Despite all my hopes of reading more books this year and setting a ridiculously high goodreads challenge as encouragement, I am not having the best start to the year reading-wise. I have ‘DNF’d’ four, that’s right four, books already this year and the time I wasted pushing through to at least half way of those four, was time I could have spent reading other, more fabulous books.
The fact that I am even DNFing books at this point is surprising me as I thought I was getting better at picking stories that work for me. Surely I should know my own tastes by now? Perhaps it would be different if I was dipping into different genres trying to get a feel for new-to-me works and I was struggling, but the books I’ve put down this year have all been fantasy reads. And fantasy is my jam!
For those who don’t know, DNF stands for ‘did not finish’ and it wasn’t something I usually do, I always try to force myself to complete a current read before starting something new. Well, over the past few months that has been changing. I am slowly getting better at stopping when I’m really not enjoying a book or when I’m not getting that excited feeling when I think about reading. I always know when I’m reading a good book when I don’t want to put it down and I’m desperate to pick it up again, often reading waay too late at night to get to the end. If I’m not getting that feeling, I really need to be putting it down.
What may seem like an easy decision, life’s too short to read books you don’t like after all, I think there are several reasons that I find it difficult to just stop and move on. If I’ve invested money and time into something, it feels wrong to stop part way through. It feels like failing, it feels like wasted energy, it feels wrong to not see something that has cost me through to the end. Sometimes it feels wrong to have an opinion on a story I haven’t fully read and that weighs on my mind when deciding whether or not to keep going. This is made worse if the book in question is really popular amongst friends, reviewers or in the media. It’s easy to feel like I’ve just not read enough to ‘get it‘ yet, so I keep trudging on hoping to feel that spark, but in reality, if it’s not for me it leaves me feeling disappointed and usually marks the start of a reading slump.
These feelings can feel ten times stronger if I’m were lucky enough to receive a review copy or if I’m reading as part of a group/book club. I don’t know about you, but I feel like if I’ve put it out into the world that I am reading a certain book or if I’ve received it via NetGalley, I feel obligated to finish it and post a review. Now, that is something I clearly put on myself and actually no one really cares if I do or don’t – but it does affect the way I read and why I try so hard to finish every book. Especially if I got an early copy, then I really hate DNFing, or writing a negative review. But I have to remember that the whole point of a review is to give my honest opinion. Personally I like reading lower star rated reviews online because what didn’t work for them, might work for me. There are also people whose tastes are similar to mine and I enjoy seeing what they thought, regardless of whether it’s good, bad or in-between.
But despite all of this, I feel guilty when I stop reading. I feel guilty when I just don’t get on with a book. I feel guilty putting my negative thoughts out into the world because I would never want to put anyone else off reading a book nor feel like I’m attacking an author who obviously worked really hard on writing and rewriting their work until it was ready to be published. Of course I would never write anything negative about an author themselves, don’t get me wrong, but I can imagine how horrible it must feel for there to be negative reviews of work they put their heart and soul into and that makes me feel bad too.
Going forward, I think I need to change my mindset and not consider DNFing as ‘giving up‘ or as ‘failing‘. These are too negative for what in reality, should be a very simple and easy decision. Life is for the taking, why on earth should I force myself to do something I am not enjoying? I wouldn’t keep eating something I didn’t like after one bite now would I? No. And to be fair to myself, I do always try to emphasise that it didn’t work for me personally, not that others shouldn’t try it for themselves.
So here’s to 2019, the year I DNF when necessary, stay honest with my reviews (ideally just write something when I don’t enjoy a book) and not feel guilty in the slightest. Well, at least try to be better at it.
What do you think? Do you put books down if you’re not enjoying them, or power on through? I’d love to know.