Why I Think It’s Fine to Rate Books You DNF’ed (Did Not Finish)

It's Fine to Rate Books You Didn't Finish Reading

One recurring question in the reading world is whether it’s fair to give a rating to a book you didn’t finish.  (Usually the discussion is around consumer sites like Amazon or Goodreads that compile ratings and reviews and may be seen by a large audience; I think fewer people care about rating DNF reads on personal blogs.)  While I personally don’t rate books I haven’t finished (generally; there might be a couple exceptions on my Goodreads account), I think it’s fair to do so.  Here’s why.

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“I Couldn’t Finish the Book” Is a Review

The most common argument against rating a book you have only partially read is that, of course, you don’t know the whole story; maybe the end of the book is much better than the beginning.  Personally, however, I think saying, “This book is so bad for reasons x, y, and z that it was too tortuous to keep reading,” is a fair and informative review.  And if “so bad I couldn’t make it past chapter five” isn’t a good reason for giving a book one or two stars, I hardly know what is.  Say what you want about other books you’ve given low ratings to; at least you managed to get through them!

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In Most Cases, the Rating Won’t Get Much Higher Anyway

It is possible, of course, that one will find a book here and there that has a much better second half than a first half.  I’ve read some myself.  The problem here is that if 50% of the book is terrible and I found myself wanting to tear my eyes out, but 50% of the book is fine, I’m not going to give the book a high rating whether I finish it or not.  If the ending of the book is absolutely stellar, I might average things out and give the book a final three stars.  But generally if I want to DNF the book through a large chunk of it, it’s getting two stars even if it improves as it goes along.  That means my rating isn’t going to be very different whether I read all of the book or just the first third.

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No One Rating DNF’ed Books Could Possibly Skew the Average Rating “Too High”

As mentioned above, many people think that rating a book you haven’t finished is unfair because you might have rated it higher if you finished; therefore, you are skewing the average rating on sites like Goodreads too low if you rate a DNF’ed book.  However, I can imagine a possible scenario (if perhaps a rare one) where a bunch of people DNF the book because they didn’t like it, but the people who did finish give it four or five stars.  This means that the average rating on Goodreads might be something like 4.3, making the book look well-liked—but obscuring the fact that a large number of readers couldn’t even make themselves read the whole thing.  In a case like this, rating a DNF’ed book can give a book accurate picture of how readers are reacting to the book.

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My personal rule of thumb would be that I should have read a significant portion of the book if I want to rate it.  Giving a book one star after five pages is, of course, ridiculous.  But I believe that giving a quick impression of how much you didn’t like the book and couldn’t bring yourself to keep going with a star rating is fair.  After all, people who use sites like Goodreads for reading suggestions should do their own due diligence of actually reading some of the reviews and seeing why people rated low or high, and they can take into account whether multiple people are rating the book who haven’t actually finished it and whether that matters to them.  (I think this is very different from rating a book you have not read at all, to be clear.)

What do you think?  Do you rate DNF’ed books?  Do you like it when others do?


30 thoughts on “Why I Think It’s Fine to Rate Books You DNF’ed (Did Not Finish)

  1. Tiffany says:

    I am a strong believer that if a book is not capturing your interests then you shouldn’t keep reading it. The point of reading is to enjoy it not force yourself to read. I feel like dnfs books is perfectly okay especially when you’re wasting your time on a book you’re not enjoying and you have a long TBR like mine


  2. BookerTalk says:

    I struggle with the whole concept of star rating systems anyway but agree it does seem unfair to rate a book if all you did was read 5 pages. But of you did read say a third of the book then not rating it would give a misleading impression.


  3. Arvenig says:

    I completely agree! I think that if someone really tried to finish the book and read a good part of it, they should be free to review and rate it.


  4. Alex @ WhimsyPages says:

    Love your discussion posts, Briana!
    I don’t always rate book I’ve DNFed and sometimes I don’t even rate books I read (if they were REALLY bad), because I feel like even giving 1 star would be too generous 😀

    In any case I enjoy reading reviews of people who DNF’d the book and see what they didn’t like, as sometimes it might be for the same reasons I will love the book.


  5. Eliza Eames says:

    I totally agree! I generally give a rating to my DNFs unless I simply DNFd them because they just weren’t my thing. Which usually only happens on the odd review copy/ARC that I grabbed because of hype but didn’t actually read what it’s about. In that case it was my fault for not looking at what the book was about and no fault of the book…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jonny Pongratz says:

    Nice post on a hotly debated subject. I understand the points you are making, and they’re good ones too.

    Still, for now I’ll stand by my choice to not rate a book I haven’t finished. Mainly this comes into play when a new author comes out and doesn’t really have any reviews at all.

    I’ll still write a review and explain why I DNF’d and didn’t like it, but I know how crucial those beginnings moments are when you’re a new author.


  7. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’ve noticed that with small-press books I’ll frequently find a novel that I couldn’t finish has a rating of close to four. The issue is that the author has all their writer friends review the book right away to give it a boost. The tell-tale sign, though, is that those books typically only have a dozen ratings total. As a result, I don’t rate the book because I don’t want to be harassed on Goodreads. Isn’t that sad? I’m too afraid to share my real opinion. Maybe I’ll go do that now….but would it change who buys the book?? Is anyone really buying these small-press books to any large degree anyway?

    I don’t give books on my blog a star rating because there’s nothing to compare it to. Readers’ ratings on Goodreads can be sorted and add to a composite score. I loathe when readers on Goodreads change the star rating to their personal system and add in their review something like 6/10 stars. Whhhhat.


