12 Reasons I DNF a Book

I used to be that person who always finished the book she was reading. Like. Always. DNF a book? Me? How could you suggest it? I read to the end even if I hated it. Because, in my mind, “I put so much time into it already!”

Well that’s just it.

I was pouring all this time into books I didn’t even like! One person wisely said, “Life’s too short for boring books.” AMEN! And that really got me thinking. If I read 40 books a year and I’m lucky enough to live for 50 more years, that’s only 2,000 more books I get to read in my lifetime, people! EVER. I HAVE TO BE SELECTIVE! And you should, too. 😉

So, for all the curious minds out there . . . these are some reasons I DNF (do not finish) a book:


1. No plot.

Plot vs CharacterI will refrain from giving examples. I will be strong! But . . . THIS HAPPENS SO OFTEN. Give us plot, people. This “lack of plot” virus can manifest itself in a number of ways. Maybe there is a supposed plot, but the author spoonfeeds it to us with a multi-chapter lecture. Or maybe there’s no plot until the very end. Sorry . . . still a strikeout. There needs to be solid plot, and there needs to be solid characters. ‘Nuff said.

All authors can fix this problem by reading Plot vs. Character by Jeff Gerke. 😛 (Yup, total plug. Because it’s like my magical writing tool.)

2. Info dumps.

Giant ones that try to eat your brain and you end up napping mid-book. Sorry, can’t do it. (Except for with Ready Player One. I pushed through THAT info dump and it ended up being a favorite book. 😛 ) Info-dumps are like reading textbooks. There’s nothing to connect to. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sure happy to be done with school.  😉

3. Bedroom Scenes

Does this really need explaining? I can handle the “looking deeply into each other’s eyes” cliche, but are the bedroom scenes really necessary? Sometimes I’m afraid that authors don’t realize that their books can shape the worldview of their young readers. Do we really want to tell teens to go have sex with their insta-love victim? Please. Stop. The. Madness.

But aside from the wayward “message,” I don’t want to read those scenes anyway — even if I’m “immune” to the message. They make me feel dirty and they make me lose respect for both the author and the characters. Okay . . . that’s all. I’ll refrain from pulling out my soapbox.

4. Excessive violence.

Like, the things that make me want to hurl. There’s violence, and then there’s violence. Like . . . now I have the flu and it’s just from a scene in a book. And now I’m having nightmares of being in wars and watching people die everywhere. I can remember every scene I’ve ever read that gave too many details.

Now…I know my book, A Time to Die has violence in it. But I tried to stay away from graphic violence. This is more violence of the story and the culture and, in my mind, it’s different.

5. Bashing on God.

Um, He’s my everything. You can bash on Harry Potter and Oreos and twinkle lights and I’ll forgive you. But not my King. (Okay, so I’ll try to forgive . . . because He tells me too. But I probably won’t like you very much.) *bites tongue to refrain from giving examples*

6. Writing that’s too dense.

Yes, this can include classics. This isn’t usually the author’s fault, it’s more my matter of preference. I have to be in the right mood to push through a classic. But if I give it a try and it’s just way too dense…? DNF pile, baby. And then probably a spoilery Wikipedia page so I can find out how the story ends. I might give the thing another try. At the very least, a DNF dense book isn’t sent to the “burn-this-book-and-then-burn-its-ashes” pile. 😉 It’s just…set aside until I can donate lend it to a victim friend.

7. I’m not in the mood.

Hey, wait, didn’t we kind of just mention this one? Um . . . THIS ONE IS NOT THE AUTHOR’S FAULT. Usually I will have put the book down at some point and then forgot to pick it back up for two years. Sometimes I’ll give that book another try, but usually I just, um, donate it to my library. *hides*

8. Lame characters.

Not, like, LIMPING people. But characters that never come alive. They just point and walk and say drab ol’ dialogue. I can’t handle it! READER ENGAGEMENT IS CHARACTER DRIVEN, PEOPLE! Get this: A character-driven book can save an awful plot. But an awesome plot can’t save a flat-charactered book. That’s my opinion.

9. Lost interest.

If a book takes me more than two weeks to get through, chances are I’ll lose interest and won’t finish. I don’t read multiple books at a time (despite my Goodreads status. Just . . . don’t ask.) So if I’m reading a book that’s getting boooorrrrring . . . that means it’s keeping me from picking up the next book on my list. And I just can’t handle it.

10. Reading slump.

DNF-a-bookBRING ME BACK THE MARK OF THE LION SERIES! Ugh. That series ruins me every time. I can’t read ANYTHING for weeks afterward. To spare myself from killing every decent book out there just because of my book hangover, I try not to read when I’m in a slump. I must let the slump pass. So I watch movies . . . and eat chocolate.

