Thursday, August 21, 2014

Did Not Finish

I was going to write a review of Elizabeth May's steampunk fairy-flavored fantasy, The Falconer, but I just don't feel motivated. It wasn't great. It wasn't bad, so I have no ax to (hopefully) humorously grind (do I get more points for splitting an infinitive twice?). It's not one I'll be recommending far and wide, so, meh. Instead I'd like to write a bit about the dreaded DNF.

I've found myself bailing on books more and more often lately. Two recent books that I bailed on were Gilded and The Queen of the Tearling, both of which I had been waiting excitedly to read. Just a little way through both though, I jumped ship. 

There are plenty of people who, having started a book, are committed until the bitter end. I used to feel that way, but a former supervisor once pointed out that life is just too short. If you're 50 pages into a book and just aren't into it, why keep forcing yourself to read? I've taken this advice to heart. I have plenty of time wasting going on in my life (oh tumblr, who let me join you), I don't need to spend additional time slogging through unenjoyable fiction.

Additionally, at any given time I have at least 100 books on my To Read shelf on Goodreads, plus dozens of things at home that I would love to have read, but never manage to make time for. I'm very proud of my mythology/folklore/occult library, but how many of those books have I actually read cover to cover? Sadly few.

So how can you tell when you've got a DNF on your hands? If you've barely started and the language seems clunky, or if the tropes are piling up, or if the dialogue is grating on your nerves, it's probably safe to say you won't be enjoying the rest of your reading experience, at least not enough to justify forging ahead. As the saying goes, "If you’re gonna bail, bail early. This applies to relationships, college classes, and sledding." Should it apply to books? Can you really tell in just a few chapters if a book isn't your cup of tea? I think so.  Unless you've gotten recommendations from friends with similar reading tastes, or have heard that it picks up later, I'd say don't bother.

While I no longer feel obscurely guilty for not finishing a book, it's still disappointing, especially when it's one I was looking forward to. At the same time, it can feel surprisingly liberating to start pruning back on one's reading commitments. It leaves me the time and freedom to keep crossing things off my To Read list, finally get around to enjoying a classic or something that's been sitting on my shelf for too long, or even to reread an old favorite. So sorry, tired dystopias, forced love triangles, whiny protagonists, drawn out trilogies and overcomplicated world-building, but I have other things to read.

How about you? Once you start a book do you cling on like grim death, or do you ruthlessly cut ties? Any notable DNFs? What would it take for you to shut the book and say "nope"?


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