The Crown's Game xD I still enjoyed it, but it SO did not live up to the hype that made my expectations high. In fact, the ending was so predictable, I doubt you missed anything at all!

      Ouch at the book you DNF at 85%! Sometimes the ending feels so close yet so far with some books, haha. But yeah, characters are usually the thing that seals the deal. If I can't like or appreciate them, then you can be sure that I'm out.

  19. I don't really DNF books… I don't know.. I just find it really hard. But when I do, I did it because I can't enjoy both the characters and the plot. If I could still enjoy one of those I'd try to finish it. It's just… Sometimes I feel really bad because the author put a lot of time, energy and soul into creating a book so the least I could do is read it right? And give feedback so he/she could improve in the next book. But I think it's also unfair because when I force through some books it means that I already dislike them and I'd give them low ratings. It's just really hard for me to DNF books!
    My recent post This or That Book Tag

    • Aw Tasya, I think it's awesome that you stick through a book, even if you're not enjoying it! I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to give lower ratings for books that you force yourself to read – it seems more like an honest rating, since it doesn't seem like you enjoyed the book.

  20. I'm a pro at DNFing! I usually DNF a book within the first 20%. If I can't get into a book, I can't get into a book you know? I'd rather be spending my time reading a GOOD book over wasting my time on one that's annoying me. I used to force myself to finish a book if it was a review copy but honestly, I don't think publishers care about that. I do write a small note/review as to why the book didn't work for me and I erase it from my memory.
    Great post, Aila!
    My recent post What I Do When I’m In A Book Slump

    • LOL I love how you erase the book from your memory, Nick. 😀 I think I should start doing that with books I DNF too. No need to get so hung over books that I didn't particularly enjoy.

      20% is a pretty splendid place to stop if the book isn't attention-grabbing, actually. I shouldn't force myself to go any further, truth be told. 😛

  21. Bec Graham

    I have gotten a lot better at DNFing. I stick it out for as long as possible. But when I find myself dreading the next time I pick up that book. Or I watch more TV just to get out of reading, then I DNF.
    Usually, terrible plot holes, terrible characters, and terrible writing (which kind of covers those things anyway) keep me from finishing.
    I review these books. But I also emphasis the fact that I never finished. Like you say, my bias is mine alone and people need to know about it before accepting my opinion about a book.
    My recent post Versatile Blogger Award

    • I totally agree with you Bec, about the reviews for DNF book. I don't want to draw away readers simply because I myself didn't like it!

      Ugh plot holes, characters, and writing is usually what seals the deal for me. But confession: sometimes I stay with a book just to find those cringe-worthy moments to write an interesting review 😛

    • Exactly! And that's the dilemma I have right now. I'd rather not finish this book, butttt what's the harm? (I think I've spent more time debating whether to finish it at this point than reading it LOL)

  22. I always end up DNF-ing a book when I've reached at least 50% of it and I (a) still have no idea what's going on, (b) don't connect with the story or the characters, or (c) the plot didn't appeal to me as much as I thought it would. Sometimes I still try and force myself to finish it, especially if it's a recommend, because maybe there'll be something at the end that'll interest me. But most of the time, I just don't bother. :/ I mean, if I just end up forcing myself to read, then what's the fun in that, right? (Plus, I wouldn't risk getting myself in a reading slump just for a book that didn't appeal to me in the first place.)

    Great post, Aila!
    My recent post Short Chapters Or Long Chapters?

    • You're so right – there's not much fun in reading a book when you don't enjoy it anymore and you're forcing yourself to continue. I think 50% is an awesome place to decide whether to DNF or not! Since you're halfway there already and know what's going on in the story.

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