If you’re an avid reader, or frequent Goodreads or Bookstagram to scope out new reads, you’ve probably come across the acronym “DNF”. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, “DNF” stands for books that a reader has marked as “did not finish”.
Readers mark books as “DNF” for a variety of reasons, including the book not being entertaining enough for them, the amount of uncomfortable content, foul language, etc. While “DNF”ing books is a common practice in the reading community, personally, it’s something I no longer do. Here’s why.
I Try to Give All Books the Benefit of the Doubt
The main reason why I don’t DNF books when they get slow, or the content gets sketchy, is because I’ve learned that I can’t really form a full opinion of the book unless I read it cover-to-cover. There have been cases when a book annoyed me for the first half, and I planned to rate it one or two stars; then the book redeemed itself further into the story, and I ended up enjoying it. If I had DNF’d the book early on, I would have never discovered how great the book ended up being.
Instead, if a book is slow for me and it feels like a chore to get through (The Fellowship of the Ring, for example), I’ll mark it as Postponed Reading on Goodreads, and plan to give it another try later on.
I Don’t Like to Waste Money
Another big reason why I don’t DNF books is due to the fact that I hate buying things (or receiving gifts from others) and not using them to their full potential. I may just be weird, but I literally feel burdened by not reading books I’ve had on my shelves or Kindle a while, even the ones I’ve postponed, because I mentally attach a dollar amount to everything. This is an unhealthy mindset I’ve grown up with, and while it can be a good one to have from a budgeting perspective, it gives me anxiety more than anything. In other words, it makes me not DNF books because I don’t want to be wasteful. Maybe someone else relates! I feel like a weirdo.
Becoming an Author Gave Me a New Perspective
Maybe if it wasn’t for the Author Program on Goodreads, I would have a different opinion on DNFing books, but over the past few years, I’ve learned that the stats pages on Goodreads can cause some serious mental setbacks for authors, if we allow it.
On Goodreads, authors can see reviews, reading status updates, star ratings, and even the virtual shelves readers have filed books in. Just seeing one little “DNF” on one of your books can leave you wondering if you’re a terrible writer, again, if you allow it.
Knowing I’m a highly sensitive person, I don’t want to potentially make other authors feel bad about one of their books, especially since they may be going through a difficult season of life we know nothing about. I’ve been there, and unnecessary comments (book related or not), only worsen the blow on bad days. Anxiety about one thing becomes anxiety about several things, and I don’t want to be someone who causes that for someone else.
I’ve found it easier to stop leaving anything that could be considered negative feedback about books on Goodreads over the past year. I know which books I’ve read and didn’t like, but I won’t make sure the author knows that.
Yes, reviews/shelves are for readers, not authors. Yes, I read reviews before purchasing books, and the shelves have also been helpful in determining whether I want to pick up a book. But there is also a line between constructive criticism and destructive criticism, and those unnecessary comments/listings that we think the author won’t see may very well hinder the author mentally in ways of which we are unaware.
This feels like it’s hedging into controversial territory, so I want to end on these thoughts:
If you do DNF books, I don’t think you’re an evil book hater or horrible person. I can 100% understand why most readers choose to DNF books. These reasons I listed are just why I no longer DNF books, and why I made that decision. More so, because being an author who leaves perceivably negative feedback (no matter how small) on another author’s work is not how I want to portray myself online. Others may have different opinions, and that is okay.
I also believe that authors who are highly sensitive, myself included, should strive to maintain good mental health and not go looking for trouble on stats pages on bad mental health days. What we consider “bad news” can, and always will, hit us at the worst times. Readers are just sharing their opinions, and they have a right to do so. They are not to be blamed for our emotional responses, that’s on us. Authors, as difficult as it may be, have to grow a thick skin to thrive in publishing. Emotional responses only hinder careers. Trust me.
That being said, I still believe that we all as a society need to work on how we express our opinions online (in every community), and be mindful that even some of the small things we do can impact others in big ways.
I’m just trying to follow what Jesus said in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Do you DNF books? Why or why not?
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.