May 16, 2014

On My Experience with DNF (AKA How Life's Too Short)

If you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog, you will know that I find it difficult to put down a book I’m reading, no matter how terrible, awkward, boring or bad it happens to be. I’ve always been stubborn about seeing novels through to the end, even if the end happens to be bitter or sour or disgusting or immaterial. I’ve put myself through quite a few titles (here’s one example, and another), and yet, I still have never felt discouraged enough to really embrace the art of DNF.

That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I read Dangerous. (I don’t plan on doing a full review, but I did a mini-review for Goodreads.)

Dangerous should have been a book I really enjoyed, really. It’s by Shannon Hale, an author I’ve read before and really enjoyed. It’s also a science fiction-meets-The Hunger Games kind of story, which would have been exciting and fun. Plus, that cover is gorgeous and you really can’t go wrong with that, right?

WRONG. Well, at least, I was wrong.

While I’m sure that there will be readers who enjoy Hale’s latest, I’m not one of them. The characters fell flat, the plot was weirdly paced and there was definitely some insta-love in the mix. Not even the latter third, which I liked a little better than the first two thirds, could save this book for me. 

So, obviously, just like my first two examples, this was another title I had suffered through reading. But this time, unlike before, I was mad about it. It was as if something had snapped in my brain and gotten me all adamant about wasting my time reading a book I wasn’t really enjoying at all. I was just so angry at myself all of a sudden, and annoyed, and very, very bothered.

From that moment on, I decided I would never put myself through the trial of spending time reading books I wasn’t liking all the way to their end ever again. Since that fateful day, I’ve DNF-ed more books than I ever thought possible (including this one, and this one, two titles I was hoping to love but didn’t even after 50 pages). And even though a part of me still feels a little guilty, a bigger part of me just feels a little bit freer because I can now read something that I actually want to read!

Obviously, the moral of the story is that you’re probably not going to like every book in the world, even if it’s a book in your favorite genre or by your favorite author or in your favorite series. It’s okay to have an opinion about something, and it’s even more okay to just simply say no, and move on to something else you’d enjoy more.

One would think that was all that I got out of my DNF experience, but one would be wrong. There’s more.

Reading takes up a good chunk of my time (almost 2 or 3 hours every day). Even though I’m technically commuting and can’t do anything else (save listening to music or sleeping or chatting), it’s still an investment of my time. I choose to read in my spare time, or commute time, whereas others would prioritize something else.

That being said, realizing I spend so much time reading made me realize that DNF is ideal because life’s too short. It’s not only too short to read books I don’t like. It’s also too short to constantly complain, or to laze about doing nothing about chasing my dreams. It’s also too short not to embrace the things I’m passionate about, too short not to do the things I’ve always wanted to do (and not keep putting them off), too short not to tell my loved ones that I love them whenever I can. 

Life’s too short, my friends, so make the most out of life. Enjoy it. Savor it. Choose happiness and hope and love and all the good stuff for yourself.

My DNF experience not only made me realize that DNF is not always a bad thing, even with the negative connotation it has. But, more than that, it’s challenged me to value MY time and MY choices and MY life.

(I just had to include the Britney Spears song "Lonely", because a lot of the sentiments in it are basically how I feel about DNF books. Also, it's just boppable. And yes, that's a word.)


  1. I used to have a problem with having to see books through to the end as well! However a few years ago I had the same realisation you had, "why bother reading books that don't make me happy when there's so many stories out there that I WILL like?" And overnight my reading habits did a complete 180. It's so much more liberating allowing yourself to put down a novel that you're not enjoying and then picking up one you do!

  2. I just DNFed a book for the first time ever! I'm really bad at putting them down, but you're so right. Life is too short. There are too many books out there to waste time with ones that just aren't working for you. I was really proud of myself for putting the book down although I'm still feeling pretty guilt like 2 weeks later... hopefully it will just get easier though the more I do it.

