The Dreaded DNF Pile: 10 Books I Dropped

Not finishing a book is probably the worst guilt trip a reader will ever take. An unfinished book is a sad reminder that you, as the reader, did not fulfill your end of the bargain. The book was ready to tell its story and all you had to do was sit down and read it. Perhaps you did not have enough time, or you started a new book and forgot about the one you were in the middle of reading. Or maybe it was just not for you.

It’s okay to drop a book every once in a while. Reading should be fun, and there’s a reason that dozens of different genres exist in the literature. Everyone has their own taste and expectations for a story. What’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasurethat sort of thing. And, like anyone else, I have my own reasons for putting a book down.

Why I’ll stop reading:

  1. The pacing is slow (in general, this is not a turn-off for me unless there are too many of the other factors).
  2. The protagonist has no clear goal.
  3. There are tons of tropes and clichés that add nothing to the story.
  4. Shallow, underdeveloped characters.
  5. Unconvincing antagonist/villain (The villain is usually my favorite part of the book, so for me, a story is lacking if its villain is lacking).
  6. I’m not learning anything from it (even if it’s not overly entertaining, I want to have something to take away from the book I’m investing my time in).

To be fair, someday I would like to return to some of the books I listed. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being no chance of a reread to 10 being a high chance), I will rate the likelihood of my revisiting each one because I do believe there are some good ones here that I was not up for at the time.

Please note that these are my opinions and I am not shaming anyone if they happen to like the books on this list. Just because someone DNF’s a book does not mean it is a terrible book. I have seen some truly wonderful books go unfinished by readers simply because those books were not for them. I would be absolutely ecstatic if some of these spark your interest.

Okay, here we go.

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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Don’t jump on me! Let me explain myself first. This book was on the list of summer reading books my senior year of high school. As per usual, I procrastinated the whole summer, reading everything but the titles on the list. With two weeks left, I started reading A Tale of Two Citiessince it was on my to-read list anyway and I figured I could get through it.

I had to stop two chapters in because it was just word upon word upon word and I knew I could not read this and write a decent essay on it. I pushed it aside and picked another book on the list. Not one of my prouder moments, but when grades are involved sometimes you have to compromise.

The only other book by Dickens I’ve read is A Christmas Carol, and I was not a fan of it at all. I get it, though—the man was paid by the word, I don’t blame him for going to town with his writing. I still plan on coming back to this one, probably in the far future.

Likelihood of a reread: 9

2. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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I absolutely loved Clare’s prequel series, The Infernal Devices, so I expected to adore The Mortal Instruments as well. Maybe it was the new characters, the contemporary setting, or something else, but I could not get into this series no matter how hard I tried. As someone who is not as interested in contemporary fiction as I am in historical or fantasy, that’s probably why I stopped reading. For whatever reason, the flare TID had was gone in this series.

Likelihood of a reread: 3

3. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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I picked this one up back in 2016 when Beauty and the Beast retellings were all the rage. While I have never read a B&B-inspired tale that I loved, I heard good things about this one so I decided to give it a try.

Ugh!

I had no interest in the protagonist, the plot, or even the villain. The whole “forced marriage” trope is one I find particularly annoying and repetitive in these types of retellings. What frustrates me more, however, is that the story felt pretty original despite how slow it was. The author blended classical mythology with fantasy elements, the type of story I ought to love. The writing was lovely as well, but I suffered from a complete lack of interest in the indecisive heroine and one of the most bizarre love triangles I’ve ever seen.

Likelihood of a reread: 1

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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I always considered myself a Mark Twain fan—before I actually read his work. There was nothing I enjoyed about this book, and the fact that it was required reading for my AP American Literature course did not help. Twain’s writing style, the over-dramatic situations, and underdeveloped characters were not at all appealing to me. I know he meant it as a satire, but this was a no from me.

Likelihood of a reread: 2

5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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Loved the premise of this story. Characters stepping off the pages into our world? Count me in! My problem with this one was that it took WAY too long to get to the good stuff, and I felt very little connection with the characters. For me, it’s a sad example of an incredible concept with poor execution.

Likelihood of a reread: 3

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

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Divergent was far from quality dystopian fiction, but it was compelling enough for me to pick up the sequel. Insurgent was severely lacking in the action and drama of its predecessor. I was hoping the plot would make up for the bland characters, and when it disappointed me I dropped it.

Likelihood of a reread: 1

7. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis is one of my top five favorite writers of all time. Granted, his writing is an acquired taste, but I loved The Chronicles of Narnia and his other works. My reason for not finishing this one is that it was just plain boring. I made it to the end of the last chapter and called it quits.

