When is too soon to DNF?

Hello, all! I hope you’re having a great Monday.

Today, instead of a review, I wanted to talk about leaving books unfinished.

The last book I failed to finish was Dune, by Frank Herbert. I adore sci-fi, and this book is so well-loved, so it pains me to say that I could not make myself get into it. I quit just short of the halfway point. I realized that I had invested my time with wooden characters, none of whom I could connect with, and their story, which felt like the literary equivalent of slogging through knee-deep sands on Dune itself.

In short: it was not for me.

saraha desert
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I think it’s important to give every book a fair shot. If I dropped every book that hadn’t fully engaged my interest within a chapter or two, there are some really beautiful stories I would have missed. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, has such intricate world building. It is, by necessity, slow at times, but I’ve read and reread that book without ever feeling the urge to put it down. Something about Dune was different for me, though. It felt very much like it was prioritizing the world building over the story. The vignettes of historical documents also removed any tension from the story. It’s one thing to assume that the hero will come out on top because heroes often do; it’s quite another to be simply told that he will.

I’ve slogged through so many books that failed to live up to my expectations, waiting for them to get better on each and every page. More and more, I find myself unable to do that. There are so many books sitting on my shelf that I’m genuinely excited about reading, and I only have time for so many of them.

So, let’s discuss!

What was the last book you didn’t finish and why?

Is there a cardinal sin that will make you drop a book every time?

How soon is too soon to call it quits?

How much of a book do you need to read to feel you can give it a fair review?

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

-Oscar Wilde

11 thoughts on “When is too soon to DNF?”

  1. I DNF books quite often. I’ll usually go through a large portion of the book before I DNF it, though, because there’s always the hope that it’ll get better and you don’t want to miss a potentially amazing book.
    Usually, my reason for DNFing a book is either the characters or the writing.
    The latest book I DNFed was Roar. I decided to put it down unconventionally quickly, though. I absolutely detested the main character.
    I don’t leave reviews when I DNF a book because I haven’t experienced the entire story, but I will usually give my reasons for not finishing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hating the protagonist will kill a book so fast for me. I finished Luckiest Girl Alive recently and I’m still asking myself why I wasted my time on it instead of quitting. I couldn’t stand the protagonist or the majority of the secondary characters.
      If you can’t connect with the characters, it’s so hard to care about the story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. For me, the characters are the most important part of the story. I will read and love a book that has a horrible plot but amazing characters. On the other hand, I’ll dislike books that have brilliant plots but bad characters.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So far this year I have only DNFed 1 book and that was back in January. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t realize that it was the 2 or 3 book in a series so I couldn’t get into it and I have no interest in reading the other books because of some of the stuff in it that I’m just not interested in.

    If I’m reading a book that I’m not into I try to give it until at least the halfway point but in the case of the above mentioned book I think I read like 36% of it. I would say 30-50 % is a pretty fair shot.

    As for a review I will write a DNF review and I make sure to mention that I didn’t finish the book and it could very well have gotten better but I had no interest in finding out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny you should mention this today, because I’ve been recently contemplating DNFing a book I received as a gift in a book swap. I’m not that far into the book, but am hating pretty much everything about it. The only thing that is stopping me is the guilt I feel over quitting a book someone gave me 🙂 Honestly, I’m at the point in my life where I need to DNF more often….life is too short to read bad books. Or books that bore me. Or books that just don’t do it for me. Sometimes if a book isn’t engaging me right away I’ll set it down to read later; sometimes the timing or my feeling at the moment isn’t right.

    There’s no such thing as too soon. If you’re not feeling it, don’t read it. I might argue you shouldn’t review a book of which you haven’t read a certain percentage, but for your own reading pleasure, quit at any point. It isn’t worth struggling, and making yourself miserable while reading kind of defeats the purpose, right?

    I’d say an inability to connect with characters is the major deal breaker for me. Even if I mostly dislike the MC, if I can connect with them SOMEHOW I’ll keep going.

    Great questions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely sympathize with an inability to connect with the characters being a deal breaker. I can endure a pretty dull plot for a character I love, and it won’t matter how interesting the plot is if I hate all the characters involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always try to finish a book, even if I don’t enjoy it, but I do end up regretting it a lot of times. I guess if you really, really feel like you have to force yourself to finish, because you’re not enjoying one single aspect of this book, you should DNF. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I struggled with Dune so much too- I ended up skimming to the end after the halfway point, but I really should have DNF’d. I feel like it’s a good idea to give books a good shot, but after a certain point it’s not worth it anymore (I’m still trying to get better at DNFing though!) Awesome discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so bad about not finishing a book. If it doesn’t grab my by page three I move on. If it gets good reviews I may pick it up again. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for a particular book and when that happens I often return to it later.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When a book simply does not engage me by fifty pages into it, I don’t see any reason to continue! I majored in English and earned a master’s degree. I am retired from teaching English in a community college. I spent many years reading required books—most of which I truly enjoyed and wanted to read. Now, I am reading as I please; my TO BE READ list is too great to waste time on a book that does not engage me! Having said that, I do give books a second and even a third chance at times, depending on mood!

    Liked by 1 person

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