4 Things That Make Me DNF a Book

I admit I rarely DNF books. I have about 30 books on my DNF list on Goodreads, which covers at least the last 10 years. Usually I think it won’t take me too long to finish a book, so I might as well just go for it. But when I do DNF a book, here are some of the reasons why.


The Voice/Prose Is Terrible

I seem alone on this issue, but sometimes the voice or writing of a book is so bad that I simply can’t stand reading. I don’t care how good the plot is or how interesting the characters are. If the writing is really choppy or awkward or otherwise painful to read, it’s a strong incentive for me to stop reading the book. (Though of course there are many I have finished reading that have awful writing, as well.)


The Book Is Boring

This is the most common reason I would stop reading a book. If the story and characters aren’t interesting, then the book needs to be majorly redeeming in some other way to keep me reading, like raising thoughtful questions or providing nuanced observations or society or something. Barring that . . . I am going to put the book down and move on.

The Book Thinks It’s Clever — But It’s Not

This is a major pet peeve of mine. If a protagonist is supposed to be brilliant/clever, or the book itself is positing that it’s clever in some way, then it had better be clever. It makes no sense to me when characters do things that are portrayed as genius or groundbreaking that are not at all, like when I read a book where the protagonist decided she was going to “disguise” herself by wearing colored contacts. Surely no one would recognize her if her eyes were a different color! It’s worse when the narrative voice and other characters praise this nonsense. I don’t need characters to be smart, but I don’t want to be told they’re smart when they’re not.


The Book Is Overly Preachy/Didactic

Making sure books, especially children’s and young adult books, send the “right” messages is very in right now, so obviously I don’t stop reading any book that has a moral message, but there’s a line where the messages are so repeatedly thrown in the reader’s face that I lose my interest in the story. I don’t need to narrator to point out on 20 occasions that a rich kid is privileged and should help the poorer kids; once or twice would be enough, if the author really thinks this needs to be stated explicitly instead of implied through the story itself.

What makes you DNF a book?


30 thoughts on “4 Things That Make Me DNF a Book

  1. David M Cameron says:

    There are few things that stop me from finishing a book, but probably the main one is plot holes that are not credible. I am surprised how many books, TV and films have such obvious flaws.


  2. Kristina says:

    Because im not a born english speaker, it’s really difficult for me to grasp what is or isn’t poorly written — however! One that I DNF really took the cake with how « NOPE » the narrator was.. it was a review request of what I thought would be a thriller- instead I got a god-like narrator who belittled the female character and onto how hard the dude tried to have sex or the assault she had gotten. I don’t even remember a whole lot beside that, noped right out of there.

    Something else that bothers me quite alot is huge age difference in romance, especially with one partner bellow 19 years old (As for me, it’s the « majority’s age », being canadian)


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s an interesting point about not being able to tell whether something is written well or not in another language. I’d never thought about it before, but I’m pretty sure I’d have no idea whether something sounded good/bad in any of the languages I studied in school!

      A narrator making fun of the protagonist??? I guess that a unique approach to a book . . . I don’t think I’d like it either though!

      I read two YA books recently where the love interest was hundreds of years older than the main character, and I thought we were over that. People would (rightly) freak out if the main character were 17 and the love interest were 30, but if the love interest is 300 it’s suddenly perfectly fine???

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve done some proofreading for a major publishing, and I learned, at least, they do not correct bad grammar and punctuation because that’s the “author’s style.” I mean, really? What’s the line between the author’s style and the fact they just don’t know how to use commas or whatever? So maybe line editing for anything is just not done. (This also drives me nuts because now I can’t say, “Oh, you can learn grammar and punctuation from reading” because 80% of the stuff that’s published is incorrect now.)


  3. Nish says:

    Boring and bad writing are top reasons for me. Especially if the book is long. If it’s a short book, I can somehow power through it.


  4. Cam @ Camillea Reads says:

    I feel the same about the prose not working for me! I can rarely get through a book if the prose is bad. This is why I try to be more picky with books because I don’t want to dedicate time to a book that might put me in a slump 😅


  5. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    I will stop reading a book with bad prose, too. How can I enjoy character and setting if I am constantly distracted by lousy writing?

    Books that think they are clever but aren’t are awful. I DNF them. Also, books that think they are artistic masterpieces and most definitely aren’t.


  6. Ari Augustine says:

    You’re not alone on #1: if the writing style and/or voice isn’t developed, it tends to kill the whole reading process for me. I can’t get beyond awkward, choppy sentences riddled with grammatical/punctuation errors, either. It should all be polished and refined as much as possible. But honestly, harsh as this might sound, some people just aren’t that great at telling stories. Like, their craft never seems to evolve beyond hot mess, and when I see this consistently with a writer, I stop reading all their works. The way a writer tells a story is just as important as the contents of the tale for me, if not more.


  7. powsbooknook says:

    I find it hard to DNF a book but if after 100 pages, I am still confused by the plot, I tend to give up. If the writing is terrible or the story too problematic, I also often DNF.


  8. Samantha @WLABB says:

    Preachy books grind my gears! Usually I find they are not only soapboxing, but tend to villainize wide groups of people. I never buy into that “all X people are this” sort of thing.


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