  8. Morgan says:

    I do rate DNF books, mostly because of the first reason mentioned. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t flip through the book just to see if it does get better, or try to get through at least 40-50% first.


  9. Mei-Mei says:

    I like reading DNF reviews. I often find the critical reviews are the most helpful in determining whether a book is for me or not. I don’t often blog about DNFs though because I usually just don’t care enough to make the effort. Why spend time writing about a meh book when I could be telling everyone about a great one?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    I normally don’t rate my DNF books, but that’s because I normally only read one or two chapters before I give up (normally I’m just not feeling the narrative style which is because I’m a mood reader). But if someone’s read about one third ~ half the book OR they found something really awful that made them stop reading, I’d want to know because that could impact my decision on whether to pick up a book or not.


  11. MetalPhantasmReads says:

    I used to rate books I’ve DNF’d but I got into the mind set to not rate it for the reason you stated: I didn’t read the whole thing. But I do see that it is informative to still rate it and give your reasons 🙂 I think I might start doing that again 🙂 awesome discussion!


  12. Carol says:

    Interesting discussion! 👍🙌 I feel that if I’ve read at least 50% of the book, it’s fair to leave a star rating! Usually if I’ve read under 50%, i shelve it as DNF and don’t leave a star rating, I broke my own guideline this week when I gave 1 Star to a book I set aside at 32%. I wanted to document the objectionable content as a red flag for other readers. But it did break my 50% rule which I feel guilty about! On the other hand, I felt like I had read enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Milliebot says:

    I agree! It’s definitely fair to rare a dnf’d book. If I’ve read enough to be able to tally about why it’s so bad, or I didn’t like it, I’m gonna rate it in most cases.


  14. Carol says:

    I rate dnf although I think I have only had one this year. Typically I spend more time on a dnf than I do on a book I am really enjoying. But if I have only read a couple of pages I don’t bother. It might be the mood I’m in. I note them down in my secret group on Goodreads in case I decide to give the book another shot. So far that hasnt happened. 😄


  15. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    I personally don’t DNF books very often, so I never gave way to much thoughts about this matter. But, you bring up some fantastic points, Briana! I often see other reviewers mention how they don’t wish to skew the rating, but when you look at it from the perspective you stated above, that wouldn’t be very likely or even possible under most circumstances. I think it’s fine to rate a book you DNF’d so long as a decent amount of the novel was read, and you can therefore, formulate a reason as to why it didn’t work for you.

    Great post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I can see not wanting to skew the rating, but then someone else pointed out that not rating it could skew the rating, as well. If a bunch of people hate the book so much they can’t finish it, but no one rates it, it could end up with a 5-star rating, theoretically. Which I think would be misleading.

      But I think if you read a decent portion of the novel and DNF, it’s valid to review and rate it since part of your rating would be the fact that you think it’s not worth reading.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Carol says:

    If I DNF within the first 10%, I don’t rate it but shelve it as DNF. If I read 40-50% I usually give it a rating (but still shelve it as DNF). ….. I agree that the rating most likely will stay the same if I forced myself to finish it. Often I will read the last couple of chapters to confirm my decision to DNF and star rating. Great discussion post! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    I love this post so much! No surprise there. I feel like the community is pretty divisive on this, but DNF reviews are so important to me, personally, because if someone I follow couldn’t get through a particular book, you bet your boots I want to know about it and know why! It’s just as vital for me deciding whether or not to pick up a book as any other review.

    Also, I don’t care how great an ending is, if the beginning and middle are so bad that you never get there, then a low rating is appropriate. 50 pages of pure brilliance unrivaled by any other author ever in writerdom doesn’t erase a 450-page slog to get to that point.

    I write brief reviews of DNF’d books, basically explaining why I DNF’d it but also what I might have liked about it. I don’t leave star ratings for them, though, but that’s just a personal preference, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Yeah I think it’s fine to give a rating to DNF’d books, as long as people say it was DNF’d. I think it gives a fair view of a book to know that it was such a struggle to get through. And DNFs can still be subject to different ratings (usually 1 or 2 stars, but maybe 3).

    Liked by 1 person

  19. whiskeyonmykindle says:

    Completely agree. Reading is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Why force other people to finish a book they’re not enjoying? Also, how they maintain their Goodreads and blogs is up to them.

    People have done worse. There are people who rate autobiographies and things badly just because they don’t like the author, etc without even reading the book.

    I don’t think dnf’ing and rating a book badly is that deep. Haha


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I totally agree that rating a book you haven’t read AT ALL is completely different. I’ve seen too many reviews where quotes are taken out of context or misconstrued, and other people look at it and think things like, “Oh, this book is racist,” when really it might be a racist character who is called out for saying racist things who is being quoted. I think if you wouldn’t write an academic essay about a book you haven’t read but have read some articles ABOUT, you shouldn’t write reviews of books you haven’t read but have only read ABOUT.


      • whiskeyonmykindle says:

        Exactly. But also people who write reviews on books they dnf’ed ALWAYS tell readers in their review that they dnf’ed it. Those people aren’t lying about it – so trust that they deserve their opinion.

        There’s a difference between eating at a restaurant and being so disgusted that you didn’t finish your meal, so you left and wrote your review based on this experience as opposed to hearing from your friends what they experienced and writing a review even though you never even went to the place…

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Dr. Reads says:

    I think it’s fine to rate books you DNF. And I did it every single time, what is the point to read it till the end when there is a lot of great reads waiting. If we DNF books it means that I either hate it or it’s not for me. I bought the book and have the right to rate is as much as others. If I finish it the rating won’t change anyway because I did not enjoy reading it. Great discussion you have here.


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