Standing on my Soapbox: The Statistical Probability of DNFing a Book

I know some people are dead set against DNFing a book, and I also know that some people are totally for it. Ultimately, it’s the reader’s choice, and as for me, I support DNFing. No apologies here, and I’ll explain my reason why below.

I try not to DNF – I truly put my nose to the grindstone and force myself to get to a certain point in a book, no matter how awful it is. Lately, I’ve set the bar at about 40%. If it’s a long book, maybe 30%. There has been only one book (which I won’t name) where I put it down after reading maybe ten pages (yes, it was that bad). With any book, I try to give it that 40% chance, just out of respect for the author and (in the case of a NetGalley ebook) the people who gave it to me. But sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t push past that 40% mark. At that point, I’ve read enough to get a good sense of if I like where the book is going – if I don’t like it, or can’t stand it, I won’t put myself through the rest. If I’ve learned one thing since starting my blog, it’s that there are too many good books out there to get caught up in one that just doesn’t work for me.

But in my DNF reviews, I have noticed a pattern. And here’s the brutal truth: I am far more likely to DNF a NetGalley book than one I actually purchased.

I think there’s two reasons for this:

  1. NetGalley is free, while everything else is from my bank account. There’s definitely that financial urge to read a book, no matter what, when I’ve paid for it myself. Essentially: “Dammit I spent good money on this and I’ll at least finish it once so I can properly rant about how pissed I am that I shelled over seventeen bucks for this haphazard pile of words.” With NetGalley, it’s free. There’s no personal investment for me. So there’s less of a psychological guilt trip when I give up on one that I received. I know I’m a horrible blogger – but I’m supposed to be honest here, right? Please don’t hang me by my toes.
  2. Books from NetGalley aren’t always the best. Let’s be honest: a lot of NetGalley books (at least the ones I’ve read), are indie or self-published, and they’re not the most refined or well-edited. Most of them are from brand new authors, so I just have to go by faith that I’ll like their writing style. Sometimes this works in my favorite (Hello, Backward Glass by David Lomax or Sia by Josh Grayson), but many times it just doesn’t.

This isn’t to say that I don’t DNF a book I bought: Dear John is still a black hole in my memory *war flashbacks*. But ultimately, what I read is my choice. I rule the roost around here, and if I don’t want to read the book, I won’t.

Although I do still feel bad about my NetGalley books. Poor babies. I promise to be better to you!

So what about you? Have you seen any patterns in the books you DNF? 

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30 thoughts on “Standing on my Soapbox: The Statistical Probability of DNFing a Book

  1. Life’s too short to keep reading a bad book for the sake of just finishing it (Plus there are so many books out there waiting to be read), so I fully support your right to DNF.:) I haven’t read Dear John but I’ve seen the film and based on that I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere near the book.

  2. I support DNF too. If I don’t like a book, what is the use of forcing myself to finish it? I read because I like it, so when that’s not happening, I put it down. Sometimes I’ll give it a second chance (if I wasn’t in the mood), sometimes I’ll never pick it up (if it was a bad book)

    • That’s another thing: being in the mood. Like lately I’ve been on a huge fantasy kick, so if someone shoves a fluffy romance at me I’d be a lot more likely to DNF it just because I’m not in the right mood.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oooh yes! I know I wrote a post about why I don’t DNF, and I am pretty sure this was one of my points. I don’t do review books, so I have never had a book from NetGalley or anything like that. Which means, unless I win a book in a giveaway, all my books are ones that I spent my hard-earned money on. I value my money and I just feel like it’s a complete waste for me not to read the entire book if I dished out money for it, no matter how bad it is. It’s like my punishment for spending my money unwisely! So I think this makes total sense!

    • That’s true! If I’ve paid for it (especially a hardback, since they’re so expensive), I’m going to see it through to the end.

      If I get something from a used bookstore, though, that’s way different, since they’re so much cheaper!

  4. *stands up and claps* I wholeheartedly agree. We should be able to DNF a book without having to feel bad about it because in the end it’s our time and we should be free to spend it how we want.

