August 14, 2014 • Cee • Discussion


NOTE: Be prepared for Nick Miller gifs and a slightly misleading title. This isn’t about not DNF-ing. It’s about the term “DNF.”

DNF is a familiar term that many readers use to say, “nope, I did not finish this book.” We read so many books, and sometimes, there are a few that we just cannot get through for whatever reason—may it be from the atrocious plot or an unlikeable character or the extremely snail-slow pacing. It’s a quick, short, and to-the-point term that sums up what happens between you and a book, but it’s a term I don’t particularly like to use.

When I use (or attempt to use) DNF, my brain just goes:

Yeah, DNF is easy to say, but to me, it feels so final, too official, too harsh. It’s like I’m never going to pick up the book again, which isn’t the case at all. When I put down a book, I have every intention to pick it back again…eventually…when I’m more in the mood to read it.

I usually say I put a book on “pause” or on “hiatus” because I feel like I have more freedom when I say that. I know that eventually I’ll click the unpause button when my interest in the book is renewed. I’m a mood reader, so I frequently pause books because I don’t have the attention span or the excitement to continue on. I want to give all books a fair chance to see if I love or hate it, but I won’t force myself to read because I’ll end up being annoyed, and my annoyance may be projected onto the book. It’s a losing situation until I have the urge to pick the book back up.

I acknowledge that DNF is an extremely apt term that I should use because most books I put on “pause/hiatus” will most likely never get picked back up again. (I have an ever-growing TBR list that becomes longer and longer with every passing day.) However, I don’t have it in me to officially declare a breakup with a book! I just can’t. (They stare at me with their invisible googly eyes and they say such sweet things. I cannot resist!) I like knowing that one day—in the distant future—I can get back to it. I can make it work! It’s not a permanent break-up with the book; just a long break to gather myself and decide how I feel before making any rash decisions about whether I want to keep going or not.

I’ve been trying to think of scenarios where I would officially declare a book a DNF, and I really can’t think of any. I usually would decide beforehand if the book is worth reading. That saves me the trouble of “DNF-ing” a book I’m not really into and the guilt of not being able to read it. (I just feel really bad about leading them on.)

I wish I can use DNF without making a face or internally cringing every time I encounter a book that wants me to pause it. If you ever hear me use DNF, just remember that when I’m using it, I’m making Nick Miller’s face.

Do you use the term “DNF”? Or do you use a different phrase like I do to describe “DNF”?


19 Responses to “THE THREE C’S: CANDID CONVERSATIONS WITH CEE | Breaking Up With “DNF” (or Trying To)”

  1. Ashley says:

    I use both DNF and pause depending on the circumstances. If I stop reading a book because it’s horrible or I can feel that I’m just not into it, then I do DNF because I accept that I don’t like the book and it’s not worth my time to keep going.

    But I do sometimes read books and feel like I’m just not in the mood for them RIGHT NOW. I know that it might not be a “permanent” thing and that I could be in the mood for this book later. Those are the ones that I tend to accidentally keep on my “currently reading” shelf for weeks, long after I’ve stopped reading them, because I’m not ready to admit that I’m no longer reading them. Those are books that I consider “paused” because I might actually pick them up later since I didn’t actually NOT enjoy them.

  2. 90% of the time, DNF = break up for me in which we are not getting back together. Everrrrr. Rarely I can sense that it’s just not the right time so I don’t totally give up…but not very often.

  3. Most of the time I do finish reading the books I read, so if I’m putting a book down for whatever reason, my first question to myself if I’m putting it on hold. I usually read several books at a time anyway, so I hardly notice it in anyway when that happens. If I’ve not touched a book I’m reading in three weeks or so, I shelve it as “on hold” on GR. If it stays there for six months, I either mark it as DNF or sneakily remove all records of ever having read that book. Heh. If I’m totally not feeling a book, then I do mark it as DNF from the get-go. I don’t like the thought of having to pick up a book again that I didn’t like at all. Having that nagging at the back of my mind is dreadful and gets in the way of enjoying the other books I’m reading and technically liking so much more.

  4. I have ‘pause’ which I call on-hold and I also DNF. There are sometimes books I know I’m not loving because I’m not in the mood and they are going on pause. There are sometimes books I’m dreading to read, I hate them and I just can’t stand anything in the book; those are definitely DNF books for me.

  5. You know I DNF but I can understand where you’re coming from. Saying it feels so final because you’re not going to come back to the book ever again and you’re just going to leave it unfinished. It took me a while to be okay with DNFing because it just felt so wrong to me and uncomfortable. There’s that uneasiness but then again I feel a sense of relief DNFing a book at times for the exact reason of not needing or wanting to read it again and continue where I left off. It’s a conflicting feeling but when I’m pretty much not enjoying a book, it’s hard for me to leave it and then come back to it when I’m feeling the mood because I just remember how I felt whilst reading the book and it turns me off. But kudos to you for giving all of them a chance, well a possibility of a chance :P

  6. Nikki says:

    I understand where you’re coming from, not wanting to officially break up with books by DNF-ing them. I think it depends on a reader’s outlook, whether DNF is the route for them or not. I find myself getting really stressed about all the books I have on my plate, and when I dislike one enough to want to DNF it, it’s permanent — mostly because I seriously cannot keep the remainder of a book I’m not liking on my TBR. Much less stressful to mark it as “tried it, didn’t like it, DNF’d it” rather than “I didn’t like it and I’ll get back to it and it’s staying on the ever-growing TBR.” There are way too many amazing books in the world already to let me do that, not to mention all the upcoming ones! I have to be honest with myself and fully sever all ties with my DNF’s, otherwise they just hang over me and stress me out.