But there are occasions where I try to claw myself out of the slump and I end up picking out a book that could potentially be AWESOME on another day . . . and then I ruin it because I’m slumpy. So . . . DNF pile. Such is life. (No mercy!!)

11. I don’t trust the author.

This happens when authors don’t wrap up the right plot threads, or they don’t complete what they started, or they forgot that their character had a broken arm. Then I lose trust that they’ll even conclude the story for me fully. This is also why I turn off TV shows. I have so many TV shows that I’ve watched all the way to the finale and then . . . just didn’t finish. (THE SHAME!) I don’t feel bad.

12. Pointless deaths.

DO YOU HEAR ME, GEORGE R. R. MARTIN?!? Okay, I shouted that but . . . *confession* . . . I haven’t read his books. I’ve read part of Game of Thrones and it was awesome until it ran into point #3. So I stopped. And one reason I’ve never picked it up again is because I hear he kills off EVERYONE. And a lot of time it’s kind of . . . purposeless.

Now I know I’m not an innocent author when it comes to murdering my darlings. *sniff* BUT . . . all of their deaths have a giant purpose, even if it’s hard to see. That’s because I know that real deaths have a purpose, even if God is not allowing us to see the purpose in our lifetime. God is a purposeful God . . . and because of that, random deaths just have no place in fiction. Even if it’s just to “show the horrors of war” (do you hear me, Suzanne Collins?!)


So those are my reasons. What are reasons you DNF a book? Or are you a read-to-the-last-page type of person? (Tweet this)



About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Thank-you!! I have never been one to read books all the way to the end. Once I joined the bookish community, I felt weird about it. It seemed to me that bookworms always read books to the very end. (also rereading, but that’s another topic). It’s kinda awful, but I’m excited when I meet other bookworms who DNF books on a regular basis. There are actually people who understand me!! 😀

    I have all the same reasons, except #2 and #12. I don’t like info dumps, but they are not enough reason for me to drop a book. And I could write a whole post on why I disagree with your #12, but I’ll spare you.

    • LOL you’re not alone! 😀 Yeah, sometimes I’m scared to plop a book on my DNF list on Goodreads but…such is life. And maybe someday you and I can convince fellow bookworms that DNFing can be good for the bookworm soul! 😉

    • Oh, and #2 and #12 aren’t always automatic DNFs. They’re probably the least affecting reasons for DNFing, but sometimes they’re too much and I just don’t finish the book. #2 more than #12

  2. Yes! Yes yes yes! I agree with every one of these points!

  3. Sigh. I used to be a read to the very end girl, when I realized life is too short for waste of time books. I can’t stand a story that gets bogged down in details. Don’t get me wrong, I love details, but I’m talking about times where there are lengthy descriptions of everything. Robinson Crusoe. Oi. I really don’t care how many sticks he picked up to build a shelter. I don’t care the shades of sand dSigh. I used to be a read to the very end girl, when I realized life is too short for waste of time books. I can’t stand a story that gets bogged down in details. Don’t get me wrong, I love details, but I’m talking about times where there are lengthy descriptions of everything. Robinson Crusoe, for instance. I don’t care about how many sticks he used to build a shelter. I don’t care how one fruit differed from another, or how the sand changes color throughout the day. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit. I was required to read this in high school and it almost squelched my love of reading. Can you imagine?

    • Yikes! Thankfully, I never read Robinson Crusoe…but my “tried-to-kill-my-love-of-reading” book was Moby Dick. Hate the book. Hate the story. Too….much….dense….writing. 😛

      • Well…Moby Dick may or may not have been my first DNF! I actually bought it so I could say I read it. I don’t think I made it past the first chapter.

        • My first “tried to kill my love of reading” book was A Tale of Two Cities… I made it through it, but only because I was required to read it for school.

  4. Very true! A lot of these are the same for me.

  5. A lot of these are my reasons, too! I never thought about the reading slump coming after a really good book/series before. That must explain why everything I read after a Maggie Stiefvater book seems a little…dull. 😛 Oops. Maybe it’s a good idea to take a break after reading a completely awesome and mindblowing book so the next one doesn’t lose its fair chance.

