Confession. I used to be massively afraid of DNFing books. Even if I was hating it, even if I loathed every single character and wasn’t getting an ounce of joy from the book I would keep ploughing on until finally I finished the last page and laid the book to rest. And what did I feel? A big sense of accomplishment at finishing a book that challenged me? Did I experience a big moment of clarity where I realised I had been foolish and actually loved this book? No. I just felt annoyed that I had spent loads of time reading a book where I didn’t even care about the resolution (see what I did there?).
So why did I keep reading these books? Believe me, this is a question I have asked myself a million times, not only philosophically but also when I’ve just finished the book, and also while I’m reading the book. While one half of my brain prattles away only just barely taking in what I am reading, the other half is screaming at me just to put the book down, because why am I still reading it? I think, I have managed to come up with a couple of reasons.
- Commitment – this may sound funny and cliché and I’m not sure if I’m completely putting two and two together and getting five, but in general I am a very committed person. When I have started something I am going to finish it and I just think the same used to be true of books.
- Time and investment – so basically there was this vicious cycle type thing going on where I would kind of, not enjoy the beginning of the book but think it might get better so I kept going. When it didn’t get better I was around half way and I had already put so much time and effort into getting that far, I needed to finish the book so that I had something to show for it.
You know what I had to show for it more often than not? A reading slump, that’s what!
So, at the tail end of 2017 I DNF’d two books, interestingly a contemporary and a fantasy. Also interestingly, books I know a lot of people liked and loved. These books were:
- It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne
- Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
I had picked both of these books up for different reasons. The Holly Bourne because it was a contemporary (my main genre) and seemed like something I might like. Three Dark Crowns because I loved the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo so much (I wonder if I’ll still be gushing about these books at the end of 2018? I feel like the answer is probably yes!) that I’ve been trying to be a bit more open minded about fantasy.
Despite these different motivations and the different genres of the books my reasons for DNFing were pretty similar, and when I say pretty similar I mean EXACTLY THE SAME. Basically, I wasn’t into them and I wasn’t enjoying them. It Only Happens in the Movies came first and I had read a few chapters, not got into the story or connected with the characters and I just thought, why? Why am I reading this when I’m getting pretty much nothing out of it? The same happened with Three Dark Crowns, it was just not working for me.
Now that I’ve made that big leap of faith and DNF’d a few books (and realised that I really should have DNF’d Passenger earlier in the year, that book was a waste of my time) I’ve come to realise something which is probably news to me and not to anyone else in the known universe:
DNFing a book doesn’t make it a bad book, it just means it wasn’t the book for me. I mean I won’t lie, sometimes it does mean it’s a bad book because they do exist, but, as was the case with the two (three including Passenger) that I have mentioned, they weren’t bad books, I just didn’t connect with them. In all three cases I know people have adored these books and I am so happy for you guys, I am so happy that you managed to get something from this book that I didn’t. It’s great. It’s what makes blogging and the book community so wonderful, we’re all different!
Along with this point comes another that I think was something I experienced before I started blogging but I think it’s become more prevalent since: I always want to find some deep meaning as to why I don’t like a book. Ok, maybe not that deep, sometimes it’s ‘there’s a love triangle, get that thing away from me’, but a lot of the time I keep on reading just so I can figure out why I’m not getting or not enjoying a book. Why do I do that? I mean, don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s cool to read a book you don’t like and be able to share your views and opinions, I mean, I’m not going to lie I quite enjoyed reviewing 13 Minutes earlier this year, not because I like being negative (because I don’t by a long shot) but because I was quite passionate about the reasons I didn’t enjoy it. The problem occurs when there is no passion there, either positive or negative, when a book is just giving me nothing. Well note to self: sometimes that happens, DNF and move on.
I think my last reason for DNFing more in 2017 and not being afraid of DNFing this year (or at least trying to) is stress and pleasure reading. For me, reading has first and foremost been for pleasure and when I’m reading books that aren’t making me feel anything, where is the pleasure in that? Nowhere, that’s where. This year is my last semester of my English undergraduate degree which, I’m not going to lie, makes me pretty happy. No more reading like three books a week! No more exams! It does mean though that up until June things are pretty stressful so I need my pleasure reading to be a refuge. For that to happen I need to spend time reading books I enjoy and not forcing myself through ones I don’t. Also, in September (if things go my way) I will be starting my teacher training (how did that happen?!) which is amazing but I’m not sure how it will affect my reading. Will I read less because I’m really busy? Will I read more because I will have less actual course readings to do? I don’t know but what I do know is that during this time I want to be feeling stuff about the books I read, be that, like I said, good or bad stuff.
So there we have it. I don’t normally make any New Years Resolutions but this one just felt like it needed to be done. Hopefully I won’t be reading many, if any books this year that I am tempted to DNF but if it does happen, I’m going to try and have the courage to put that book down.
What is your opinion on DNFing books? Which books have you DNF’d recently? Have you ever DNF’d a book it felt like everyone else loved? Do you have any bookish goals/resolutions for this year?
As always, happy reading!
P.S. I do have one more resolution this year that I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts:
Be more Nina Zenik.