  5. I try to read all the Netgalley books I get but more often than not the quality just isn’t there. Between less than stellar books, terrible formatting, and completely unusable files – I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to convert unconvertable files for kindle – I’m not going to be chained to my computer to read a book (though I did make an exception for This Song Will Save Your Life). I have DNFed and even DNSed a lot of Netgalley books.
    I feel like Edelweiss has a much higher quality, when it comes to books and formatting. I’ve only completely skipped one because I heard there were no quotation marks and DNFed another that I plan to give another shot in the future.
    I have DNFed one book that I purchased, but I returned it. I usually know what I’ll like well enough that this isn’t an issue for me

    • I haven’t tried Edelweiss yet, but maybe I will if they have better formatting. That seems to be my issue lately, especially with my Kindle files. All the lines are off and it makes it really hard on my eyes to get through a book.

      And I hadn’t even tried converting a file so you’re more dedicated than I am!

  6. I love this post and completely agree with you about everything! I definitely end up DNFing Netgalley books more than any other books, for both the reasons that you mentioned and also because I tend to be way more picky when I’m purchasing a book with my own money than when I’m requesting egalleys. Although I’m learning that I need to be more hesitant, haha.

    • That’s true too! I’ve been trying to decide what to order on Amazon for the last few weeks for my big fall book haul, and I’ve been so indecisive because I want to make sure it’s exactly what I know I want and will like.

  7. I always admire people who take a strong stance against not DNF’ing a book (Chrys’ reasons for doing it seriously make me want to bow down to her for being so determined), because damn, it’s really hard to force yourself to read through a book you’re not enjoying. And you know me, I’m one of the most impatient readers around — and most picky, too — so: DNF all the way! And I can so relate to you, too, where NG books and personal-purchased ones are concerned.

    Most of the books I’ve DNF’d are e-galleys, and I feel horrible for doing that because I know publishers/authors are expecting reviews from ME, and they’ve approved ME to read the book, and I feel so grateful. But like you said, NG books are free, so I don’t feel as bad about it if I DNF them. And anyway, life is too short to be spent reading torturous books (yaha, I just used one of the most cliche reasons). I understand what you mean by indie books, though. I try not to be prejudiced, honest, but if I had to pick, I’d go with traditionally published ones any day. Which is why I don’t request much on NG anymore unless it’s from a publisher I know.

    But you know what’s weird? Sometimes, if I’m not enjoying the book (stupid characters or a horrible plot and whatnot), I find myself pushing to finish it so I can rant all about it in a review! I love writing snarky reviews, though I’m not too good at them, so if the book isn’t too bad but still has all the qualities I’d really, really hate, then I’ll try to finish it so I can make people laugh by its ridiculousness. I know, I’m strange. >.< As of right now, though, my bar is around 30% – 40%. If I've read more than half of the book and am not enjoying it, I'll still push on because I wasted THAT much amount of time. Best just to get it over with, you know?

    • Chrys is seriously a trooper! Maybe one day I’ll have as much gumption to never DNF, but for now I’m easily swayed by my dislike!

      You just brought up another great point! I’ve requested enough books on NetGalley now to know which publishers I like (Flux, Atria books, The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publication House, for example) and which I should stay away from (Month9Books comes to mind for me, and Harlequin Teen can sometimes be added into this). It makes it easier to decide if I want to request it or not, even if the synopsis sounds amazing! 50% of the time, the synopsis is so misleading, and I end up hating the book.

      That same thing just happened with me for Waterfell by Amalie Howard! It was good enough that I could keep reading, but I could not stop rolling my eyes the entire time at some of the characters’ actions.

      And I agree: once I reach 50%, I’ll just finish it because why not? It gets faster from there.

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  9. #1 is definitely a contributing factor in why I don’t buy books unless I’ve already read it and know I’ll want to read it again. I have a few authors who are exceptions… but I don’t like to gamble, and buying a book I don’t KNOW I’ll love is definitely a gamble.

  10. I don’t tend to DNF books…because I’m just AWFUL at doing that!! It’s like I am just unable not to stop reading! What I do tend to do is put books down and tell myself that I will read them later….and then I don’t….oops! I have to stop doing that!

    • Well ultimately it IS up to you – if reading all the way through works, then do it! I just have so little patience when I’m fed up with something 😉 Patience is a virtue… That I don’t have.

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  12. I find it much easier to DNF audiobooks than other formats. Audiobooks have that extra element that can affect the experience, and I am a lot less forgiving of the storytelling than when I read a book myself.

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