When to DNF a Book: Have you ever "broken up" with a read?

When to DNF a Book: Have you ever "broken up" with a read?

 Really, it's not you... it's me.

At first, things started as they usually did. The characters were new and interesting, and the flow took a little getting used to, but the more I read, the more I got sucked into the lovely universe between my hands. So I flipped page after page, enjoying the experience of reading without giving too much thought about where I was going. What did it matter? It was a good book!

It wasn’t until I got to page 176 that I realized this story had a cancer subplot. I didn’t want to read a book with a cancer subplot. So just as easily as I did each night before bed, I put the book down and left the characters I came to love. But this time, I said “goodbye” for good. 

Why I'm OK with #DNF A Book... Even Good Ones

Starting a book and not finishing it isn’t my M.O. I feel a strange commitment to characters (they’re friends!) and I like to see where they end up. Even if I’m not completely invested in a story, I finish it because, well, it’s what I’ve always done. 

But in this case, I made an exception. Reading about cancer was too much when I was watching my mother fight her own battle with breast cancer. Maybe it’s self-absorbed, but I couldn’t read about the characters without constantly thinking about my own life. And especially at this time, I wanted books that distracted me from my whirling thoughts, not ones that made me feel like I was in a wrestling match with them. 

Oddly enough, I didn’t have the same issue with TV shows or movies with cancer plots, which is a good thing since there’d be little to watch! (Joking, sort of.)  But reading is such an intimate, quiet experience. It hit me differently. It hit deeper.

Why Do You DNF a Book?

After chatting with a few friends, I learned I wasn’t alone in the book breakup: stopping mid-read and not finishing a book. Their experiences of putting down books unfinished were a combination of simply not enjoying a read and something specific to their personal lives that stopped them from moving forward. I had a friend who stopped reading a book with a cat character because she recently lost her beloved furry family member. Another didn’t want to read a book that had a character with the same name as her ex-boyfriend. Hey, we all have our things! And that's ok.  

Now that it’s been almost two years since my mom’s diagnosis and she is living her best Yiayia (Grandma) life,  I look at the book firmly rooted on my shelf, wondering if I should pick it up and try again. After all, some broken bonds can be rekindled, right? 

What makes you stop reading a book? And have you “broken up” with a book for a reason that was more about you and less about the book? If so, I’d love to hear why in the comments below! 

While you're here, here are the life-changing books our Page Petal team loves and our favorite quotes about reading.

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Great article. I have broken up with a few books. It wasn’t them, it was me.


Yes! I always feel so guilty not finishing a book. But, if a book is boring or I’m just not connecting with the plot I have to walk away. There are too many good books in the world to read something that you’re not loving!

Samantha Bryden

I tend to always complete a book as well. Even if I don’t like it I will fight through. (I’m learning to DNF though!) I had a book earlier this year I was really psyched about called Breeds. It’s a werewolf book but early on I could see the writing on the wall that there would be elements of canine abuse and I just couldn’t do it. So I put that one away. Sometimes self-care is a DNF and sometimes you just have to wait for the right time for a specific book.

Samantha Stark

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