  7. Charleen says:

    For me, I have to call it a DNF, even if I have every intention of coming back to it someday. I’m a one-at-a-time reader, so I can’t bounce back and forth between books, and on those occasions I do come back to a book I “paused,” I have to start over from the beginning anyway… so it’s not really a pause.

    I like the fact that DNF sounds final, because it lets me move on. But I can see how other readers wouldn’t like that… especially those who do read multiple books at once, so the “on hold” term actually makes more sense. But for me it just wouldn’t work.

  8. Hello, Cee. Greetings from a non-DNF-er! Haha I’m just too hard-wired to ever DNF a book. It’s like I’m giving up and no, that’s just not possible when it comes to books. I know that I can read a book that I’ll love instead but that’s just not a good reason because I’ll keep thinking about the book I didn’t finish. OCD, indeed.

    However, I do put books on hold for sometime and then I do pick them back up because I feel every book has the right time to be read.

  9. I think that this is something where it totally depends on what kind of reader you are. Like, from how you explained it, I can totally understand why you don’t like the term and why it doesn’t really work for you. But for me…I don’t mind using it because there really isn’t ever a circumstance in which I’m DNFing a book but it’s only “for now” and I’m considering coming back to it later. Because I’m such a schedule-oriented reader, I’m never really “not in the mood” for a certain book…I just always read whatever’s next on my list regardless. So if I’m ever stopping reading a book, it’s ALWAYS because I fully do not intend to ever go back to it. But for somebody like you, who’s maybe more of a mood reader, it makes sense to use “pause” instead, because that word more accurately fits what’s going on between you and the book right now.

    Great post! I never realized that somebody might have a problem using this term before, so it was cool to get your different & interesting perspective on the issue :)

  10. Lola says:

    Usually when I DNF a book it really means I won’t go back to it, if I pause a book it just goes back to my to-read shelf. And I pretend like I never even started it in the first place, that doesn’t happen often though. I usually either finish a book or DNF it, I can only remember one book right now that I paused. If I DNF a book I write a DNF review on goodreads and mark it as ‘read’.
    I do think the term might be too final sometimes, it might be nice to have a easy and short term to descirbe those hiatus or paused books. But for all other purposes I think the term DNF works.

  11. Katherine says:

    I use the term DNF because it is so commonly used that it’s easy for everyone to understand, but also because I will normally DNF something when I am totally done with it. I don’t DNF a lot, but when I do – it’s typically because of the writing style or something that I can’t change. If it’s just my mood, I’ll just put it back on my TBR shelf. It does sound final, but I have pulled books from that list to try again but can’t get into them.

    • I am the type of reader who reads a number of books at once. Sometimes, I’m busy reading other books for months before continuing to read a book. All of this has to do with blog commitment and my moody reading.
      I do agree though, I’ve never DNF’d a book.

      Interesting post.

  12. I have no problem DNFing books now. I just don’t have time to waste on a book that’s working for me. I have limited time to read, working full-time, so I don’t feel guilty. Great post here. Hope you get more comfortable with the concept of DNF someday. :)

  13. Finley Jayne says:

    When I DNF a book I’m totally done with it and have absolutely no desire to ever look at it again.. ‘Did Not Finish’ sounds much more polite than ‘Stupid Arse Book that Wasted My Precious Time’ buwahaha :D

  14. I totally understand your stance. I struggle to DNF because what if that book turns out to be a jewel in the end and I COMPLETELY MISS THAT. It’s hard, but then I stop and think, there are hundreds of other books on my TBR that might be jewels earlier on, that I might be happier reading at this current moment, and there isn’t enough time in life to read them all so why should I continue reading something I’m not enjoying?

    But like Ashley and Mel and quite a few other bloggers, I think, I make the distinction between ‘DNF’ and books I’m just putting down for now. DNF’d books are those that really didn’t work for me because of x, y and z reasons, reasons that won’t change if I came back to it in a few months time. But then there are books that I start but I’m just not feeling, maybe because I’m not in the mood for that genre or it’s just not holding my attention so far (usually because I’m in the start of a reading slump). With those books, I don’t DNF; I just put them back on my TBR list to try another time.

  15. I too have a lot of trouble with DNF, a lot on my DNF shelf are books from years ago that I thought I would finish, never did and now I just cant pick up. The newer ones that have managed to land there will only land there if there is something really bad about the book that is making it impossible for me to continue. I try so hard to not give up on books but I’ve realised that sometimes I just have to do that.

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