Life’s too short to read books you don’t like

Photo from Tumblr, shot by ~Unlucky13teen

Or maybe I should have said, the TBR pile has way too many books to punish yourself with one that’s not working out for you. I haven’t put up a discussion post for a while now and I’ve been thinking of what I could write about when I was inspired by the book that I’m currently reading: The Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. Hmm inspired doesn’t seem like the right word, more like driven by my frustration to write about it? You see, I’ve been struggling to read this book ever since I started it. It has a decent premise (click on the title to check it out) and I’m a big fan of strong female protagonists in epic fantasy. However, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and the writing just bugs me. The descriptions can be cut in half and when the author wants to make a point (e.g. emphasize that the main character is brave and strong in spite of her age), it gets repeated several times that I feel like I’m getting hit over the head with it. If you’re wondering why I’m still reading this book, it’s because I got review copies of the whole trilogy and if I can’t finish the first book, I won’t be able to read the sequels.

Anywho, before this post evolves to become a review of that book, I just wanted to make a point – I don’t have DNF (did not finish) books. Or rather, I never post about them. One reason that I rarely encounter DNF books is because I’m picky with the books that I read. Most of what I read are books that I buy or borrow so it’s easy to be choosy with those. Even on NetGalley or GalleyGrab, I only request for books that I’m really interested in. Whenever I start a book, I do the best that I can to finish it even if I’m not enjoying the reading experience. I can always post a lukewarm review when I’m done. And as I usually say in my not-so-positive reviews, I encourage other people to still read the books that I don’t end up loving because my reviews are subjective. If you haven’t noticed by now, I post about how the books that I read make me feel or how I connect with the characters. So in my opinion, it’s all a matter of taste. I can definitely understand why other people would love a book that didn’t work out for me and vice versa. I have no problems with that. What I’m trying to decide now is this: should I ignore the feeling of being pressured to finish a book when there are so many others on Mount TBR that are begging to be read? It has been my primary goal this year to bring down the number of books in my TBR pile to a more reasonable count (like less than a hundred). I don’t want to look at my bookshelf and feel overwhelmed with the number of books that I have. I also don’t want to feel guilty whenever I buy a new book. I feel like there are so many other books out there that I will like or love for me to waste my time on something that seems hopeless.

So, so, so. I want to get an idea of when I should quit, on whether I should continue and give it a chance or give up and move on to something better. Some questions for the rest of you: do you give the books that you read a certain page limit (like a hundred pages) and then you stop when you feel like it’s not a book that you’ll enjoy reading? Do you review DNF books on your blog? Do you feel guilty for not finishing books, especially the ones that you got for review? Have you encountered books that have irritated or annoyed you in the beginning but eventually redeemed itself in the latter chapters?

36 thoughts on “Life’s too short to read books you don’t like

  1. My DNF pile is pretty high. But Joy (the MFA in creative writing) said that I deprive myself if I don’t finish the book (especially the classics). But well, hirap ako magbasa anyway. :p

    • LOL maybe you should just borrow books instead of buying them so your DNF pile doesn’t grow? Hmm like I said, I think it’s just a matter of taste. Maybe you haven’t found the genre that you love yet. 🙂

  2. I rarely DNF a book, too. For this year, I’ve only decided not to finish two, and I posted about one. I still feel bad about not finishing a book, too, but I’ve made a rule for myself now. If it’s a book I bought, or if it’s a gift, I will do my best to finish it. But if it’s a review copy, I allow myself to quit when I feel like I can’t go on anymore. That’s why both of my DNF this year are review galleys.

    I know some people have set # of pages, but based from experience, it could still change somewhere after you quit reading, and it could be a very good book after all. I try to measure it, and maybe wait or look for reviews about the book before deciding not to finish it.

    Good luck with reading Icemark! Now I feel a bit intimidated with it. Hope it picks up for you soon. 🙂

    • I think that if I DNF a book, I probably won’t post about it because it would seem like I was ranting about it. Or I would bring them up only on discussion posts like these. I’m like you, if it’s a gift or a book that I bought, I’d do my best to finish it but if it’s a review copy, I’d allow myself to quit. It’s just that the Icemark book is part of a whole trilogy and I already have copies of the others. Sigh.

      I don’t have a set number of pages either so I guess I’ll just play it by ear and see if I can still stand to read more. I won’t push myself if I’m still not into the book halfway through.

      Like I said on Twitter, you might end up enjoying Icemark. I’m probably just less tolerant of the main character because so many of my fantasy favorites have excellent warrior-like female protagonists.

