Breaking up (with a book) is hard to do

How do you know when it’s time to quit a book? I keep thinking about that lately because I’m trying to chug my way through my loooooong NetGalley review list and to be honest, I end up feeling really “meh” about half of the books I read.

I know there are two trains of thought on this. A lot of  readers, particularly heavy reviewers, feel that you have to read the whole book before you can judge it, which is fair enough. (Though, I think there’s a big difference between writing a scathing review judging the whole book off the few chapters you read, and admitting you DNF’d and explaining why.)

And very rarely, I’ve read books that started out slow (hello, Game of Thrones) but ended up being epic. So I definitely see why you might not want to DNF too often. But what do you do when you realize you’re actively avoiding a book? Like, you’ve read 20% or so and you’re now picking up other titles to avoid returning to said book? Lately I’ve DNF’d a few because I set them down and realized I just honestly didn’t care about finding out how the story would end. The story is bland, the writing is poor, the characters are so two-dimensional that I forget their names as soon as I close the book…that sort of thing.

I would argue that at that point, it’s time to move on. After all, my TBR list is currently sitting at 1,127 titles and those books just ain’t gonna read themselves. With limited time and so many other books to choose from, why waste time reading a book if it’s not doing anything for me?

Well, bookworms? Do you DNF or not? Do you have personal “rules” for DNF’ing a book? Have you ever set a book aside, then come back to it later and liked it after all? Leave me a comment and let me know!


  • mary

    I have my DNF’s, but I have also but a book aside because it started out slow and just didn’t grab my interest, only to pick it up later and find out it was actually a great read. It is a very personal choice and should not cause a lot of analytical consternation!!

  • Erin

    Your time is precious! It’s the authors job to draw you into a story and it that isn’t happening don’t feel bad about moving on.

    I only force myself through books if they are classics that show up in pop culture regularly. Kafka’s The Trial for instance was a bit of a cumbersome read – good story, I just found the writing style distracting because it’s formal early 20th century and no one talks like that anymore. I may as well have been trying to read a novel written in pirate speak!

  • Alyce

    I’m glad it’s not just me that struggles with this problem. I’m one of those people that finds it extremely hard to stop reading a book once I’ve started it, but I have more books than I can count so it seems unworthwhile to force myself through the ones that are dragging and are causing me problems.
    Sometimes I find myself getting so grumpy that I almost take it out on the book, and even if I might have enjoyed it after fifty or sixty percent, I can’t like it because of how hard I struggled with getting into it!
    I’m definitely going to try to DNF more freely :)

    • Martha

      Here’s to DNFing! :) I think I start to feel guilty if it’s a review copy or a gift and I decide I don’t want to finish it. But sometimes you’ve just gotta move on :)

  • Larry

    Ah yes, I have thrown in the towel on a few occasions. Most recently was the first book of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I was really looking forward to jumping into this ten book saga, and getting lost in a new world for a long time. Unfortunately, I personally found it to just be all over the place. I couldn’t seem to follow the story or care about any of the characters, save Sorry. It’s a rare thing for me to be so turned off that I quit a book. I hope to pick it up again one day, even if only to find out what Sorry brings to the table. Btw, I’ve suffered through far less bad books, than have fished great ones only to be horribly let down by a shoddy ending. Weighing the two, I’ll continue suffering.

  • Katrin

    I usually try to finish every book I started just because I feel bad about not finishing it. But on the other hand, there are so many great books out there that I want to read, so it is stupid to waste time on books I don’t like that much.

    • Martha

      I feel bad too, especially if it’s a review galley. But I have so many TBRs!!!!! I guess I feel like if I’m at least honest about WHY I didn’t finish the copy in my review, then it’s okay.


    I’ve only actively decided to abandon a book twice. One was Moby Dick and the other The Count of Monte Christo. I was going through a ‘classics’ phase at the time. I’m afraid I actually drowned The Count in the bath and didn’t mourn him!

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