Jan 19 2012 9:42am

When Does Your TBR Change to DNF?


Your TBR (To Be Read) pile beckons, and you pull out a book you’ve been dying to get to. You’re reading, maybe a chapter, two chapters in, and you realize you’re not enjoying the read.

When do you decide to change your TBR book to a DNF (Did Not Finish)?

Are you a completist, who must finish every book she starts, no matter what, or do you throw in the towel after a certain amount?

How long do you wait before declaring your book a DNF?

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Melanie Thomas
1. missmelthomas
If I'm reading a book but not really into it I'll put it aside, read something else and then go back to it. Some books are just really slow in the beginning and since I like the concept I want to stick with it. There are only a few books I didn't finish.
Victoria Janssen
2. VictoriaJanssen
It's taken me a lifetime, but I'm finally getting better about putting books aside if I find them tedious. I do usually give them another chance or two; then I give them away to someone who might enjoy them more.

What's scary is that recently I got rid of about 20 books from the TBR without starting to read them at all. I had moved on from my interest in them, or had forgotten who recced them to me, or why.
Megan Frampton
3. MFrampton
@missmelthomas: I find that once I put a book aside, I just can't get back into it, so I know, once I stop, I'm done. I am currently struggling with a well-written, but not compelling, book and I know that if I take a break I'll never finish it. And I want to finish it!

@VictoriaJanssen: I hear you. I used to always finish my books, but now have realized life is too short (and there are too many books to read!). Like you, I've also dumped books from the TBR pile without ever reading them, because I knew there would always be a book I'd rather read ahead of them, so why keep them around?
Kristin O
4. krismas29
I have no trouble declaring a book DNF if it is the first in a series. I am not going to commit my time and money to something I am not enjoying.

I have a more difficult time if the book is a stand alone or comes highly recommended. I feel like I will forever be wondering about the outcome - or what caused others to fall in love with the story - if I don't slog through until the end. I am not opposed to reading the final chapters and skipping the middle though.
5. Lafka
There are very few books I haven't finished when started reading. I finish stories I'm not into since the beginning if I find them "so-so". But I just can't bring myself to finish a book if, after the, mh let's say 5-6 first chapters, the characters, the lines or the plot have me rolling my eyes, snorting in derision or puffing in exasperation. Not that my time is THAT precious that I can't spend a few hours on a book I don't like _ it's just that I take reading as a pleasure, and the moment it becomes a chore I prefer to give it up. There are some many TBR books, I don't want to dwell on books that are not worth it.
So, my DNF pile of books is not very high yet, but it exists nonetheless! The last book to join it was some "young adult" book, I guess it was "Numbers" by Rachel Ward. The heroine was such an annoying brat, and the lines so plain, and the plot so uninteresting, I gave up. It was quite early in the book, I'm not even sure I made it to chapter 5. The main character was so frustrating, always weeping over herself, and gnagnagna I'm such a misunderstood rebel, and gnagnagna my life sucks. Pfew, it raised the worst in me, and I just had to stop reading before jumping into the book and actually wallop her! So yes, not a romance novel, but definitely on my DNF list! ;)
6. SarannaDeWylde
I used to be a completist. I read very quickly and if I didn't much care for it, it was only two hours of my time.

But now my time is much more precious and there are so many books waiting to be read. My TBR pile is more like a book golem than a pile. Sometimes, I think it creeps toward me while I'm sleeping...

If it doesn't grab me by the first page, I'm done. This is a recent development for me. It took a long time to accept it was okay not to finish a book if it didn't move me. I'm not going to finish an entree if it doesn't taste good, so why force myself to read a book that I'm not enjoying?

I've had less and less patience for things that don't grab me and make me care by page one. I think it's because I'm also a writer and one of the things that's been drilled into my head is that I have to hook the editor/readers by page one. So, I've started holding my reading material to the same standard.

The whole I might miss a good book thing doesn't sway me into reading more of the same book I'm not loving, but encourages me to put this one down and move on to the next. Because that next one might be the one I fall in love with and the one that changes the way I see the world or makes me happy or introspective, or is that roller coaster ride that makes me laugh, cry, cheer, and grit my teeth all at once, or any of the things that a wonderful book can do to you.
7. JacquiC
I usually give a book a couple of tries before concluding that it should be put in the DNF pile. If after a few tries it is still not doing anything for me, I will sometimes skim through the rest of it to see if it gets better and see what happens in the plot. Or I'll just abandon it. If it is something I paid money for, I will be more persistent in trying to get into it than if it was a freebie or a 99c deal!
Carmen Pinzon
8. bungluna
I guess having my tbr pile in a subscrition library helps me be more cavalier about putting books aside unfinished. I've even started skimming through books in series that I used to love but that have become a chore to read, just looking for pertinent details needed to continue the series. I have to confess, though, that every book I pick up gets read at least for the first 2-3 chapters and the last ones. The middle? Not so much.
9. Free
I am horrible OCD. I cannot start a story and not know how it ends. It may take me longer than a read I like or love, but I will get to the end then complain after about how horrible it was.
10. Jennifer R
I am a speed reader, so I usually give it either 100 pages or about halfway through the book before I throw in the towel. If it's still not any good by that point in time, it's probably not going to improve, and the few books I've dredged through after that point really didn't get better.