  3. I’ve always believed in setting books down and moving on if they aren’t my cup of tea. I wouldn’t review them, though. I’ve read books that were hard to get into in the beginning but usually they will still have something going for them that will make me read until the end.

    But if a book is generally uninspiring, I’ll put it down for a few months. I’m hoping that the next time I pick it up, I will be in the right mood for it but if not, I find myself admitting that I made a mistake with my purchase and move on.

    • You’re right, like I said in my reply to Tina above, I probably wouldn’t review DNF books. Yep, there are books that are hard to get into but really worth the struggle (Jellicoe Road, for example).

      Hmm I’m actually going to start another book and then try to go back to the one that I was reading. The thing with putting down a book for a certain period of time is that I tend to forget the details of the story and I wouldn’t want to start again because I had such a hard time with it.

  4. About two years ago I rarely DNFd books. But lately this has changed. I’m no longer willing to force myself to finish a book that frustrates me and that I don’t enjoy. I have about 80 books in my TBR pile and a lot more on my wishlist, so I think that reading books I don’t enjoy doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    When I don’t enjoy a book I’m jumping to the end of it and read it. If I don’t like what I read there, I put the book aside and DNF it. But of course I’m never happy to encounter a DNF book, I want to enjoy all books I pick but sometimes the chemistry between me and the book is just not there.

    • 80 books is not that bad, I’d be happy with anything less than a hundred in my TBR pile. It really doesn’t make sense to force yourself to finish something that you’re not enjoying when so many others are just waiting to be read, right? 🙂

      The thing is, even if I don’t enjoy the book, I’m reluctant to jump to the end and see what will happen because I still don’t want any spoilers. LOL it’s a bit silly, I know. It might be a good idea to try it your way though. I love what you said about the chemistry between the reader and the book.

  5. I don’t have many DNFs either. Even books I can’t stand I often stick with to the end. It’s like witnessing a car accident, impossible to look away. My DNFs are usually books I have so little interest in I’m avoiding reading them and since I only read one book at a time that means I’m avoiding reading. We can’t have that. Those are the ones I quit on because they are keeping me from reading something I might like.

    • I usually read one book at a time too unless I feel like I need a break or when I’m in the middle of something and then a copy of one of my anticipated books comes along. I know what you mean about books keeping you from reading something that you like. I feel that way too when I pressure myself to finish something that isn’t appealing just so I can move on to something better.

  6. I’ve only had one DNF book that I was supposed to review but instead of posting about WHY I didn’t finish it, I decided that it was better to just not review it at all–I had nothing positive to say about it and I felt horribly guilty since I was the one who accepted the author’s pitch. I ended up emailing them and they were very understanding about the whole issue; that interaction made me realize that I would much rather write positive reviews for books I actually FINISH….which is why I explained to my followers that I wasn’t going to write negative reviews anymore. I feel better talking about books I honestly enjoyed rather than focusing on books that I didn’t like. I know that may seem kind of backwards to some but I didn’t set out to become the next story siren when I started my blog—I started my site for fun and I intend to keep it that way!

    • I still write lukewarm reviews, not exactly negative ones, because I want to let others know why a book didn’t work out for me. But if I don’t have anything positive to say about a book then I probably won’t review it. It’s good that you had such a nice experience with your DNF book.

      I feel better talking about books that I loved to because I enjoy recommending them to other people, more so if they’re under-the-radar books. I started my blog for fun too and I want to enjoy reading instead of feeling pressured or guilty.

  7. I’ve accepted a number of self-published/very small press indeed books over the years, and a number of them I didn’t finish–I won’t write a negative review of such a book (there would be very little point), and so once I know I can’t write a postitive, or at least more positive than not, review, I just move the book on out of the house.

    I try really hard to finish books I’ve requested, of course, but not so hard on books that arrive unannounced. But those linger around the house much longer than the self-published ones, in hopes that someday I’ll get back to them, and something will have changed….

    Library books I have no problem at all returning only partially read!

    • I rarely accept self-published books. I always read the emails that they send but so far, I haven’t received something that I’d really like and I wouldn’t want to say yes just to end up giving those books negative reviews.

      I rarely request books as well, only for the ones that I really WANT to read. I’ve never gotten review copies of those. LOL but I’m okay with GalleyGrab and NetGalley though. I’ll willingly give away books that I’m no longer interested in, they might find better homes. I’ve lost count of the number of books that I’ve passed on.

      If we had libraries over here, I’d probably do the same thing!

