The Superfluous Stigma of DNFing Books: A Discussion

Today I wanted to do something new and fresh here on BiblioNyan and chat about not finishing books, as well as share with you some of the books that I have had to DNF (did not finish) recently. Most of these I gave up on due to a horrid reading slump and I didn’t want any negative associations with the book so that I could return to them later. However, one or two of these I had to say good-bye to for the sheer fact that they were wholly unenjoyable; an act that used to fill me with litres of guilt and stress.     

One of things that blogging has taught me, specifically biblio-related blogging, is that it’s one-hundred-percent dandy to stop reading something that you are not finding any pleasure in. I used to feel really guilty for stopping in the middle of the book, and as such would force my way through it. In the end, I would find myself feeling so bloody frustrated and put-off by the thought of picking up another book. That is a sure-fire way to kill any passion—seeing it as a daunting chore and unwanted task, instead of a genuine hobby that brings you joy. But then I began to read articles from other bloggers who would share their bookish self-care routine of putting a difficult book aside without hesitation in lieu of something far better. It completely blew my fucking mind.  


I still remember the first book that I ever DNF’d. I won’t share the title for it as it was a super hyped book and I don’t want to contribute to it negatively. But it was something that fell so short for me. I was expecting it to be fast-paced with multi-faceted characters and excellent world-building, but it lacked any realm of world-building whatsoever, and turned into a sex-fest of stupidity. Thinking about those articles that shed positivity on breaking-up with a current read, I took a deep breath and put that sucker away. When I started another book, about a day or so later, I felt such a huge weight of regret and anxiety. I would think about the DNF’d title and begin to panic, legitimately panic. A profound feeling of being an inadequate bookworm and blogger began to fill my veins. Man, things had gotten so ridiculous that I would dream about the book sprouting arms and legs and vampire teeth and then coming after my ass for bloodshed. I know… weird as all fuck.  

One morning I was chatting with my cousin about this dream and my inherent negative thoughts on what I had done. He laughed his ass off, in my face, until tears were streaming down his own. I punched him in the arm. But his laughter had really put into perspective how unbelievable my sense of guilt was, unbelievably superfluous. It was so damn funny because it was so bloody ridiculous.  


Not finishing a book did not make me a bad bibliophile or bookworm. It made a human being who understood that subjecting myself to something that was a bad experience, or unnecessarily harmful, would take from me the one thing that brings me the most joy in life (aside from my cats and Milo, of course, and Sir Betrothed too): reading. It meant that I was placing my mental, emotional, and bookish health first, which is the spice of life, the one that holds all the power of the universe, like Melange (boom, Dune reference). 

An argument can be made that if you request a book for review prior to publishing, or if an author/publisher offers you a book for review purposes, and you accept, then you are obligated to read the whole damn thing in order to review it properly; that if you don’t do that then you are being inauthentic, unethical, or some other bullshit like that. Well, it’s exactly that: bullshit, bollucks, gobar. Sometimes the fact that you were unable to finish a book—it was too boring, it had offensive material, had personal triggers, etc.—is indicative of the quality of said book. You are more than within your rights to write a review, or a critique in this case, of why you felt the need to abandon a book. You don’t need to have some complex and intricate reasoning behind it either. It was boring is a total and completely legitimate reason for not finishing a book!  

Every reviewer is very different, each one unique with their own reading styles, preferences, routines that all affect the type of reviewer they will be. I’m a brutally fucking honest reviewer who blatantly expresses what I didn’t like or what I loved, even if I am a huge fan of the author or genre. Additionally, I point out that my opinions are my own and someone else may feel very differently than me, which is totally okay. So, depending on the kind of reviewer you are, you may not feel comfortable DNFing books specifically for review, or you may not care to express a reason for dropping a book is pure boredom. That’s one-hundred-percent okay!! My ultimate point is that if you do do these things, then don’t kick yourself in the ass for it because it DOES NOT depreciate your value as a reviewer, reader, and all-around book lover. 

The stigma surrounding the act of DNFing books is completely unwarranted. You’re not going to keep watching a film or playing a video game that puts you to sleep, makes you feel disgusted, uncomfortable, or offended, so why should you be obligated to read a book that does the same things? Easy: you bloody well shouldn’t. 


In the past few years, since I began blogging and acquainting myself with healthy habits of all sorts, I have found that being able to close a book I don’t like brings me blankets and blankets of relief rather than the stress and guilt it used to shroud me with. Sure, I will still feel bad about it for a short while (maybe an hour or so), but if I find that I cannot stop thinking about the title that I just DNF’d, then that is a sign that I’m not quite done with it and I will pick it back up and keep working through it. I’ve learned to read signs that my mind and body give off, which helps to prevent me from feeling regret or other negatory BS. Nevertheless, if I’m done and if my reasons for being done don’t pertain to battling the Boss Monster of Reading Slumps, I turn my back on it and never look back. I just put on my shades, sip my Milo (or YooHoo) and chase my kitties towards the horizon. If you find that you aren’t enjoying a book anymore, or at all, then you should do the same. Life is too fucking short to waste time on things that don’t bring us joy.  