  6. Oh my gosh. I’m the WORST at finishing books. I’ll go as far as to say I probably finish half the books I start. *hides* But it’s usually because of one of these reasons. Flat characters, zero plot, oh, and #7. I’m not in the mood. Which, like you said, is my fault, not the books. Also, MARK OF THE LION SERIES!! AHHH! I have successfully not allowed myself to read it for three consecutive years *gasp* because it not only ruins other books for me, but makes me feel like I should probably never try to write again. :/

  7. I agree with every one of these especially number 3!

  8. Rebekah Gyger

    I go through phases where I will finish all the books, no matter how much I dislike them, and then phases where I don’t finish them. I really can’t say what puts me in these phases because I can have two books, dislike them for the same reason, read them during different phases, and then finish one but not the other.

    The closest I can guess to why I might finish a book I don’t like is that I know of other people who really like it and I would like to finish it and understand why they liked it so much. If I already understand why they liked it so much, I’m less likely to push through.

    • Sometimes I do push through for the sake of my Goodreads challenge. LOL. I’ll often push through if I know “the ending” will be a shock (according to other readers.)

  9. “…and because of that, random deaths just have no place in fiction. Even if it’s just to “show the horrors of war” (do you hear me, Suzanne Collins?!)”

    Nuff said.

    • Anna Bourassa

      Yup. I hear ya.

    • Anna Bourassa

      Yes! You said it! I have SUCH a HARD time not finishing what I start… but I’ve learned that sometimes you just HAVE to. Thank you for the blog! 🙂

      • Awww Finnick was a good character too. I hated that 3rd book anyway for so many reasons. The things that turn me off to finishing a book is 1. Info dumping in the beginning of the book. I am usually ok with some in the middle, if it serves a purpose. But I have trouble skimming (my husband has perfected it, which is probably useful lol) Because i’m terrified I’ll miss out on something haha. Also when character dialogue is just INFO dialogue – ICK. 2).I am a fan of christian fiction though I wasn’t always, but I do not like unnecessarily preachiness. 3). Bad writing. Just plain and simple. This is a huge reason I do not do ARC reviews. It’s hard to force myself to finish something only to have to write a bad review too at the end? 🙁 Unless it’s an author I trust. As you mentioned, that’s a big one too. If I do not trust an author I won’t pick up any of their books

  10. Ditto. Especially number 3 and 6. Sometimes I feel guilty for not reading the classics, (at least, I haven’t in a long time.) but if I’m not enjoying the book, then I see no point in reading it.

    • I read so many classics growing up, that I feel I got all the important ones out of the way, LOL. I liked them and I’ll urge my kids to read them. But…now that I’m writing YA it’s a bit harder to step away and get into a classic. 😛

  11. These are pretty much exactly the same reasons I don’t finish a book. I will usually read it until the end… But there are a few books that I’ve just stopped reading.

    One book I started reading about three times before I finished it, and even then I only gave it three stars… Which was a pity, because everyone else I knew who had read it loved it… Just… The writing grated, I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the plot was ridiculously predictable.
    I finally got around to reading the second book in the series, because everyone said the series got better as it went on. The second book was better, but I still only cared about one of the characters. Soooo… I haven’t decided if I want to continue the series or not.
    Characters are the number-one reason I’ll enjoy a book, and keep reading. If I don’t care about the characters, I won’t keep reading.

    There’s the secret, right there, y’all. 😛

  12. I used to finish everything too, but I no longer do. I tell myself I don’t have time to spend on bad books, 3 will kill any book for me, and the others do, but to a lesser extent.

  13. I agree with you on everything but the info dumps and density points. I love those classics and a good slice of life with thick, rich vocabulary words that make you pull out a dictionary.

    But I’m a homeschool mom, so I *live* at school. Hahahaha.

  14. I used to finish everything…but college broke that habit. I went to a very academically rigorous school–after finishing, it was years before I could bring myself to read much of anything with substance. And now I don’t force myself to finish books unless I think/hope there will be a payoff.

    Though, oddly, I don’t relate to this list! I expected to. If I like a book–or trust the person who recommended it–I finish it. If I don’t like the book (probably because the story, character, writing, or world rub me wrong) I don’t. My taste is fairly varied–I just love a good story.

    It often takes me weeks/months to finish books, and I’m always reading 2-3 at a time (so I can read what I’m in the mood for).

  15. #6 is my number one reason for not finishing a book (and it leads to #9). Some authors over-pack their stories with detail. I get that they want to pass on every nuance of their vision, but a writer has to trust the reader and let the story breathe.

  16. Pingback: It ’tis life!! (but … not good??) | readinganyone

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  18. My wife loves fiction books but has had to put so many books in the DNF pile due to inappropriate content (#3-#5), so I created That Review Site (https://thatreviewsite.herokuapp.com).

    It is a web app that allows users to read (and create) reviews for books that show how age-appropriate the book is so they don’t have to stop halfway through.

    Please check it out and add a few books!

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