This marks the start of a new series of posts I’ll be doing monthly, based on a host of topics that come up on bookish discussion boards. I’m not really the end all say all on these topics, but it felt like a great starting point for tackling some of the issues or questions that seem to be plaguing readers. Still interested?? Then welcome to The Lowdown On… series! Being tactical for once, I do have a nice long list of ideas for these posts, but if you have topics/questions you’d like to have discussed then feel free to comment below and we’ll get that coming sooner or added to the list if it isn’t there!
So, for the first topic I wanted to go into DNF, otherwise known as “Did Not Finish” books, not because I want to do a smack down on this concept, but because the answers I’ve seen/heard are pretty split. It’s almost become a dirty term or way of really slamming a book and it’s authors, but that isn’t really the point of this series. Depending on where you fall answer wise you either care or you don’t. Goodreads doesn’t even offer a selection for DNF so when it comes up it’s someone reviewing but stating they couldn’t finish, which I do feel pretty strongly about, or commenting on the book page that they didn’t finish, which is a bit extra work right there.
At the end of the day though, DNF can mean two things; you got distracted and want to come back to the book at another time, or something about the book turned you so off so much that finishing would not only be a battle but would blacklist the book/author for you. It’s a deeply personal and subjective response to a book, and definitely sparks anger when someone invests time reading a book only to feel like their time/energy was wasted on the novel at hand. Personally, in the last several years I’ve only had one or two overall that got in that category, but with my reading goal increasing each year and more books coming into my hands it increases the likelihood that I’ll find a book that just doesn’t meet my interests. I’ve already had three this year that got thrown on that list, and maybe explained one on the blog since I got far into it and was bitter over how hyped it had been, for it to be missing in areas it was being so hyped for.
Trust me when I say, it takes a lot for me to mark a book as DNF, the one I’ve referenced was being highly rated for its tackling of a traumatic experience when I personally felt like the character herself wasn’t invested (even with threats on her family), or responding to deeply traumatic experiences like ‘oh, yeah that happened’. It just felt like the character was forgetting and happening to remember big events, and I just wasn’t having it. Look at goodreads and the book has a 3.5 avg rating. Now you see what I mean, in this case it was personal/subjective, but because I didn’t finish, I can’t really post a review (except on my blog lol). It would be nice to be able to say I didn’t finish because of x,y,z reason on goodreads, but I can say that the next words would definitely be how disappointing that was and how much time I wasted. Useful maybe, venting for sure. I think the split between readers comes on the reviewing of books that we throw under DNF. It’s all fine and dandy when you have an outside channel on youtube, blog, etc. stating that the book was so truly awful that you couldn’t get through it, but there have been more than a few instances where reviewers didn’t finish a book and only gave a review stating ‘couldn’t finish the book’. It’s a pretty destructive criticism without being anything remotely constructive.
What’s really interesting about this topic, is that when someone asks it’s whether or not they should force themselves to continue reading for the sake of being able to review, or just drop the book. My two cents is that you shouldn’t ever feel obligated to finish a book. If it’s a situation of having to review because a company sent you the book in the hopes that you’d review then review away and be honest. I feel like it helps to say that maybe it just wasn’t for you, or that the big issue you had with it was hurting your enjoyment of the book. The only time I might judge on not giving a book a chance is if its based on the first several chapters (or 20 pages since some books have super long chapters), since Fantasy and Science Fiction is notorious for slow build ups. I used to write on wattled, and had someone write on my Sci-Fi novel that it had too many words. It was a trade of reading and reviewing, I looked at theirs and gave feedback, so that was a double ouch for me, since it was a science fiction, and eventually got some incredible reviews. Still have no idea if they truly read, but it gave me a bit of sympathy when it comes to authors and novels that aren’t immediate action dramas.
Given all that, what do I think?
I honestly would like a way to mark books that I’ve attempted but couldn’t finish on Goodreads, mostly for tracking purposes, but I feel like it could easily become a negative impact on author’s experiences, which is probably why it isn’t offered as an option. This was probably pretty long winded, but for such a seemingly simple subject, there’s a lot of components to it and plenty of judgement on all sides.
What’s your take on marking books as DNF or reviewing books not completely read? Is it fair? Is it complicated? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!