Bloodstar (Star Corpsman #1) by Ian Douglas 

This is a military science-fiction novel that I was having a really great time with when I first began reading it, however I was bitch-smacked by the Slump Monster and ended up having to return it to the library without finishing it. However, I did find this book and its sequel at a local used bookstore for a dollar each, and bought them both! I know that I will probably love this duology quite a bit, so I eagerly look forward to the day when I shall pick it back up. 

Necrotech (SINless #1) by K.C. Alexander 

This is a cyberpunk science-fiction novel that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. I DNF’d it for two reasons, both of them reasons I mentioned way back at the beginning of this damned post: I was not enjoying it nearly as much as I had hoped, and I was gut-punched by the Mistress of Reading Slumps. I like the world-building and I find the technology to be very interesting, but the main character is difficult to relate to as she’s rather self-entitled and immature. So, one day I would like to try and finish the book. But I’m in no significant rush to do so. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal 

This is an #OwnVoices British-Punjabi contemporary novel that I picked up because it was an #OwnVoicess South Asian book, and also because the hype surrounding it made me weak and interested. The hype was something that baffled me, after I made an attempt at reading it. I could not connect to any of the characters, even the ones that had some serious family trauma and dysfunction. I think I’m just not the target audience, or my personal cultural experiences made it more challenging for me to relate to the culture clashes and the like within this novel. Since I found myself more annoyed and dreading the idea of reading more of it, I put it aside and haven’t looked back.  

What do you think about DNFing books? Do you do it, or not do it? Why so? What are some books that you have DNF’d lately, or considered DNFing? 

Thank you so much for visiting me today. Until next time, keep reading and keep otakuing. 💜

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31 thoughts on “The Superfluous Stigma of DNFing Books: A Discussion

  1. It’s like you read my mind! I’ve recently run into a few books that I simply could not finish – and I hated feeling guilty over that! I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this. Excellent post! 😊

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  5. Excellent post, I think a lot of as readers pride ourselves for some reason on being able to finish even the worst books. I have done this as I used to proudly boast I only had one book I couldn’t finish. But now thanks to seeing you being able to just say Eff off to a book, has allowed me to realize I don’t need to punish myself with terrible books and so thank you for that.

    • Oh man, bragging rights used to be a reason for me to finish something too, but I realised I’m just not cut out for the long run of it haha. Too lazy and have waaaay too much shit to read. 😅😂

  6. Before i started blogging i was not even aware that dnfing books is such a major debate point. I never finished a book if i didn’t like it, and never had second thoughts. It’s like with anything else… if I don’t enjoy something and have the choice to stop, i will.

    When we request books, we of course do it cuz we think it will be good. When it’s not, why should we feel bad for not suffering through it?

    • I was super surprised to discover the social stigmas surrounding DNFing books and, similarly to you, I didn’t realise it was such a huge thing until I began getting more and more into blogging.

  7. I recently DNF’d a book after reading the preface and the first page. I wouldn’t usually consider that having *started* reading a book except for that it was an advance copy. I hadn’t realized when I requested it that it was self-published, and the author hadn’t even bothered to get a copy editor. It was obvious.

    Most of the time I personally am reluctant to DNF. More likely, I’ll put it aside and wait for ages to get around to finishing it. Sometimes there’s just nothing else to do, though! I agree that you don’t need a justification to DNF a book you aren’t feeling, but it can be hard to apply that to myself. Thankfully, I’ve never felt very guilty over a book I did drop.

    • It’s good you never feel guilty. I used to feel very guilty when I first began blogging, but reading other people’s posts about their experiences with it, helped me get over that fairly quickly. 🙂 I think everyone is different with DNFing and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I just don’t think it’s fair to judge a person negatively because they do DNF things.

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  10. Well…this is a tough one, but I do agree with you: why continue reading something when it doesn’t give you pleasure? I’m totally baffled by that as well. It’s just that I always have a hard time quitting something (it’s the same with tv shows/anime…etc.) I always think: “ yeah, but what if it changes and I miss out on something….” But that usually doesn’t happen and I end up regretting I did not quit the book/show/anime sooner. Oh well…I guess I will never learn, despite the fact that I totally agree with you 😂😂

    • I used to feel the same way! “This sucks now, but it may get tons better later.” Eventually I just realised, for myself, that most of the time that self-sacrifice wasn’t worth it in the end. Especially if it tossed me into the Mount Doom of Reading Slumps lol.

  11. I harbour no guilt for DNF nor any ill will towards anyone who does the same to my work. It’s not the reader’s job to trudge through a book no matter what. It’s an author’s job to make their work resonate with the target audience. I remember trying really hard to finish Wuthering Heights but I never got through it. I kept falling asleep in front of a heat fan. Maybe I was just reading it when I was too tired.

    • I completely agree! If I ever published a book and a reader didn’t like it, to the point they couldn’t finish it, it would probably make me a little sad or feel dejected, but it doesn’t give me the right to be a shitty person to the reader, and I definitely wouldn’t hold it against them. everyone’s a different sort of reader.

