I am counting this as one of my posts for Bookending Spring!
I guess I divide my reading “history” into two stages—one stage being when I mostly read MG books and didn’t read as much or as seriously, and the second stage being when I transitioned into almost exclusively YA and became completely swept away by books. That’s where I am now! I have only vague memories of my first reading stage, so I can’t speak much of it. However, I can say that since I transitioned into the second stage, I have not DNFed a single fiction book. Even when I was younger, I think I did this very rarely (though I didn’t even know of the term “DNF” let alone that there was something called an online book community).
So… why don’t I DNF?
I know that a lot of readers have adopted the practice to drop most books if they find they don’t like it after a certain point. It does seem very practical, and I sometimes wish I could do this. The path through the TBR is a long and intimidating one, so this makes perfect sense. Don’t waste time reading what you don’t like when you could immerse yourself in something much better!
Perhaps I have just been luckier with my book choices and haven’t found The Intolerable Terrible Horrible Book yet, but this practice is one I have yet to participate in, for a few reasons that I thought I would outline in this post.
Reason One: The lack of resolution will haunt me
Maybe the title of this post should be “Why I Can’t DNF Books” instead, for I feel that a large part of my reluctance to DNF is that my brain simply won’t let me get away with it. If I consider DNFing a book, there immediately comes this yelling in my mind that goes “but WHAT IF…???”
“Don’t you still want to know what happens? WHAT IF your theory was wrong? WHAT IF there is a great redemptive plot twist? WHAT IF the character will grow on me if I read a little longer?” I hate the feeling that I am possibly missing out on something!
Reason Two: Even if I were to DNF, I wouldn’t be able to decide when to drop the book
How do you even decide when to DNF a book anyway? I’ve seen reviews where people say they DNFed after as little as 20 to 30 pages, and some seem to read 50% of the book or more before they drop it.
For me, if I’ve already read half, why not just go on to finish it? My brain will keep nudging me to read a bit more, then a bit more, to see if the book gets better, and then before I know it I’m already halfway through. It seems to me that if you’ve made it this far, you might as well finish and perhaps come away with a little more understanding about something in the book—even if all it’s taught you is what not to do.
Reason Three: Even if it was bad, I still think I can learn from it
Picking up from the last point, I always hope completing a mediocre book will still teach me something. Perhaps this is because I have an interest in creative writing, and try to take a closer look at what I’m reading, so I think it is important to also read the not-so-good for… educational purposes? While reading awesome books is definitely a great example as what to do, I think the bad can also be helpful.
In finishing a book I am not crazy about, maybe this will also help me learn more about my book tastes and what kind of plots/genres/tropes I like and don’t like.
Books that contain uncalled out racism, misogyny, ableism, etc, though, probably would be a different story—though part of me still feels like I’d still read the whole thing to make sure I’m not wrong, so I can see if it is called out later. Luckily I haven’t come across any books like this yet, so this is still unknown.
Reason Four: I want to be able to discuss the book anyway
This applies particularly to hyped books. Even if I don’t like the book, I still want to be able to join in the discussions, and I often feel this obligation to read a book if I see it being talked about a lot. I want to try to understand what it is about something that makes it appeal to so many people.
Maybe I’ll change in the future or maybe I won’t, but for now, those are the reasons I haven’t been DNFing books.
What about you? Do you DNF books? What makes you decide it’s not worth your time? What benefits do you see in DNFing versus not?