I can’t remember the last time I didn’t finish a book.
Well, actually, I can think of one but that was years ago, it’s still on my bookshelf with the bookmark in it and, as the author has since written other books I’ve raved about, I’m very likely to go back to it at some point. So, come on, that makes it a “currently reading” not a “did not finish”, doesn’t it? (It wasn’t 50 Shades of Grey, by the way!)
I’m aware that my statement will be anathema to those who believe life’s too short to finish a book you hate. Can I say I fully respect that view and wouldn’t want you to think I consider you quitters! However, here are some personal reasons the DNF status is banished from my reading life.
Generally, I’m the type of person who perseveres with things. With quizzes, I’m the one who says, “No, hang on, I’m sure I can get the answer if you give me a bit longer”. If a recipe doesn’t work the first time, I’ll try it over until it does. I spent three years trying to grow carrots in my vegetable plot before I finally succeeded. (We’d better not talk about the raised bed full of compost and fertilizer it took to do it.) I’m the same with books. Even if I’m not enjoying it, I won’t accept defeat but will carry on reading to the end. OK, I grant you that smacks of stubbornness as much as perseverance.
I feel not to finish a book denigrates the effort the author put into writing it, not to mention the work of the editor, publisher, cover designer, and so on. The author probably spent months or years crafting what is a very personal product but I can’t spare four or five hours of my time to give it a proper chance?
Even books you don’t like you can take something from. (I’m excluding here a book that contains views you find morally repugnant which would be my one exception to the “Always Finish” rule.) Perhaps there is an interesting character (even if all the others aren’t), a well-described setting (even if completely out of context with the rest of the book), a phrase or sentence that has been carefully crafted (even if the rest of the prose stinks)? Maybe you’ll learn a new word, an interesting fact about a different culture or a clever quotation? Arguably, reading a book you don’t like forces to use your critical faculties more than with a book you do because it requires you to think carefully about what exactly it is you don’t like about it.
As a reviewer, it’s very difficult to review a book you didn’t finish. Perhaps the story line progressed quite differently beyond the point you stopped reading? Maybe the flaws in character or plot you detected early on in the book became less so later on. Perhaps it needed time to settle into the author’s writing style and rhythm. You could have missed a killer twist!
Finally, if you don’t finish a book, aren’t you the teeniest bit curious to find out how it ended?
What are your thoughts? Are you a “finisher” or a “did not finisher”?