DNFing: A conversation

Word Lily thoughtsFor the past few years as part of my goal planning as it relates to books and reading, I’ve endeavored to abandon more books. My TBR shelves are heavy laden, there are just too many excellent books out there (or even in my own house!) to spend my time reading dreck. Or even just books I’m not enjoying or gaining valuable knowledge from.

I haven’t exactly succeeded, though. I start the year off mindful to my commitment but then somehow as the year progresses, I just don’t abandon any books. Well. Not *none*. In 2011 I set aside two books. In 2012 I abandoned one, according to my records. And while I am generally pleased with all that I read โ€” especially last year โ€” I become more convinced every year that I really should be walking away from more books. I don’t pick my reads perfectly (Who does? I want that skill!). My reading time has diminished.

And the answer to the question you’re asking yourself: I did just abandon a book. It’s so incredibly hard for me to walk away from a book, though! It’s a fine book, I know lots of people love it, but it’s slow-going, I just wasn’t looking forward to getting back to it, and I had other titles loudly calling my name. Right now I’m trying to convince myself that it’s OK to rid my shelves of this volume, that I won’t have a drastically better reading experience in a few months or a year. The book: The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee.

Do you abandon books? What guidelines do you use to determine when a DNF [did not finish] is in order? Compared to how many books you complete, what percentage of your reads are abandoned? When you set a book down, is it relatively simple or hard to get rid of it, or do you keep it around, thinking next time might be different?

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36 responses to “DNFing: A conversation

  1. I abandoned maybe a dozen books last year (I don’t count the ones where I just read 10 pages or so to see if they suited me–I do that a lot.) For me, it just comes down to whether, when I put a book down, I find myself not wanting to come back to it. Sometimes I don’t think the book is good; sometimes my mood is wrong. It varies. In either case, I do find it pretty easy to get rid of the book; having partially read books around stresses me out. If I’m pretty sure the problem is my mood, I might make a note of that on Goodreads, with the idea that I can try to get it from the library someday if my feelings change and I think it would work.

    • I’m not counting the ones I just read like 10 pages of, either, although I’m not sure I do that at all! All those I’ve counted as abandoned I’ve read at least 70 pages, but sometimes upwards of 200 pages before walking away. (Did I mention I’m not good at abandoning books?) In this case, the book is fine, I’m just not the ideal reader, I think?

  2. Honestly, I abandon books all the time, anywhere into the book. Sometimes I’m only a few pages in, and I can tell that the writing or story is just not going to work for me. Other times, I get three-quarters through a book and I just don’t want to read anymore, so I don’t bother to finish it. (This latter happens more with nonfic than fiction.) Like Teresa, I don’t really consider the books that I only read a handful of pages from, to test, as DNFs – they’re more like “never started”s. I also don’t track actual DNFs, though I can say that so far this year, there have been three of them, all three of which I read at least half of, and all three in the health nonfiction arena.

    On the other hand, there are some books that I start trying to read and put aside because the timing isn’t right. I do not keep these on a TBR list, as there’s a possibility I’ll never go back to them, but usually they stay in my mind, and I tend to try them over and over again, looking for the right moment. Howl’s Moving Castle was one of those books. I tried it maybe 5 or 6 times, never getting beyond a few pages, until one time when it just clicked, and then it became one of my very favorite books. I have a couple others that I hope will blossom for me one day too.

  3. I need to get better at this. Many times if I pick up a book I am not getting into I will return it to my TBR shelves to pick up at a later time. I agree that life is too short and time is to precious for books that I just do not get into.

  4. I’ve started several books recently and I’ve somewhat enjoyed them, but the timing just isn’t right so I don’t rush to get back to them. They are still sitting there, but I should just be honest and admit that I’m not going to read them right now.

  5. In the four and a half years I’ve been blogging, I gave up on one book. It was the book I was reading when my father passed away and I just couldn’t face it again. I’m not sure why I have so much trouble abandoning books.

  6. Not sure how many books I DNF last year. I used to write posts on why and decided why do that either? I set books aside for multiple reasons: don’t click with the characters, story is not for me, and general lack of interest. If I have no urge to pick up a book and read or finish it, then I know it’s time to go! Life is too short.

    I used to have a 50 page rule, but now I can set a book aside at any time. I’ll read the other lovelies sitting on my shelf if I stick with books that are stinkers to me ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I think I have DNF’d maybe 3 book in all the years I have been blogging! I find it incredibly hard not to think that the book might get better soon, and then if I do manage to do that then I feel guilty afterwards.

    You are definitely not alone in this!

  8. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    It all comes down to why I think I have to finish it. If there’s something keeping me going that’s not an external pressure I’ll usually try to finish it. Otherwise, no way, bye bye.

  9. I have a hard time abandoning books, but I do it a lot more often than I used to. Most likely, this is due to my grad school experience, in which I had to read through books so quickly that I felt I did not absorb anything. Now when I get the chance to read something I want it is hard to give up, but if I find myself putting it down a lot I will leave it for something else.

  10. I abandon books all the time. For me, if the writing doesn’t appeal to me, if the story doesn’t grab me, of if I just find myself having to re-read passages over and over again because I just can’t remember what I just read, it’s a sign the book is not for me. It may just be the time, and I am always willing to give a book a second chance, but usually my gut feeling regarding DNFs is pretty good.
    I have abandoned books after 2 pages and after 100. It doesn’t matter to me as I do believe there are many, many great books out there. And just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean no one will like the book.
    I apply the same basic “rules” to my own copies and review copies, although I may give review copies a second chance sooner than owned copies.

  11. Getting better at not finishing books is, I think, the only one of my bookish resolutions I managed to keep to last year. I have so many books that I can’t afford to waste time on ones that aren’t working for me. There are some that I suspect aren’t going to work for me, and those are the easiest to give up on. The ones that are the hardest to quit are the ones that lots of people have recommended or ones that I’ve looked forward to for a long time (but turned out to be disappointing), but I’m getting better at recognizing when I’m not really personally engaged with a book regardless of how great it’s supposed to be.

  12. I have this thing where I’m constantly thinking that maybe the book will get better. I don’t think like this where films, music, or TV is concerned, but I find it very hard to give up on a book. I’d like to say it’s my aim to review every book I read that makes it impossible, but if so that’s only a part of it. I admire those who can give up on a book!

  13. The amount of DNF I have is probably less than ten, and I still look at them and think I’ll try again and finish them someday. It’s hard, very hard, for me to completely give up.

    • Does it matter what kind of book it is? I feel even worse if I can’t get through a classic, for example, than I do if it’s just a much more meaningless modern book.

  14. I have the same problem, Hannah. I’m not sure I abandoned any books last year! As I get older and I realize that I can’t possible live long enough to read all of the books I want to read I keep telling myself that I need to cut my losses more often.

  15. I go through periods where I’m good about DNFing books that aren’t keeping my attention and then I have periods where I struggle through and can’t really justify to myself why. I think it’s a mood thing. Like cleaning out closets. If you’re in the right mood you can be brutal with a closet purge and if you’re not in the right mood it just doesn’t work.

  16. I give a book 50 pages. If I don’t care what happens to the characters by then, and if I’d rather clean the kitchen than sit on the couch reading, I give up. It’s hard sometimes, but as you say, there are so many books out there that I know I would love, no point wasting time on the mediocre ones!

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