On the DNF: It’s Okay to Not Finish Every Book You Pick Up

Can’t finish a book? Enlist your friends for help!

I used to be the sort of person who struggled and slogged through a book for months, completely intent on finishing it, no matter how long it took. Other books piled up around me—many for years and years—as the evil book in question stared at me wherever I went, mocking, taunting me, saying Why aren’t you reading me? You’re still on page 37. Come on, pick me up!

Meet the dreaded DNF, also known as the “Did Not Finish” book. This is the book you’ve picked up, started to read a few pages, and then it dawns on you…this book is awful. Yet, for some reason, insanity compels you to keep reading, page after page after page. It doesn’t get better. You procrastinate by going on Goodreads or Amazon to check out reviews. This book gets amazing halfway through! says one ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review. So you keep reading. You’re halfway through and it still doesn’t seem to be getting any better. You begin to curse that Amazon reviewer. It must’ve been a friend of the author, you think angrily, throwing your cold mug of tea across the room, startling the cat. They have to be paid reviews!

For many years, I thought it was sacrilegious to give up on a novel. Sure, I DNF’d a couple of books over the decade, but for the most part, I kept reading until the very end. Over the past year, I’ve found it much harder to read a lot, and that’s made it a lot easier to DNF. When you’re not reading very many books in the first place, why should those books all be ones that you’re not enjoying? It’s a surefire way to turn you off reading for life—it’s almost as effective as the terrible literary fiction they make you read in high school (I’m looking at you, Bypass by Michael McGirr!).

Read More