Discussion: The Many Emotions of the DNF


Before last year, I had never really DNFed (Did Not Finish) books before. Sure, there were books I ended up mostly Sparknoting for English class, but I rarely set aside books I read for fun on my own time. I stuck with them, even when I wasn’t that interested. Then I started blogging, and my time reading was a little more important if I wanted to have reviews, but I didn’t have a strict schedule at that point, so I didn’t care too much and still rarely DNFed.

Then, last year, I finally decided that enough was enough, and that forcing myself to finish reading books when I’m so incredibly bored is a waste of my time and ultimately my life, if you want to get dramatic. At first I only allowed myself to DNF if I got to the halfway point and was still bored, but that’s a lot of book to read when I’m bored and frustrated, so I chucked all the rules out the window and just stopped when I wanted to, even if it was only a chapter into the story. So, as a result, I had many DNFs last year, which I tried to work into my list of books I read fairly (I decided to count them for my overall number but not for the number of new books I read, as I’m doing this year). I haven’t had as many this year, but this past month I’ve had a large number simply because I have so many books to read and reread this summer and I don’t want to force myself to read other books that just don’t entertain me.

So what’s the point of this post, you ask? Well, I’m here to talk about the many, many different emotions I feel when I DNF that can make it difficult for me to stop reading a book before I finish it. There are good emotions, which are the reasons why I DNF in the first place, and then there are the bad ones that leave me feeling conflicted about said DNF status.

1. Relief

This is the main reason why I keep DNFing books: I feel so much relief when I set aside a book that just isn’t working for me. There could be multiple reasons that the book isn’t working, but ultimately the main thing is that it’s not working for me and the thought of forcing myself to finish reading it can be very stressful and demoralizing, which is why I can feel so much relief when I finally set aside a book, whether it takes a couple chapters or roughly half the book to do so.

2. Guilt

Yet, at the same time, I do feel so much guilt for not finishing a book. I feel guilty because I still want to use them for my various reading challenges, I feel guilty because I do know that someone worked very hard on the book, and I feel guilty because it’s an unfinished story and I should finish everything, right? Sometimes DNFing a book can be almost as stressful as forcing myself to keep reading – almost.

3. Curiosity

And then I’ll often be curious about what’ll happen after I stop reading. Will the story get better? Will something amazing and shocking happen? Will the ending be really cool? What if I’m making a huge mistake? Sometimes I’ll skip ahead and read the rest of the book or just the last chapter or two to see what’ll happen because I don’t like leaving things unfinished. So, if I DNF a book and don’t care about how it ends, that’s a clear sign that DNFing was a very good choice on my part.

4. Boredom

This is a common reason I DNF – not because I hate it or it offends me or whatever, but simply because I’m bored. Life is much too short to force myself to read books when I’m bored. I get that enough with school books, so why should I do that when I’m choosing what I read? I want to read books that excite and entertain me, not ones that nearly put me to sleep.

5. Confusion

One of my biggest problems with DNFs is deciding whether to count them for challenges or not. On the one hand, I didn’t really finish reading the book, but on the other hand, I did put in the effort to read at least a little and I read much longer books that kind of make up for not finishing other books, at least in my mind. Either way, though, there’s all that confusion that leaves me uneasy with DNFing because then I have to make those tough decisions.

I’m sure that there are some other emotions running through my head when I DNF books, but these are the five big ones that immediately pop into my head. These are the emotions that can push me into a slump or make me a very happy person when I finally DNF.

DNFs are always going to be difficult decisions for me, I think, but knowing and recognizing the emotions surrounding them might and hopefully will help me!

Do you feel the same way, or are DNFs completely different beasts for you?


9 thoughts on “Discussion: The Many Emotions of the DNF

  1. Relief, yes! The moment I decided I’m not going to force myself to read it any longer gives me such a good feeling. When I’m curious I always try to find spoilers in reviews or I might read the ending to see how it all wraps up. Boredom and/or horrible characters are two of the main reasons to DNF.

    1. Lately I just haven’t cared what happens at the end because I’m often so bored! But having sites like Recaptains and spoilers in reviews can be really helpful when I do want to find out what happens while being too lazy to actually check it out for myself!

  2. I feel so guilty when I DNF. I probably should do it more often, but I keep thinking “what if it does get better”. More often than not, it doesn’t, but sometimes it does. I don’t know. I have such a weird hangup about it and I probably should more.

    1. I still do feel that way, but sometimes pushing myself to keep reading ends with a complete reading slump that spreads to any other books I might be reading at the time. I always do worry a bit, but sometimes I just have to get over and move on, but it is a great feeling when you were so close to DNFing a book that turns out to be a new favorite or at least an enjoyable read. If only it were easier to know from the beginning which books are going to be awesome by the end!

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