Spotted on Dear Author today: to DNF or not to DNF

Dear Author pointed at this article today, in which the article writer admonishes people who bail on a book before finishing it. I do not agree with the article, though I’ll give its author props for a cogently written argument.

As you all know, Internets, I am a voracious reader–voracious enough that I’ve started reading books in a whole extra language, for fuck’s sake. I read on the bus. I read at lunch. I read while waiting in lines for stuff. I read print. I read ebooks. I read on my phone. I read on ereaders. If there’s a newspaper lying around and I have nothing else to read, I’ll read that. Hell, if there’s something suitably interesting on it, I’ll read the back of a cereal box.

So trust me when I tell you that 999 times out of a thousand, if I commit to starting a book, chances are very high that I will finish it. If I pick up a book in the first place, I’ve already done my due diligence–I’ve read reviews of it, I’ve checked out its ratings, I’ve probably even read sample chapters. Something about the book has piqued my interest and made me think, okay yeah, this is possibly a book with which I will be happy to entertain myself for a few hours.

But every so often, I will DNF a book. (That’s Did Not Finish, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the acronym.)

And when I do, it’s typically because something in it has actively pissed me off. Crappy writing isn’t usually enough by itself to make me do that–though I’ve found that if I have too many reactions of “no no no YOU’RE WRITING IT WRONG”, I’ll bail. More often than not, though, it’s because something in the storyline has pissed me off. Usually, a character that does something that makes me want to climb into the book and punch them out of irritation.

As the article I link to points out, sure, it’s possible that a book that does that to me will eventually hand me something awesome that makes up for it pissing me off. But I can think of exactly one example of a book where the writing was compelling enough to make me stick around, despite the fact that I actively loathed every character in the book. And the book in question did not in fact redeem itself in my experience.

So I don’t honestly see the point of sticking around to finish a book that irritates me. That’s tantamount to saying “gosh, hitting myself on the head with this hammer really hurts! But maybe if I keep at it long enough, it’ll start feeling better!”

Seriously, who has time for that?

What about the rest of you? What makes you bail on reading a book?

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