I recently posted to Facebook about a book that I DNF-ed and I was surprised at the responses I received.
DNF stands for Did Not Finish, by the way.
In the world of reading, there seems to exist a bias against not finishing what you started. No matter what. I know because I formerly stood in silent judgment of the DNF-ers like they were the reason why the world was "going to hell in a hand basket," as my mother used to say.
Then I struck upon a book about six months ago that I DNF-ed. I just couldn't. I do not remember the why, but I quit that book like a bad habit. I quit it so thoroughly that I cannot even recall the name of it.
That was an isolated event, surely, I thought to myself. I remember that I shared it on social media in a very chin held high, I don't care what you think kind of way, but the truth was that I DID care. I cared that I DNF-ed.
I am a Type A and we don't quit things. Pure and simple. We struggle and suffer and complain and feel frustrated, but by golly! we get the job done...even if the job is reading a book.
Since that first DNF, I have sighed, hemmed, and hawed through several books that I spent many-a-night rolling my eyes at...but I finished them. Every one of them.
Because I'm a finisher.
Not a quitter.
Until my book club picked Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show. I have read - nay, thoroughly enjoyed! - each of the books we have picked and read together.
Until my second DNF.
The first thirty pages went by so s-l-o-w-l-y that I planned a day trip with my man to visit Archer City (where McMurtry was from and found his inspiration, and where the film was shot for the motion picture based on the book).
I came home from a truly fantastic day in Archer City with renewed intention to give this book another chance to woo me. But as I continued reading, it became clearer that this just was not the book for me.
Feeling like a colossal failure, I decided to make my decision official by posting to social media (because that's how these things work, right?), steeling myself for the inevitable backlash and looks of disapproval. Arming myself with some quick retorts for the task masters (like myself), I clicked "POST" and rolled up my sleeves ready for combat.
You know what?
I got no criticism.
Not a single word of reprimand.
What I got instead was a community of people who have their own DNF books for their own DNF reasons and they are perfectly okay with their own DNF status.
And I decided that I am too. Okay with my own DNF status, I mean.
At least I am trying to be.
There truly are too many books filled with the rich language I love, kindred spirits I readily connect with, fantastic villains waiting to be despised, unimaginable conundrums and quandaries to struggle through to spend one more moment locked into a book that brings me no joy.
Thanks, Marie. You get me.
These days, I am embracing a new identity as a DNF-er. And it feels good. Better. Lighter. Freer.
I even got applause from my oldest daughter, who is a DNF-er herself.
I never knew that.
So many books. So little time. Right?
Life is too short to spend the time we do have with people with whom we cannot identify...especially the ones living in the pages of a book.
Are you a DNF-er? Do you want to be? Leave a comment below so we can connect over our DNF-ness.
Want to get more clinical about DNFs? Seven Circumstances has a great, in-depth blog listing ten reasons why people don't finish reading novels.
I am a lifetime reader- and I love to read. I’ve only read one book that was written in such a way that I hated it, and this was the third of a series that I was really enjoying! I finished it, but I threw the whole three book series in the garbage. I didn’t even want to give it away bc I didn’t want to be the instrument used to help someone else read it! It made me feel like I was going to be struck by lightning just for reading those words. But I did finish it. That said, I did what was best for me, which includes closure. I really don’t care whether others finish a book and I really don’t understand those who ask (online or in person) whether they should continue to read something they are obviously not enjoying. To me, that is a personal choice and I don’t stand in judgement over anyone or their choice of reading material so finish it or not, do what makes you feel like you made the right decision. Look for books that sound interesting to you, and unless your friends share interests and preferences with you, don’t read something they suggest that you know isn’t up your alley. It seems simple to me and definitely no drama.
Quitting a book that you can’t get into, or that you hate, is not a bad thing. In my lifetime, I have quit reading several times for different reasons. Like you said, there are so many good reads out there that I don’t want to waste time on one that I can easily quit for whatever reason.
I see it like calories. I eat healthy food—even if I don’t particularly enjoy some of it. And sometimes I eat sweets. But if the dessert is not to my liking, I quit and throw my portion away, because I don’t want to waste my calories on something I’m not enjoying. There are too many good desserts out there that are worth their calories.
When it comes to books, I’ll slog through a difficult/slow book that is good for me, but a fluff book that I’m not enjoying can easily be discarded from my pile of reading. Life is too short to read books we’re not enjoying. Healthy and fun choices abound! 😁