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I’m DNFing and You Can Too!


At some time in a girl’s life, there comes a point where you stare at a book, and you want it to be good–you want every book to be good. No, I’m wrong, you want every book to be great–to take you away or speak to your soul. The book you’re reading, however, is not good. Or maybe it’s good, but it grabs one of your pet peeves in its jaws and shakes it until you scream. (My pet peeves are in this blog post, by the way.) Whatever it is about this book, you recognize that you’re only going to end up frustrated with it eventually.

Let me liberate you from finishing books.

You don’t have to.

Life is too short to read bad books.

You might think: Easy for you to say, Wendy. At which point, I laugh until my stomach hurts because clearly you haven’t seen all my blog posts on OCD.

I haven’t always been this way. Once upon a time, I was driven to finish books. I had to finish them–even if they sucked. And some books are really bad. I finished them, and then I stomped around and griped about them. I had. to. finish. The end.

Then, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. My son–who’d been in a baby carrier during the appointment where my other child was diagnosed. The doctor had looked at my son, smiled, and said, “There is no way that kid will have Autism. Look at that smile.” When he was diagnosed by the same man a year and a half later, the universe had played an unfair hand…and we were back to racing the clock to get him services before it was too late.

Life is too valuable to read crap. When you’ve attempted to hold back time like I have, you realize that it’s a precious commodity that shouldn’t be squandered on a book that will ultimately only provide you with frustration to grumble about. You’ll feel betrayed. And even good books will leave you feeling that way…because there are cliffhangers, and authors kill characters, and love triangles…exist. Plus, not all books live up to expectations even if they’re good. A book lover will feel betrayed time and again without having to finish every book they pick up.

It’s hard to DNF (did not finish) a book. It burns a little. It makes my skin itchy, and it’s almost as frustrating as finishing it. But then it’s also liberating. You put down a book. You are still master. And you can move on to a better book.

So, I now give you permission to not finish bad books. Walk away. Throw that book. (Unless you’ve borrowed it or it’s on an ereader.) Revel in your dissatisfaction. Get on review sites and read one star reviews and feel validated. (But don’t post a review if you haven’t given it a fair shake–I’m looking at you, woman-who-posted-a-review-after-reading-ten-pages. You are why we can’t have nice things!)

Because the fact of the matter is: You. Deserve. Better.

We are your carnies, your marionettes, your clowns, your teachers, your storytellers–and if we’re not entertaining you, enlightening you, giving you a reason to read one more chapter, then we don’t deserve your attention for another two hundred pages. This is the job of a writer–to give you that. Dance, monkeys, dance. Cynical? Maybe. Callous? Probably. But unless that writer is a close personal friend, you don’t owe us your attention if we don’t earn it. I was a reader long before I became a writer. Anything that takes away from your love of books, isn’t worth wasting your time on. Close the book. Glare at the cover. Find something new.

If you do find something wonderful and magnificent, let me know. I’m always on the lookout for that unicorn–that book that makes me forget I’m reading. This search for a unicorn makes all the DNF books worth it.

*closes book* *moves on* Life is too short to read bad books. Booyah!

8 Responses so far.

  1. Talia says:

    I actually have a whole Goodreads bookshelf dedicated to books I never finished… And several books I wish I had added to that shelf rather than finishing. A bad book lingers, poisoning your next read unless you’re careful.

    • I think I remember the books I’ve DNFed or should have thrown a bit more than the bulk of the good ones. I’ve had three books this year that I should have DNFed but didn’t. So, I still need to do this more often. Since I don’t review anything less than four stars, finishing a one or two star book is a waste of time…and headspace.

  2. Suzanne Lucero says:

    I know how you feel, Wendy. Well, maybe not exactly, but pretty close. I, too used to struggle through badly written books, and this was back in the day when the books had to go through an agent and an editor and a publisher before being printed. I mean, there were GATEKEEPERS. They were supposed to STOP the badly-written books from even being typeset.

    The first time I DNF’d a book, I felt so guilty. I kept thinking, what if it gets better in another page or two? There must have been a reason this book was published. Maybe I’m giving up too soon.

    Now, especially with ebooks, the bar is so much lower. These days, if the writing is sophomoric, or the story doesn’t grab me by the throat within the first chapter or two, or there are logical inconsistencies or plot holes you can drive a truck through, I have no problem dumping it and going on to another.


    • It’s crazy how many books I’ve thought were just plain bad that have made it past gatekeepers. Not just subjectively bad, but the writing itself was appalling and not in a stylized way.

      Then again, I DNFed a major bestseller a few years ago. Sometimes the final gatekeeper is the reader, and that was before I read reviews as much as I do now. Now, I read a lot fewer bad books due to reading reviews so thoroughly. I still do…just due to the quantity of reading I do, but not nearly as many as I once did. And I love the one star reviews that go into specifics because they generally list things that would make me DNF.

      And you’re right about so many books…. My ebook library and thus my TBR list is enormous, and it doesn’t help that I’m still binge-reading and I can’t seem to break out of it. I have a bunch of books lined up for when I break out of this binge, but, in the meantime, books are jumping the line. GAH! I’m so pathetic.

  3. I have so many books that I’ve never finished. I guess it’s my complete lack of OCD…I usually have 5 or 6 going at a time and I rarely finish any of them lol. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

    • Wow, I can’t even imagine that. I have as many as three going at once, but always in completely different genres…and I finish about 95% of the books I start–I’d guess. Maybe more than that because I do read a ton, and I knock out most purchases by reading tons of reviews in advance. That’s just…so far from my reading habits…wow.

  4. I have a rule of thumb… 100 pages or 1/3 of the book, which ever is greater. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then… Bye bye book. Its difficult, but i have had to be ruthless. Not only do you struggle, it can really dent your. Reading mojo. I’m happy to do this. I won’t write a full review, only a few words on why i DNF’ed and then move on. I won’t make it personal foe i know that everyone likes different things. This is only my opinion.

    Great post

    • That’s a good rule of thumb… you’ve invested enough time without getting to where you feel betrayed by it not meeting expectations. I think that’s key to being able to not leave scathing, angry reviews for a book you didn’t finish.

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