Likelihood of a reread: 1

8. The Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was one of my favorite YA books of all time. Original plot, unique characters, and compelling writing. I dropped The Hollow City within the first few chapters. In fact, I really have a hard time remembering those chapters at all because I had no grasp of the plot. There seemed to be no clear direction in this story, and the characters appeared even shallower than they had in the first book.

Likelihood of a reread: 8

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

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I’ve read Les Misérables in its entirety, so I decided I could manage the inspiration behind one of my all-time favorite Disney movies. I tried to push past Hugo’s elaborate descriptions of Gothic architecture, but I couldn’t. While Hugo’s primary goal in this novel was to emphasize the value of Gothic architecture at the time, rather than tell a story, he was clearly writing for a different time period than the one we’re living in.

Likelihood of a reread: 7

10. The Circle by Dave Eggers

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As a personal rule, if I want to see a movie adaptation I read the book first. I loved the concept of The Circle when I saw the movie trailer earlier this year, and I immediately checked the book out from my local library. The plot was okay—slow, but intriguing—and I carried on with the hope that it would start to pick up speed.

But…it didn’t.

I got halfway through and lost interest. From what I heard, the movie was mediocre, so I decided I didn’t really miss out.

Likelihood of a reread: 2


What books are in your DNF pile and why? Are there any books in this list that deserve a second chance?

 

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22 thoughts on “The Dreaded DNF Pile: 10 Books I Dropped

  1. The Wind-Up Girl. I love SF and I picked it up because it wasn’t a novelization of Star Trek and Star Wars. I know it’s like a Nebula Winner but there didn’t seem to be a clear conflict/plot. Just worldbuilding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mortal instruments, for me any way does pick up after city of bones. City of bones starts a little slow but then you really get into the rest of it. As for in insurgent it’s a hit or miss for loving that series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have only three. Moby Dick (thirty pages on whale blubber!), Twilight (literally had to stop and vomit it was so bad), and House of Leaves (the structure is so confusing it’s like trying to read five books simultaneously be randomly dropping one and picking up another)

    Seriously though, if you can’t read Huckleberry Finn, I have trouble calling you a reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For a long time not completing a book was just not an option for me. These days I am sorry I wasted all that time. I no longer feel compelled to even think about why I don’t finish a book. If it isn’t clicking I stop. Yes, some of those books I pick up at other times and have a satisfying reading experience, some I never touch again. Reading is something I do for pleasure (the story line does not need to be pleasant) and I want to keep it that way. And I found Huckleberry Finn boring but that does not in anyway disqualify me, or Ms. Joy, as readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a romance writer so I felt it was my duty to finally read Fifty Shades of Grey to see what all the fuss was about. It took me about a year to trudge through the first one. The second book remains unfinished because I. just. can’t. There are too many worthy books to read in this world and so very little time.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have a few, but the only one that springs to mind for me, is Lord of the Rings… I read The Hobbit and all but gulped it down. When I went for LotR #1, it was a totally different experience… Granted the movies never captured me for more than a single sitting, but it is fantasy – aka something I should be loving… But the pacing was horrendous to me… I dropped it after about 70 pages… I felt bad about it… LotR has such a huge following, that I decided that maybe I just tried to read it at a wrong time in my life… 😛 And the amount og “nooo, you stopped just before the book picked up!” were appealing… It still took me four years before I tried again, this time reaching page 170, still without getting excited about it… A year later I got to 250… Now I’ve resigned… I an never going to read them… It’s just not gor me… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What I love about this list is that you’re not afraid to admit that you haven’t read some of the classics! I thought I was the only one. I did read A Tale of Two Cities, but only because it was on the 7th grade curriculum at my school and we were being tested on it. It was agonizing–I must admit, though, that I bet I would like it much better if I tried it again today. And I feel your pain regarding Huck Finn–I’m not sure it lives up to all its hype. I have other things on my DNF list (among them, The Firm by John Grisham), but I enjoyed yours. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Believe it or not, The Goldfinch is tops on my DNF list. I got 3/4 of the way through, before I realized I hated Every Single Character and just didn’t care about what happened to them. So I stopped. Unlikable characters, boring and/or depressing story lines, I don’t care how good the language is, stop wasting my time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I, too, struggled with Tale of Two Cities until a kindly English Teacher friend explained the first part to me–it’s simply a prelude to the rest of the story. While I admit I don’t find Dickens particularly satisfying (they paid authors by the word back then, which explains a lot of wordy, boring classics!) I did enjoy the rest of the book once I got into it. And let’s face it, the first line and the last lines are the best part and explain the entire theme!
    BrP

    Liked by 1 person

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