  3. Life is definitely too short to be reading books you know you're not going to like! I've always embraced DNFing and can see why it wouldn't work for some but I just don't see it worth wasting my time on reading a book I know I won't even like because I could be reading a potentially awesome book! (And woot Britney! :D Always appropriate to put in a Britney song)

  4. I DNF books if I don't like them. I realize that it skews my reviews all to the positive side, but whatever. I don't want to spend my time reading something I don't like. I'm sad you didn't like Dangerous though. It's on my TBR for this month and I was looking forward to it. I'm still going to give it a go because I love the author. Hopefully I like it more than you did. ;)

  5. Yesss! Embrace the DNF dark side with me! Hooray! Life's too short to read books that aren't your thing!

  6. It's funny b/c just this year I have started DNF-ing much more than I used to. I used to power through books I hated, but, you know, life IS too short!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  7. Yes! Embrace the DNF because life is too short. (That is actually what I call my DNF shelf on Goodreads.) My reading time is after my kids go to bed and there is not a lot of time before I'm ready to crash myself so, like you, I have to make the most of it. A couple years ago I realized that there were too many other things I could be doing to waste my time on what I wasn't enjoying.

  8. I still have trouble embracing the DNF enough, but I can always tell when I definitely need to because I feel so much relief when I finally decide to do it! Sometimes I'm hopeful that a book will get better and know that the ending could majorly improve my opinion, so I'm willing to skim through some gunk in the middle. But if I don't like the writing from the beginning, I only read enough to know that it just doesn't work for me, haha.

  9. I love love Britney... and I really want to see her in Vegas. Ok.. enough of Britney. I don't DNF a lot. Honestly though just this week I DNF a book. It was hard hard for me to do. But I just didn't want to put in the few more hours. I mean... I think I keep reading thinking it will become this great book but it never does. I agree though.. there are WAY too many books to spend the time reading a bad book.

  10. You're so right, Alexa. When I first began blogging, I had such a difficult time putting down books. Doing so felt like I had just lost and wasted a big chunk of my time, and that bothered me so much. After my first time doing it, though, I realized how much happier I was. Reading a book I'm not enjoying doesn't just affect my reading, it affects my mood as well, which is really my biggest motivator for DNFing. I don't have time to let a book ruin my good day.

  11. Usually I don't have a problem with putting down a book I'm not enjoying. Like you said, life's too short to waste time on something you're not enjoying. That being said, it's harder to give up on a book I've gotten for review purposes--I really feel obligated to finish it even if I'm totally hating it. :/
    (Love the Britney song, by the way. Very fitting, haha!)

  12. Totally agreeing with you here! I've never thought about DNFing books too much... like I didn't realize it was a good or bad thing. I've always been the type of person who if it's not keeping my attention, I move on to the next. Unless someone urges me to continue.

    Also agreeing with you about life being too short to let stuff keep you from enjoying things. There are so many things in our lives holding us back; why do we let them? I'm glad you had an epiphany of sorts and hope you don't let anything hold you back! :)

  13. I'm totally with you on DNFing! There are so many AMAZING books out there to read- why waste time with books that just fall flat? And you're right, that is a good perspective for life!

  14. Sing it sister! I used to feel bad not finishing a book. Like I was doing the author, myself, the community a disservice. But you are so right... LIFE IS TOO SHORT. My TBR is way too long and I'd rather try something else than waste my time not enjoying a book.

  15. This is something I still struggle with. It is SO hard for me to DNF. Great post.

  16. Great post, Alexa! Welcome to the DNF club ;)
    I totally agree that I feel guilty when I put a book down. I've been DNFing for a while but I just recently thought back on my time as a reader before I was a blogger -- before review copies, before blog posts, before Goodreads, EVERYTHING -- and I had no qualms putting a book down because that was my leisure time! If I wasn't enjoying it, why bother reading it? Why "suffer" through a book to spend my happy, relaxing time getting angry at characters or plot?
    I totally feel guilty putting a book down nowadays, especially a review copy, but sometimes you just have to, I think publishers will understand that not all books are for everyone! :)
    I commend you for being able to put the book down!


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