If you are a passionate bookworm like me, then you will agree with me when I say that nothing gives a reader more happiness than finishing a book! To finally close a book after a good read is like stepping out of a grand adventure, one that makes your heart flutter and cries and shriek and laughs, all at the same time! But in our quest to fill our voracious reading appetites, it happens that every once in a while, we come across a book that simply isn’t to our taste! Maybe we picked the wrong genre, or we weren’t ready for that topic yet, or maybe we couldn’t relate to the character, or perhaps, the writing style didn’t appeal to us. The reasons may be too little or too many, but now we find ourselves in a fix! And, to top it all, if the book happens to be the talk of the world, or written by a celebrated author, or finds itself on the bestselling/award-winning list, or is a combination of all of the above, then our frustrations know no bounds!
I’m sure that every one of us goes through this dilemma at some point in our reading journey. When this happens to you, what do you do? Do you finish the read, hating yourself for going through with it, or do you put it away, hating yourself for not sticking by it? Ah! Decisions, decisions! Sometimes, putting away a book might be the hardest thing to do!
DNFing (Did Not Finish) Books
Did you know that there is a term in the book universe for those books that are shelved away before it is completed? It is called DNF or Did Not Finish. An apt but guilt-inducing term isn’t!
So what does it mean to DNF a book?
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to put away books. Even if it means I don’t enjoy the read, I would somehow see to its end. All the while cribbing, cringing, and whining about the book. Because the guilt of not finishing the books weighed above everything else, I would make it my personal mission to complete the book. Now that I’m a little older, I have come to realize that this is one of the worst things you can do, not just to yourself but also to the book in question. And why is that? Because every book is written with a lot of thought and care. For a vast majority of authors, right from Charles Dickens to J. K. Rowling, their book is their life’s work. A great amount of time and mental exertion goes into the making of a book. So, by reading it for the sake of it, I was not only dismissing the author’s efforts but also showing disrespect for their work. Moreover, the time I had spent half-heartedly reading the book could be used to absorb myself in those reads that bring joy and excitement to life.
The 50 Page Rule aka The Rule of 50
Once I had this epiphany, I went about creating some ground rules for putting down an unfinished book. This led me to research more about this topic and brought me to Nancy Pearl’s ‘The 50 Page Rule’, also called the ‘Rule of 50’. Now, for those of you who may be wondering who Nancy Pearl is, please allow me to introduce to you one of America’s finest literary critics, best-selling author, and the only librarian to have an action figure modeled after her. A staunch advocate of books, she came up with the famous Rule of 50 for ‘dropping down a bad book.’ This is what she has to say:
“Give a book 50 pages. When you get to the bottom of Page 50, ask yourself if you’re really liking the book. If you are, of course, then great, keep on reading. But if you’re not, then put it down and look for another.”
An easy thing to do, isn’t it? Except, I struggled with it. Yes, it’s true. A reader can just about determine whether a book is worth continuing within fifty pages. But we all know there are exceptions to the rule. There are stellar novels that have a slow start but catches on like fire after a couple of chapters. So plagued by thoughts such as, ‘what if the story actually begins after the first fifty pages?’ and ‘Am I making a mistake giving up too soon?’, I decided that, as much as I loved Nancy Pearl, her 50 Page Rule was not for me.
To Each, Their Own
Reading is a deeply personal journey, and no two readers would perceive a book in the same way. So, when it comes to the difficult task of doing away with incomplete reads, I believe it’s best to follow the heart.
So, what are the rules of putting down an unfinished book? The answer is quite simple. There are no rules! As I said, every book speaks to a reader differently. And sometimes, the books we put away at a certain time may turn out to be one of our favorite reads many years later, when we decide to give it a try again! So, if a book doesn’t work for you, by all means, do put it away! But habits cannot be changed overnight, isn’t it? Trust me, I know! So for those of you who, like I once had, are struggling with the difficult decisions of continuing with a book, let me hand down a set of guidelines that will make the DNFing slightly easier to do.
Now, I have often found that we stick to a read, even though it may not appeal to us, for the wrong reasons.
So, let me give you my top 5 key pointers as to why you should not continue with the read, which is the same thing as DNF, but in a different perspective! So here goes!"Did you know that there is a term in the book universe for those books that are shelved away before it is completed?" Let others know!
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT continue with a read:
- Because everybody around you is raving about it, and you don’t want to feel left out. FOMO is real!
- Because it was gifted/recommended by a friend/family and you feel obliged to read it loyalty bound.
- Because it has been deemed a bestseller or a ‘Must Read’ or has been awarded a 5-star rating, and you don’t want to look unintelligent by putting it away too early.
- If it triggers some emotions that you may not be ready to deal with yet, even if others may seem unaffected by it.
- Because you need to get to its ending (in which case, do yourself a favor, skim a few pages and just get to the ending! I know, sometimes curiosity gets the better of us!)
In a world where ‘Finish what you started’ is highly emphasized, it is important for us to prioritize what works for us and stick to our personal principles. When in doubt, always remember, reading is no competition. So enjoy your bookish adventures, fall in love with your reads and when you find that a book is simply not for you, follow your heart and just let it go! Trust me, there are plenty of books out there. Your next favorite read is right around the corner!
Have you ever DNF’d a book? When do you decide to put away a read? Do drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts!
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