Bookish Discussions

To Finish Or Not To Finish A Book?

Last year around this time I was close to finishing about 25 books and reviewed 15. This year it’s much less and my DNF pile is an actual pile and not a possibility. I’ve been wondering why. Here are some tangible reasons:

  • I started an ESL endorsement program and doubled up on coursework this semester
  • I’ve taken on coaching twice a week for GOTR
  • Getting settled into a new home with projects almost every weekend
  • I’m binge watching a lot of shows and movies that I somehow missed because of the voracious reading in past years
  • I’m listening to podcasts, watching TED talks, and finding other creative outlets in my spare time

But I’ve always been busy, so what is going on this year? Why am I putting down so many books without pushing myself to finish?


Image: Austin Kleon


Here are some theories I have after talking to many friends, bloggers and coworkers who feel the same as I do:

  • I’m being more choosy with my reading time
  • Maybe I’m not picking the right books
  • Am I going through another reading genre shift?
  • The “I’m on a reading roll” hasn’t started for me this year yet
  •  It’s only March

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself but I really miss that feeling of reading one book after the next that I can’t put down. I’ll settle for ones that keep me interested at least. I used to have a “read 50 pages rule” and tell that to many patrons at the library, to give books a chance. But that’s not even working for me. Except recently when I pushed a bit with The Heart because stylistically it was a challenge for me and I ended up really liking it. My head seems distracted and it has always been a book that would get me out of my head and into a story, a setting unlike my own, surrounded by characters I love or despise. Or…is it simply the book? I think I will just adopt Austin Kleon’s “33 thoughts on reading“. It’s a pretty fabulous list. Hishow to read morelist is also one I read often and posted a copy in my office. 

He even has downloadable screen savers for your phone like this one to stay away from the “time-suckers”:

read a book instead wallpaper

Image: Austin Kleon

All the books I’ve put down and/or returned to the library unfinished might still be books that I will eventually read and like. But should I even care? It’s not like there is a shortage of books out there. Reading is my “daily dosage”, something I find pleasure in. I’m not getting paid to read, don’t receive any ARCs, or have deadlines to meet. So…

I’m curious, do you have a DNF pile?

What’s your rule of thumb for DNFing or do you always push through?


8 thoughts on “To Finish Or Not To Finish A Book?

  1. Interesting thoughts. I feel pretty similarly to you this year… I only have one 5-star read under my belt, and just haven’t felt that one book after another need either. I’ve read some good stuff, but nothing much truly GREAT. I’m hoping it’s just a matter of time, but it does get harder to keeping coming back to reading again and again to only be a bit let down. I think, like you, this is due to a myriad of things in my life at the moment… like having a baby due in about a month. I don’t have any hard, fast DNF “rules” but have embraced the concept a bit more this year than I ever have before. Wow, ramble ramble… guess I had some stuff to say! Hopefully your mojo will return, or you’ll find a way to be okay with your current state… either way, it’s all good 🙂

  2. I’m kind of in the same boat (with so many of the same distractions!) this year. My problems is that I haven’t been DNFing quite enough but just letting books linger too long. I’m taking a week to read books that would normally take me a day or two and it feels so odd. I really hate it and it’s making me feel so off balance!

    • Seriously! The house adventure has been great as well as school but reading all the academic doorstoppers really has taken a toll on my reading time. I’ve had the same experience of letting books linger much longer than usual and it does make me feel off balance too. Great point!

  3. First of all, thank you for that link to the 33 Thoughts on Reading. Genius.

    Second. I find it really very interesting that so many of us are having similar issues this year. I don’t think it’s a lack of good material. I think the world in general has been more…distracting? active? intrusive? There is so much going on in the world at large, important things, and we all also have had things crop up in our personal lives. Good and bad. Katie’s fabulous baby, Shannon’s move and educational issues, my house and work issues, your extra-curricular events. It just seems like the past four or five months have been a whirlwind of things that have tilted our mindsets just enough that it’s harder to connect with things even when we find the time. At least that’s my poor excuse for a shitty reading history thus far. 🙂

    I used to make myself finish everything. I’ve gotten much better. I now feel free to put something down, even putting down a review book very rarely (just did it for the first time in a long time). I often “skim read” to the end of something if I’m deep enough in that I hate it/don’t care, but still have some curiosity as to how it all ends. Or, in one case, I hated it, but wanted to see just how many times the author annoyingly described in detail HOW EVERYTHING SMELLED. For the record, it was almost 50.

    • Ha! That book sounds very “scent-sory?” Bad joke, yes. I agree with everything you’ve said here. Aren’t Kleon’s thoughts great?! Felt like he pulled them directly out of my head. And I “skim read” to the end of books I’m not really feeling but have invested so much time with too. Posts like these make me feel like we all go through reading roller coasters. It’s nice to hear I’m not alone. 🙂

  4. I don’t have a rule for my DNF’s, I just put them down if I’m not into them. Sometimes it’s page 1 and sometimes it’s page 75. Usually I can tell if it’s my mood or the book, so books that I’m just not in the mood for I tend to give a second chance. Otherwise, I just put it down and move on!

  5. I used to push through, but have finally realized life is too short. My DNFs are way up this year and I don’t know if it’s me or the books. Maybe when you read as much as we all do you’re less tolerant? I don’t know but I’m in the same boat. Only difference- I don’t have a pile. If I DNF it, it leaves the house.

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