  8. Hi Chachic! When I started reading LOTR, I thought I could never get past the pages discussing the geographical areas and the various places in Middle Earth but I’m glad I gave it a chance and it became one of my favorite books of all time.I tend to stick with the book I’m reading no matter how much I may not be enjoying it when I’m broke and don’t have anything to borrow from friends. But when I get hold of cash or something to borrow I usually abandon that not so enjoyable book 🙂 I used to get that nagging feeling regarding DNF books. It’s like they’re calling me saying: Why didn’t you finish me? Finish me! Finish ME! But I am getting better handling that now. I usually draw the line when I get glassy eyed.

    Great discussion post! Lots of luck on Icemark! 😛

    • LOTR was pretty hard to get into at the start, right? But I discovered it before the movies came out so several years before the series became popular. I guess I was hungry for fantasy books back then and I just wanted to satisfy that craving.

      LOL when you’re broke, you really don’t have much of a choice. I remember that kind of situation back in college. I’d read anything interesting that I could borrow because I couldn’t afford to buy all of the books that I wanted (good thing I wasn’t aware of the blogosphere back then).

  9. Hi Chachic! I’ve been lurking here for a while but when I saw this post, I decided to put in my two cents’ worth.

    I always try my best to finish a book that I’ve started to read. I always give the author the benefit of a doubt, plus, I think it’s difficult to have an objective opinion of a book that I didn’t even finish reading. Also, there are books that would seem very boring at first, or to lack depth, or are awfully written that continuing to read them feels like prolonging your agony. What the reader doesn’t realize is that the author has something up his/her sleeve. Book in point: Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”, which has become a favorite of mine.

    That’s it. Have a nice day! 🙂

    • Hi Monique, thanks for de-lurking to join the discussion. 🙂

      Like you, I try my best to finish every book that I start. It’s just that now that I have such a huge TBR, I don’t want to waste my time on something that I’m not enjoying anyway. I don’t want to end up with a reading slump because I’m having a hard time with one book. So maybe the TBR is really a big part of why I feel like this. But I see your point, especially about the books that become surprisingly good as things are unveiled towards the end.

  10. Hey Chachic, I meant to comment earlier. I love this post. It’s something that’s changed for me since I’ve started blogging. With the growing size of Mount TBR I DNF more books than I ever have before. At first I felt really guilty about it, but now I think I’ve accepted the subject of your post as a sort of mantra. I loosely go by a page count. It’s usually around 100 to 150 pages. If I’ve read at least half or more than half of a book and I’m still not feeling it, I’m definitely moving on. For example I hate that this happened because I loved Raw Blue so much but I trudged through 170 pages of Saltwater Vampires before I decided to DNF. That was a little more than half of the book btw. It also depends on if there’s anything (a relationship, a particular plot line) that I’m really interested in seeing the end to. Then I may finish it. I used to rarely DNF but now I seem to do it several times a year. I felt bad at first but now I don’t mind so much especially because I can look back and see a few books I finished that I wanted to DNF and I still feel like it was time wasted.

    • The subject of this post really should become my mantra. I think that if it wasn’t for Mount TBR, I’d feel compelled to finish each and every book that I read. But having so many book choices makes it harder for me to continue reading something that isn’t that good (in my opinion).

      100 to 150 pages sounds like a good idea. I think mine is maybe halfway through the book. If I’m not properly engaged by that point, then I think it’s never going to happen. Awww too bad Saltwater Vampires was a DNF for you! I was looking forward to reading that book but now that I know it didn’t work out for you, I guess I’m okay with not reading it.

      LOL about those books that you finished and feel like you wasted your time reading them. That’s the best argument so far for choosing to DNF books.

  11. Hi Chachic! This is an interesting discussion.:) I try to finish all the books I start, although there are times when I have to put down a book for a while and try again some other time (i.e. Sabriel). Usually if I really can’t get into a book, I just skim it to get a general idea of the story…does that count as a DNF?

    • Oh I have books like those too. Once that I start but then decide to take a break from. I do hope Sabriel doesn’t become a DNF book for you because it’s one of my favorites although I know we can’t always feel the same way about books. 🙂 Not sure if skimming counts as DNF but maybe it does? When I find myself skipping certain parts instead of simply reading everything, that’s when I think it’s time to take a break from the book.

  12. Many book lovers/readers can relate to this Chachic. If a book captures my attention within the first chapter, thats good. If a book can capture my attention within the first several pages thats really good. I hate having to get halfway into a book and end up not liking it to a point where I stop reading it. I hate doing that. One book I read, “Mercy” by Jodi Picoult, I was not enjoying. So much was going on , it didn’t seem to flow and the breif historical paragraphs threw me off. The only reason I forced myself to finish it was because I wanted to know what the verdict would be in the end since the story had a courtroom drama to it. Have you ever done that? Forced yourself to read something just because you wanted to know how everything would end? In the end, in my review I said that the concept of the story was really good but the writing was poor.

