Is it Okay to Leave a Book Unfinished?
To a lot of people, leaving a book unfinished (or as it’s called in the bookish community, “DNF” or “Did not finish”) is not a done thing. To a lot of others, DNFing a book is no problem at all.
“Life’s too short to read books you don’t like”, they say.
And I agree!
Reading, for me, is a way to unwind. To forget my stresses and troubles and get transported to another world; another time; another person’s story. Books, in short, are an escape.
There are, of course, books I read for education. I recently started reading non-fiction books and most of those books teach me something valuable. I have to bear with them.
But the books I read for fun? I won’t force myself to read them if I don’t enjoy the story.
There are many reasons to DNF a book. Maybe it doesn’t align with your values (the Twilight series, for example, don’t align with my feminist views). Maybe it’s triggering for you, for some reason (the reason doesn’t matter). Maybe it’s boring to you, or the language doesn’t appeal to you. Or perhaps you just don’t like it very much. All of these are valid reasons.
“You just don’t like it” is the most valid of them all, I think. You might not like it because of the other reasons I mentioned or because of something else. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you don’t like it. And why should you read something you don’t like? (Again, I’m not talking about educational books or textbooks. If you don’t like a subject in school, that doesn’t mean you can stop studying it.)
That is my own opinion about DNFing a book. I’m definitely for not finishing a book you don’t like.
Now, I spoke to some people in the awesome bookish community of Instagram and tried to find out why they don’t like leaving books unfinished. I’m going to list some of those reasons here and give my opinions on them (and advice, if I have any)…
A disclaimer: You might not agree with some of my views; and some of it might seem a little confrontational. But I feel strongly about it and it’s my opinion. If you don’t agree with it, well, that’s entirely up to you 😊
The book deserves a chance
I agree. Every book deserves a chance. Authors put a lot of effort into their books.
But the thing is, you gave it a chance, and it failed to keep you interested. Why should we keep giving it a chance when there are other books that deserve a chance, too, just waiting for you to pick them up?
If I ever catch myself thinking that every book deserves a chance, I tell myself this. I also tell myself that it’s not my responsibility to give it a chance. People are giving it a chance – people who resonate with the book; who find it interesting. So it’s okay if I don’t give it another chance.
It was recommended by a friend and they liked it for a reason
Right; they probably did. And the reason could very well be excellent, because otherwise, why would they recommend it to you, right? But that’s just it. It’s their reason, not yours.
And just because they liked it, doesn’t mean you should!
Even if your friend has the same taste in books as you do, they are not you and you are not them. Any particular book might appeal to them but not you, even if you like similar books in general.
So if your friend recommended the book to you and you didn’t like it, well, that’s entirely up to you, isn’t it?
My advice to you in this case, if you want it, is this…
When you feel like stopping, tell your friend what didn’t resonate with you. If they agree and say, “It gets better”, ask them more about it and continue reading if you’re convinced it’s worth your time. If they are surprised by the fact that you didn’t like it because they liked the whole book, well, then you know the book isn’t for you.
I paid for it
I understand this reasoning. It stings, doesn’t it, to not use something you paid for? To see it go to waste just because you couldn’t buckle up, swallow your interest, and read the darn thing anyway?
But here’s the thing: what did you really pay for? The book or the enjoyment you were supposed to get from it?
If you really think, it’s the second thing we all pay for – we pay for the entertainment; the fun; the journey the book takes us on; not the book itself.
So if you don’t enjoy the ride, hasn’t your money already been wasted? (this might hit you hard, but again…it’s my opinion. If you don’t agree with it, that’s up to you)
And the thing is, now, something else is getting wasted if you continue reading a book you don’t like – your time. That time could be used to do a host of other things that help you grow or that you enjoy.
What if it gets better?
This is actually the one argument that I don’t have a comeback for. I totally understand FOMO and it’s perfectly understandable to feel, “Oh, I’m not enjoying it now, but what if the next page is where the good part starts?”
I have an opinion, though, of course. I’m going to veer off into a bit of philosophy right now, so bear with me.
Isn’t this how many (unsatisfied) people live their lives? Unhappy in the present in the fleeting expectation that sometime in the unknown future, it’ll get better? Isn’t it what self-help gurus and cliché sayings and so many successful people advice against?
This, of course, is not as serious when it comes to books. But it’s the same concept.
But there’s a solution to this. When I’m reading a not-so-great book and I feel like it might get better, I just go to a random page in the second half of the book and read a few pages after that. If it still doesn’t feel interesting, I stop reading because let’s face it – if you don’t like the first half and you don’t like the second half, then it’s probably safe to say that you won’t like any part of the book.
Well, I don’t stop reading completely…I can’t let go of any book without knowing the ending. So if I don’t plan on finishing the book anyway, I read the last chapter to know the ending, and then put it down. It really helps me with my FOMO.
Another method (that I only use if the story is good but badly written) is to look up the book and read its plot in Wikipedia. In a few paragraphs, you’ll know everything there is to know about the book because everyone knows that Wikipedia is where you go if you want to deliberately torture yourself with spoilers…
If this is your reason for not DNFing a book, try one of these methods! You’ll save time and you’ll know the story. So…win-win!
So that’s it. That’s my opinion on leaving a book unfinished.