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.
6 thoughts on “Why I Don’t DNF Books”
I do DNF books sometimes, not very often tho. But most of the reason I DNF books is because of content. There have been sometimes where I did finish reading a book, despite it’s content and regretted it afterwards. So now if there is anything questionable I usually stop reading.
Also I have dyslexia, so reading books takes a lot of effort for me. Sometimes if a book just doesn’t interest me or if I din’t connect with the characters, I will stop reading it.
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Thank you for sharing, Eloria! 🙂 I completely understand about DNFing for content. One of the books on my postponed shelf was shelved there mostly for the inappropriate content. Admittedly, it’s been “postponed” for several years, but I plan to go back to it at some point and just skip over the nasty parts.
Those are good points as well! 🙂 Thank you for adding to the conversation!
I agree with all of these points. Our speech (and written words) should be seasoned with grace (or at least a compliment sandwich!).
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Thanks, Liz! That’s a great analogy! 🙂
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So, I have mixed emotions about DNFing. I agree with a LOT of what you said here, but the way I see it, especially as an avid lover of books, a professional book reviewer, AND an author, there are a TON of books in this world and not enough time to read them all! Not every book is going to be liked by every reader, and I think that readers should never, ever, be guilted into forcing themselves to finish a book that they don’t enjoy. In my experience of forcing myself to finish a book instead of DNFing, I actually had stronger feelings of dislike (even hate in some cases) toward the book upon finishing it than I would have if I had just stopped when I first realized that it wasn’t for me (I don’t think I can name one book that I forced myself to finish and actually liked once I was finished…that’s super awesome that you have though–kinda jealous lol). Plus, as a reviewer, a DNF is my way out of leaving a review that is mostly constructive criticism (negative), especially when there are very few nice things to sprinkle throughout the review to make it more digestible. Sometimes, it really is better to just inform the author that I couldn’t finish the book for xyz as opposed to leaving a public review because I made myself finish it.
However, I don’t think DNFs should always be posted about, or, like you said, included on a Goodreads shelf to publically haunt the author forever. When I DNF, I usually just remove it from my Goodreads shelves altogether and pretend I never even picked it up (unless someone asks me personally about it–which rarely happens).
So, while I personally push myself as far as I can into a book before DNFing, I will not force myself to finish a book that is not for me. I value my time as a reader and I don’t see any readers owing authors their personal, spare time to finish a book. I think authors have to earn that kind of dedication and commitment from their readers, and that if they don’t, it’s an opportunity to grow as a writer. Of course, there are going to be rude people no matter what, but I think, generally speaking, DNFing is the right of the reader because our time and our taste in stories belong to us. Just like skipping a song on the radio that you don’t like or turning off a movie when it turns out to be garbage. Books are entertainment, and they have to earn their fans just like movies and songs. As an author, I would rather know that my readers respected themselves and put my book down when it didn’t live up to their taste than have to force themselves to finish it out of guilt of hurting my feelings. I don’t want readers who feel obligated to read my books, I want the readers who are genuinely excited about it and can’t force themselves to put it down! But, I know that is a very personal opinion!
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Thank you for sharing, Rayleigh! I’m glad you mentioned that DNFing can be beneficial for book reviewers. If I were still reviewing books on my blog, I may continue to DNF books for the reasons you mentioned. I completely understand the hatred that comes with forcing ourselves to finish books! There have been some instances where that’s happened, and I wondered why I like to torture myself lol!
I appreciate your point about time as well, especially for book reviewers! I imagine a lot of requests come in, and reading a book you’re not meshing with can cause delays in reviewing other books.
Skipping movies and songs are a great example; I’ve never thought about it like that! 🙂 And yes, we as authors should never force readers to read or like our books. This is an insecurity I’ve had to work through in the past, but I’m seeking God’s guidance to gain emotional maturity in this area. Thanks again for adding to the conversation, Rayleigh! 🙂
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