  12. I loved Gobar in the post. I agree with you. Life is too short to read books which don’t give pleasure. I recently had such an experience. The book of an author friend was really bad and unfortunately none of her fellow authors or readers told her that. I couldn’t get through first 2 chapters. On her request I read through the whole thing, took me 4 hours and book was soooooo boring. On my review, I wrote okay book on Goodreads and the author blocked me on Facebook, badmouthed me etc.
    Then came another reviewer who wrote DNF and the author is still blasting her on Facebook, took it so personally. It has become a huge drama.
    So I have decided that I am going to write DNF in reviews because if there are honest reviews, then we are helping fellow readers. Books are expensive.
    Oh have I gone overboard with the comment. I apologise

    • Haha, thank you! I felt it was fitting. XD

      That’s the other things that frustrates me: authors who attack readers that don’t enjoy their books. If I was ever lucky enough to get published, I understand and accept that my books my not be a good fit for every single reader out there. It would be quite pompous of me to think otherwise. And if one of those readers wrote a review about how much they hated my book, I would not approach them at all. It’s really not my place. If I honestly felt compelled to, it would only be to say thank you for giving my book a shot, even if it wasn’t for them. I would be grateful that they made any kind of time investment in the book. Leave it there and be done. Attacking readers will only push them away from trying anything else the author would write in the future. That is probably another reason readers don’t like to DNF or admit they had to: backlash from immature authors who throw a tantrum at every “I didn’t like it” opinion. Sorry, didn’t mean to go on a rant, but it really is so unprofessional and highly unethical of authors to do that.

      • Been there, done that. I understand totally. I wanted to go on a rant on your comments section. I was so angry when the author ‘friend’ blocked me as I said book was okay.
        Nyan, the book was horrors went from emotional to fantasy to sci-fi and what not. I had so much of a tough time reading that. And the author still goes on blasting me on Facebook saying I have a personal vendetta. Now I am determined to write a review and stand by it. I am fed up of authors behaving immaturely. So in September, I am going to put up my review. It is not fair. Which of us likes hating a book?!!!
        We love books, we would love every book to be 5 stars…

        • I think you should definitely share your review. If the author is behaving so irrationally, it honestly just shows that they are supremely immature and horribly unprofessional, as well as unethical. And you’re absolutely right, who enjoys disliking books? I always pick up stuff hoping to fall in love with it, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen all the time, and the readers should never be blamed or treated with ill-will because a book didn’t resonate with them. It’s not their (readers) responsibility to appease every single author’s works that they read. For authors to expect that is absolutely preposterous.

          • I agree. Totally!!!!!!! I am putting up my review. I am sure to get comments from the author as she blogs on WordPress…. Do I need this stress or should I just stand up to her. I have been bullied by a best selling author and her friends and followers for a year till I shut off the commenting on that post… They were terrible, one even went accusing my profession.

            • I think it’s important to stand up to authors who harass others, but honestly, the best option is whatever will be the best thing for your mental health. If she does harass you on your blog, I would try to could contact WordPress and see if they can revoke her account access, or prevent her from following you/contacting you. Just keep a record of her harassment.

      • Nyan, in my review, I rarely say I hate the book, though I have said it in my recent review. But there is always justification. But the problem is these immature authors have more immature author friends who are scared to review honestly as they want 5 stars for their book. They keep scratching each other’s back – yeah totally gross… Somehow I keep getting images of monkeys while writing this line. 😂😂
        I have been blasted by authors, and recently a blogger friend as I am supposed to be kind in my reviews. But there gets to be a time when we can not do that. The book is that bad.
        Also if a reader buys the book for 10 dollars based on my kind review, it would pinch them so much. To most in the world 10 dollars do mean something. Have I ranted too much?

        • No, you haven’t ranted too much at all! I completely understand how you feel. I support you 100%. I have many blogger friends who have loved books that I absolutely hated, and I have never judged them for it. People are unique and diverse individuals, we’re all going to like/enjoy/hate all sorts of different things. My cousin who’s a lawyer said he’s had many cases within the past year where he has had to file restraining orders against authors from talking to or even talking about (publicly) bloggers who have written negative reviews, and then been harassed by authors and their vehement fandoms/friends. It makes me sad and really pissed off that things like this happen.

          • According to this author ‘friend’ I would be making her lose her sales and livelihood and she asked me to hold off reviewing her book for a week, as if that would help. I read all genre, but to say, I don’t know how to review books or I don’t read enough to know which book is good was a total insult. I asked her age, she said early 30s…i told her, I am reading since the past 38 to 40 years…. Hahaha she had no answer except to block me for fear I would publicly ask her for the justification of the sentence.
            Authors go to lawyers for negative reviews, instead they could spend that money to get a better editor. Doesn’t that make more sense?

            • Oh yeah, I would much rather invest in an editor and maybe even some classes/training on how to improve. I swear, it takes too much energy to be that fucking spiteful and hateful; not to mention it’s a terrible way to establish your reputation as a professional write. Geez. If you respected their wish to hold off for a week and you did that, then you are more than within your rights to share your review now.

              • Exactly… But well, if they had the brains, they would have seen my POV instead of fighting and trying to get the pity party going from other authors… 🤔

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