What Goes Into Marking A Book DNF

For those of you who are unsure of what “DNF” means when it comes to books, it means “did not finish.” It’s when you’re reading a book, you’re just not feeling it, and end up placing it back on the shelf – sometimes for good. For some, this act is pretty common, but for most, it’s a last resort.

When choosing to not finish a book, you’re ultimately deciding if you want to put something away that you spent money on. While I know a good chunk of my books haven’t been read yet, I do know that I’m still interested in reading most of them. However, sometimes the summary can be deceiving. A great summary, stellar reviews, and a nice cover usually draw me in, but the actual writing is what’s important – which is why I read the first few pages of a book before I buy one in-store. If I don’t relate to the character, or I don’t like the way a book is written, then I don’t buy it.

Even after my process of choosing a book, sometimes a dud slips through. So, when I’m picking a book off of my “need to read” shelf, I usually get rid of the ones I don’t think I’ll ever pick up again (by get rid of, I mean donate or sell back to local bookstores). However, marking a book as something I don’t want to jump into again, doesn’t mean that it was a DNF. There are three main things that go into deciding whether I want to put a book down or not: if it’s not great in the first 100 pages, if the narrator is reliable, and how much dialogue there is.

Give it at least 100 pages. 

When deciding to not finish a book, I usually give it at least a hundred pages before I’m certain I don’t want to push any further. If I can manage to go any further than that, then I keep on reading and risk a one-star review. Although, that also depends on the 100-page ratio to how many pages there are in total. For instance, if I’m reading a book that’s 300 pages, then the 100-page preview still holds its ground. So, if I’m reading a book that’s 500+, then I’d give it a little more pull. Primarily, marking a book as DNF depends on if those first 100-or-so pages are pulling me in.

Is the narrator relatable?

Personally, if the narrator isn’t relatable it makes it hard to keep going. While I really dig quirky and unique narrators, there’s still a line to be drawn. If the author goes a little too far and makes it seem as though the narrator might be forcing the quirky, unique vibe, then I usually set the book down for a while. One example of this would be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. In Eleanor, the narrator is supposed to be an outcast, but the author doesn’t really do her justice. I’m a little more than halfway through, but she just comes off as an extreme cynic rather than a quirky introvert (although, we’ll get more into that later on in the review).

Too much dialogue?

In a fiction class I took a while ago, my professor told us that the less dialogue the better. Dialogue shouldn’t be the primary key that shows the action going on in the books. Overall, the dialogue shouldn’t out-shadow the general writing, it should only enhance it. So, if I’m reading a novel that has full-fledged pages of only dialogue, then I start to lose interest quickly. An example of this is Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, in my review (here), I’ve pointed out that I often lost focus of who was talking and when. I had to backtrack because not only was there excessive dialogue, the script also lacked key pointers on who was talking after a while.


So, while my standards seem a little low, I usually go into these steps as a last resort. As of late, the only books I’ve chosen to put down are:

IT by Stephen King — I didn’t deem this a DNF because of how long it was, I deemed it a DNF because of the plot-twist that came at the end. While I only made it a few hundred pages in, I couldn’t fathom getting to the end. Usually, I wouldn’t base my opinion on the movie adaptation, but because of how in-depth King and the directors went into production, I decided it was better to quit while I was ahead. Also, it just didn’t seem to flow very well. There were two many character jumps when it came to each chapter, and made the novel not as enjoyable. (I’ll also be posting my full review later on as well.)

Room by Emma Donoghue — I bought this book after the movie came out on Netflix, I only deemed it a DNF because of the narrator. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into it. Jack was a cute kid in the movie, and I felt for him and his moms’ situation, but the narration was kind of unbearable in the novel. This book is only considered a temporary DNF, due to the fact I might pick them back up again. Quite frankly, none of my DNFs are permanent because I might grab them again, but by marking them as such, I can take a long enough break to decide if I want to keep going.


Then along with those two, there are also books that seem as though they’re DNFs but they’re actually books I needed to take frequent breaks from.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine — Like I said above, the narrator just comes off as a cynic and the author is forcing the quirky vibe.

Jurassic Park — Most sci-fi books I tend to need breaks from, especially with one’s as long as Jurassic Park. The book itself is really, really good, but after my dog got ahold of it, I felt I needed to take a break.

Any Game of Thrones books — These books are long and very detail-oriented, so you guys can only imagine how long my breaks usually take with these. I’m not a particularly fast reader, so it’s hard to devour them. Plus they’re very similar to the HBO show, so after watching the show, it’s hard to basically read the show all over again.

Any psychology-based book — When I say “psychology based” I mean books like Confessions of a Sociopath, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life, or In The Flesh. These books are all written by doctors and have a ton of psychology twisted into them. While they’re extremely interesting, it just takes a while to actually dive into them.

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