Let’s Talk: DNF’ing Books

DNF or did not finish, is a widely debated topic in the book community. Some are for it, some are against it. I can understand the division, especially if you have been asked by a publisher to review a book. You’ve been asked to do a task, so you can’t just not read it, right? Well, I’m of the belief that you should be able to have the option of not finishing. Let’s discuss why.

If you’re finding yourself struggling to finish a book, whether it’s due to being not your taste, triggering or just not good, you should be allowed to DNF it. So why is it such a frowned upon concept? There have been many books I have forced myself to finish that I just wasn’t enjoying, which ultimately left me in a reading slump and not picking up a book for months on end. One book that I’m not enjoying has the power to derail my reading momentum for a long period of time, so why would I allow that to happen? 

As I get more and more into blogging (we’re nearly at our next milestone – thank you for that!) I’m releasing more and more how important DNF’ing is to the content I produce. One of our goals here at teatimelit is being confident we are recommending you good solid reads as they’re released, and if I’m struggling to get through a read, I’m not going to be dishonest and recommend it with good faith. That would first of all put me in a bad position having been untruthful to our readers, and it would encourage you to buy a book that I don’t have full confidence in. Even if I’m obligated to post due to being contacted by a publisher, I don’t want to promote something I don’t feel confident about, and if I DNF’ed I’m for sure going to let our readers know why.

When debating DNF’ing, there’s often a lack of discussion on DNF’ing due to triggers. This mindset that you’re only a true reader if you finish every book you pick up is damaging and unsafe. If something is triggering, you are not obliged to read it. I don’t care if you’re requested by publishers, if it’s your best friend’s favourite book or if it’s something you bought from a store. You are not obligated. Your safety, comfort levels and happiness is more important than reading 300+ pages of something that will cause you harm. 

When I DNF a book, I’ve usually given it a good go. I usually get 100 pages in before DNF’ing or, in some cases, very very close to the end. I won’t name titles of books to be respectful, but I have often DNF’ed a book halfway or close to the end due to simply not enjoying it. I am not going to force myself to read something I am not enjoying for the sake of my goodreads reading goal. It’s not worth it. I also think it’s worth noting the difference between not finishing a book because you’re not enjoying it, and not finishing it due to problematic content. 

If a book has content inside that you are uncomfortable with, for whatever reason, do not force yourself to finish it. Just don’t. If you’re looking for written permission to give up on a book, this is it. If anyone asks you, just say Mary from teatimelit says it’s ok. I can’t imagine any situation where your comfort levels are less important than a book. Reading should be something fun, something we do because it brings us joy and comfort. But if we’re reading something that’s doing the opposite of that? Drop it, and drop it quick. 

I think another important reason to DNF a book is if it’s racist, and that racism is unchallenged within the novel. I posed the question about DNF’ing to our new book club, tea time reads (link down below, feel free to join us!), and a lot of the feedback was that they were happy to DNF. Our lovely friend, Bella from rainstormreads (blog coming soon!), made an excellent point about racism in books. While it is important to call out racism and problematic content in books, you are not of any responsibility or obligation to finish a book that is racist. Racist media has no business being positively promoted, so you are of no obligation to read and review if you don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so. As stated before, your safety and your comfortability is more important so drop it and drop it quick.  

One of the biggest things I’ve seen with the issue of DNF’ing is the immediate reviewing process. Now, for me it depends. If I DNF a book early on (under 150 pages), nine times out of ten I won’t review it. Unless the book is extremely problematic, I will leave it alone. Extremely problematic content needs to be challenged, discussed and called out, so if a book I have DNF’ed features any of that, I will be leaving a review. It is my responsibility to make other people aware of the contents of a book, especially if that book has not yet been released. However, if I just simply didn’t like the book, I leave it alone purely because I don’t feel like I read enough of it to give an accurate star rating. However, if I DNF a book with a substantial amount read, you bet I’m giving it a star rating, because that star rating reflects the time spent when reading 200 pages of a book I didn’t enjoy. 

If you’re struggling to get through a book, but don’t want to DNF, maybe consider changing up the format! Debbie, a member of our book club, had a wonderful point of saying she often tries a book again in a new format if she’s not enjoying it. Consider shaking it up by listening to the audiobook (if you haven’t made a libby account, I highly recommend it! We love utilizing our local libraries or, in my case, our best friend’s local library!). It’s a good way to shake up your reading, and a nice way to try and engage in the book you were previously struggling with! Another thing to consider if putting the book down for a while, and picking it back up again! Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for your 20th YA fantasy of the month, and that’s ok! Trying it later might make you more engaged and interested in the book you otherwise would’ve put down.

So, what are your thoughts on DNF’ing? Are you for or against? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you for reading! 

If you’re interested in joining our diverse book club, here is a link to the post that gives you all of the information on joining!

If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t, please consider donating to please consider donating to relief funds for Filipinos affected by Typhoon Ulysses and learn more here, and check out this carrd.co, which has resources to learn more about the history of the US criminal justice system, the prison-industrial complex, and institutional reform.

One thought on “Let’s Talk: DNF’ing Books

  1. I never ever dnf’d before! I really wanted to recently (as you might already know) but I pushed through just so I could review and not mess up my netgalley score. I agree it should be allowed for the reasons you stated! I would have done so if it wasn’t an arc.

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