I read one vampire book one time where 200 pages in, the heroine STILL hadn't figured out she was dealing with vampires. Oh, for crying out loud... that's where that got chucked.
robyn cheatham
11. robynC
i ALWAYS finish the book... I usually prefer to read books in series, so if a book is tedious or just plain sucktacular, i'll gladly give up on the series - but i just can't stop mid-story. i always feel like i might've missed something if i give up too soon. heh. maybe someday i'll learn. maybe not.
12. jsmom2
I usually give it a good couple of chapters... character development, world building, plotting, writing style and humor all contribute to moving onto chapter three

DNF is usually unintentional poor grammar and lack of proofreading/editing to include typos and run-on paragraphs - it's too distracting. As to plot: BOR-ing, excessive TSTL moments and current protagonist adultery are about it...
13. BrooklynShoeBabe
There are a handful of good books that I've picked up, started, and put down again with the desire to finish them. However, most books that I stop reading, are absolute page 50/DNF EVER! If I get to page 50 of a book and I am not into it, I just stop. There are too many books in the world for me to waste my time with one that just doesn't do it for me.
Marian DeVol
14. ladyengineer
Although I am willing to read "fluff" (fictional equivalent of meringue – a lot of air, little substance, pure escapism), I am increasingly impatient with poorly written fluff. This evaluation is usually given to SF/Fantasy novels I read. I am a bit more tolerant of romance offerings.

Poorly written implies one or more of the following - poor grammar/spelling/word usage (e.g. incorrect use of there/their/they're, to/two/too, do/due/dew, so/sew/sow), inane dialog, contrived or boring plot, TSTL heroines, etc. I can overlook one or two occurrences, but a constant barrage makes for a painful read.

A different, but related problem... I am a bookaholic from a long LINE of bookaholics and started buying my TBR pile in college when I first had a discretionary budget. Frequently, Life, the Universe and Everything happens before I make much of a dent in the TBR pile. By the time I come back up for air (and the next read), I am distracted by the next 42 items purchased in the meantime (apologies to the late Douglas Adams) and never make it back to the first 42 (a case of intellectual ADD ).

This having gone on for more than a decade or two, I am faced with WAY too many books for available shelf space. As I peruse my collection for candidates for the nearest book sale, used book store, or donation center, a number of books I've never read (TBR) have mysteriously become DNF offerings without my reading a single page. ;->
Sandi Logsted
15. sandlog
I find that as I've gotten older, my willingness to read every book I start has gotten progressively smaller. I try to give the book at least 50 pages, if something hasn't resonated with me by then, it never will. Sometimes I can put a book aside, and come back to it at a later date, usually after I have glommed too much of something, and after my palate has cleared and I've read something completely different. My TBR pile gets weeded out about every six months, and the criteria usually is if there's nothing compelling me to keep the book & its been in the pile for a year, out it goes, usually to a thift store that supports a charity. Granted this is just for traditional books, you really don't want to see my kindle, that becoming borderline scary.
16. J_L
I almost always finish the books I start, but if I do DNF, it's almost always within the first 10 pages. I usually know right away if I'm not in the mood for a book and if I'm not likely ever get into that mood.
Myretta Robens
17. Myretta
When I was in my 20s, John Jakes cured me the dreaded endurance read. I can't remember which of his books it was, but in the middle of it, I realized that life was too short to read something I wasn't enjoying just because I'd started it. Thank you Mr. Jakes. These days, when I hit that point, I'll occasionally skip to the last chapter and read the payoff before I discard the book. These days I'll occasionally go through my TBR mountain and weed out books that I will probably never start and send them along to a home that will appreciate them more.
Debra Stocking
18. stocking
No matter how hard I try, unless the book is absolutely horrendous, it will almost never make it into an DNF pile. I keep thinking, "It'll get better." I blame it on a well read parent who continually gave me the classics to and pushed me to read them by talking about how great they were - perhaps when they came out eons ago but a lot of them today - zzzzzzz - and I still can't force myself to put a lousy one down.
19. KristinH
If I put a book down and don't pick it back up for a LONG time (say, a week), then I usually declare it DNF. Usually; there are exceptions to this rule.

It's generally a bad sign if I start book A, read book B from start to finish, and still haven't finished book A -- that usually means the death knell for book A.
Jasmine Ray
20. JassyBaby
Agree with Jennifer R. I usually try to dredge through a hundred pages, even if I don't like it. If I still don't like it after that it gets axed.
It's hard for me to DNF a series book by a favorite author. Because honestly, sometimes our favorite authors write a crappy book or two. So even if I'm not really feeling the book I'll think "Okay, it's by *insert NYT bestselling author here* and it's part of *insert popular series here* and it's got vital information important to the series so I need to hang in there! Ugh..."
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