    • I think that has happened to me before although I can’t name anything specific right now. I’m okay with reaching the halfway mark in a book and then giving up if it’s still not working out for me. I think that it would take me that long before I can convince myself that I don’t need to feel guilty about DNF-ing the book. LOL.

  13. Luckily, I can currently only count my DNF books on one hand. Like you, I’m extremely choosy with the books that do wind up in my hands. I like to read book bloggers’ opinions, or get referral from friends.

    Yes, sometimes it seems like life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I don’t have a system, either. For The DUFF, I only made it a few chapters in, not wanting to return to it. For Being Jamie Baker, I got well into over half of the book. So it depends, really.

    There are SO many good books out there, it just feels unfair to neglect them. =)

    • I am picky except for review copies that I don’t ask for so maybe I shouldn’t feel bad if those become DNF books? I’m like you, I search about the book before I even add it to my wishlist. I usually find out about books through book bloggers anyway.

      Yep, I guess it really depends on how much you can still tolerate. There really is a point when you feel like you can’t go one anymore or that pushing through with be a waste of time.

      Exactly! When you’re reading a book that isn’t that good, it feels like that’s time away from another book that you could be loving.

  14. You know I read category romances as well right? I’ve had a lot of eye-rolling, DNF books from those. Usually, but not limited to, books that were published after 2000.

    I’ve had less DNF books since I got my kindle though, probably because it’s more tempting to put down a physical book to do something else compared to doing the same with a gadget like the kindle.

    • LOL but you buy those books for the covers, right? So you didn’t really get them for the content.

      That’s weird, I would think that you’d have more DNF books with the Kindle because it’s easier to stop reading ebooks than actual books. Or maybe because the review copies that I get are mostly ebooks (galleys).

    • The adjustable font size in the kindle is a factor I suppose, since it’s somewhat easier (for me at least) to force oneself to finish reading a boring book with big print compared to the same with tiny single spaced print.

      It’s the traditional regency romances that I buy for the covers, and most of the time the content of those don’t really fall into DNF territory. Harlequins/Silhouettes/Mills & Boons on the other hand… Maybe I’d buy the vintage ones from the 50s-80s for the covers, but the new ones with photos of models in clinch poses? Ummm, maybe not. Haha.

      A couple of true DNFs for me were Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (got fed up waiting for the story to progress) and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books–the things Martin puts his characters through…Ouch! Not to mention the dizzying changes of points of view)

      • Don’t you just love the adjustable font size in the Kindle? It’s a lot easier to read with bigger print, I agree with you wholeheartedly on that.

        Haha so don’t buy those romances anymore if they’re DNFs for you! You’re better off with bargain copies of the books that you’re really interested in. 🙂

        I’m not planning to read either of those two series that you mentioned but I am interested in watching the Game of Thrones HBO series. I’ve heard such good things about it.

      • I still buy the vintage ones whenever I come across copies under 30 pesos. But the current releases are mostly shares from officemates and friends who really do collect them. And while I do come across a lot of duds in category romances, the gems that I do manage to encounter once in a while keep me hoping to find more of the same. And since categories are typically short, it’s easy enough to get through one without expending too much time and effort.

        The HBO series of GoT is nice. And quite true to the books, more so than the LotR movies or the Earthsea mini-series at any rate. I’m wondering how they’ll manage to show it here without resorting to a lot of cuts for nudity though. :p

  15. Oh so you just borrow the books. Then it’s okay to DNF those because you didn’t spend money on them, right? 😛

    I’m really looking forward to watching the Game of Thrones series even if I haven’t read the books. I really liked the LOTR movies but not sure if I watched the Earthsea mini-series. I think I did but it didn’t leave much of an impression so I don’t remember much about it. Did you watch the Miyazaki film too?

    • Watched it, and own a Singapore release DVD which came with a metal case and free coaster. But since it’s not widescreen, I might hunt down a Taiwanese release later. 🙂

      The Sci-fi Channel Earthsea series sucked. Big time. Not only did they make dark-skinned characters white, they pretty much destroyed the entire premise of the series by turning it into a standard action-fest fantasy film, complete with a stock crazy/megalomanical king (no such thing in the books, because the “villains” that needed to be defeated in the books are more along the lines of the characters’ own inner demons .

      The Ghibli film also veers away from the books, but at least the hints of the inner struggles that Arren has to go through are there, and the dark characters like Ged remained relatively dark (more along the lines of tanned skin and dark hair/eyes rather than true red/brown skin).

  16. Pingback: Ten Characters I Didn’t Click With | Chachic's Book Nook

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