Our Reading Lives

Time Of DNF: When It’s Time To Give Up On A Book

I’ll be the first to admit it: I am a continual DNF’er. If a book doesn’t hook me within the first 50 pages, it usually gets dropped into whatever box I’ve marked for donation, and I move onto the next one. I used to be almost fanatical about finishing the books I started, even if it made me want to rip my hair out by the follicle. But one too many stumbles down the rabbit hole of overhyped books, and I’ve learned my lesson. Now I will happily pass books along to my old school library, used bookstores, or friends who I know will appreciate what I didn’t.


But at the end of last month, I finally picked up the second book in a companion series that I’d been looking forward to with both trepidation and excitement. The first book is one of my favourites of all time: the writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, the romance is almost-perfect, and the plot is something I’d never read before. I chose to put off reading the next book until my expectation bar had been lowered to reasonable levels: if I went into the novel expecting it to be just as great as its predecessor, I knew I’d be disappointed in some way. When I finally plucked it off my bookshelf, I was still excited, and dove in, expecting greatness.

The bright red of a brand new book mark has been taunting me, from page 75, for three weeks.

The writing is even more beautiful than the first. The plot is intriguing. The characters (particularly the male hero) are nails-on-a-chalkboard cringey, and the romance stirs a vague sense of unease, and rings all the wrong bells. I’d be reading for five minutes and wonder what was for dinner, because it felt like I’d been reading for five hours. It became easy to put it down, and a chore to pick it back up. I’ve chosen to spend my typical reading time playing The Sims, writing, or reorganizing my shelves (why?)

But I can’t bring myself to officially DNF the book that’s currently taunting me with the fire-engine red bookmark sticking out like a little demerit, reminding me that I have yet to finish and love this book as eagerly as I do its predecessor.

I feel like I owe this novel (and its author) a complete read because I’ve had such a fantastic experience with her other work, but it’s sat on one of my four nightstand piles for the last three weeks, and I’ve read five other books in the meantime, promising myself I will get back to the one that is currently stumping me.

But it’s actually decreased my desire to read other books. I only managed one this week, and that was because it was for review. I think I may have to finally face the facts and admit defeat: time of DNF was awhile ago, I should probably just bite the bullet and get back to the stories I will enjoy.