By Claire Knight, 12th September 2019

It’s Time to Talk about DNF’ing!

Do you Feel a Pressure to Finish?

Do you Feel a Pressure to Finish?

Reading should be exciting and fun, yet with the increase in social media, it seems that even the once serene book world has become more of a minefield. Are you a bookworm under pressure? Do you often feel judged? I do.

The world of books is judgemental. We would like to believe it is not, but there has always been a light air of elitism and snobbery within the book world and it has only grown over the years. With the introduction of blogs and bookstagrammers, do you ever feel we are giving judgemental readers yet another platform to voice the same negative thoughts? Ever feel like you are being judged you for your choices?

Think about it for a moment – have you ever felt an invisible pressure making you feel guilty for putting a book down?

I’ve never felt comfortable putting a book down. I have often forced myself to preserve, falling more in hate with it until I turn the last page.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. Reading is supposed to give you pleasure!”

Often, the pressure to continue is my own. After all, no one wants to feel as if they have wasted their money, right? I convince myself that ‘it will pick up eventually’. But it hardly ever does.

Instead of following my gut instinct, the shame drives me on, the imaginary red mark I will get for not finishing looming not far overhead.

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I don’t want to ‘remove it from shelves’ on my Goodreads and be one book less towards completing my challenge. It’s silly but it’s true, the feeling eats at me.

Social pressure is not the only driving force, my own worries niggle at me too. Have you felt that sick feeling in your chest, born by a misguided notion that suddenly you are unworthy and ‘not a serious reader’ if you can’t finish the same book everyone else seems to rave about?

It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. Reading is supposed to give you pleasure!

I won’t deny that pushing past these feelings won’t be a struggle, but you can and should. Here, is why I think it is often BETTER to DNF that book you don’t like.

Everyone has at least one book they can put their finger on that really irked them. That bothered them, even though everyone else was raving about it.

You by Caroline Kepnes was the book for me.

The Netflix hype pushed it up my TBR pile. With so many of my peers talking about it, I couldn’t resist picking it up 99p on Kindle.

It was torturous. 56 pages of pure pain and moments of me wanting to kick the main character in the balls. Have you ever read a book you seriously just don’t connect with? A book or it creeps you the F* out? This did both, yet I still had to fight myself to put it down. Then when I finally did, I sat there worrying about it. Why do we worry about it? What was so wrong about putting down a book you don’t enjoy?

I found myself wandering through a mini bookish ‘five stages of grief’.

Here is a small glimmer of what my mind went through, look familiar?

  • Denial – “I am not putting it down.. I am just having an extended break.”
  • Anger – “Just put it the F down! Why can’t I put it down?”
  • Bargaining– “it is just the wrong time. I will read this other book first then pick it up again straight after I swear.”
  • Depression – “I am a failure, why cannot I see how great it is? There is obviously something wrong with me. Everyone knows I am not a real reader. If you put it down you have wasted your money.
  • Acceptance – “It’s ok, put it down. It is obvious I am not enjoying it.”

I won’t lie, even trying to push myself through each stage was a struggle. I kept getting stuck at depression. IT WAS JUST SO HARD.

It’s the shame thing. I felt as if all my Goodreads friends were judging me (they probably don’t even know or care) and that my besties were going to have big conversations about how great it was and I was just going to be sat there like a lemon, my FOMO (fear of missing out) was strongest at this point! The anxiety and the pressure I felt was exhausting.

This feeling only increased when I went on Instagram. No one seems to talk about DFN’ing books and when they do its one post in thousands, easily lost, drowning in a sea of book promos.

It’s not just finishing books though. Hands up who has ever been shamed into liking a book.

One that stands out for me is Twilight, yeah sparkly Edward Cullen Twilight. Can you remember when people were so obsessed with it? It was everywhere so once again I picked it up. I read the whole series and found the last book just plain weird.

I tried talking about it but didn’t get anywhere, the love was just too strong so I kept quiet. You just feel like you are the only one in the entire universe that feels the way you do.

So what did I do? I faked liking it!

I gushed about it with others and was miserable because I didn’t want to be judged.

Do you ever feel like you are not allowed an opinion unless it’s the right one?

The classics are a great example, how many of us can actually say we truly liked all of them? Ever had to read Pamela? That put me to sleep.

Thomas Hardy? Personally, I can’t stand him.

I loved Jane Eyre but Wuthering Heights is just too winey.

Being a graduate with an MA in English only made it worse, I felt pressure every time a course mate would mention Ulysses or To catch a Mocking Bird. A pressure not only to read the books but to like them as well, because they are ‘classics’ and surely I am not a proper student if I hate them, right?

I told my English Lecturer I read Vanity Fair when in fact I skimmed it. It didn’t stop me having a full conversation about it though and agreeing with him on every point. It’s hilarious to think about it now but back then I was so uncomfortable. He would ask questions and I would parrot some nonsense back under the delusion that was better than admitting I hadn’t read it.

Have you ever heard the phrases ‘but that’s not real literature though?’ or ‘I didn’t expect you to be reading that?’ Ever felt like you can’t share what you’re reading with others because they’ll stick a label on you?

My housemate and I did our MA’s at the same time and we had to read books that we were too embarrassed to be seen reading in public. Mine was Fifty Shades of Grey. I could only read it at home as I could imagine the smirks I would get whipping it out in public.

For my housemate it was ironically Twilight. She even affixed a sticker to the front that said ‘for academic purposes only’ worried about the eyes of the public and exhausted by the need to justify her reading material.

Conversations with friends are the same. I still sometimes lie about what I’m reading, especially if it’s what I call a ‘raunchy fluff book’ or one that’s got a certain rep. My favourite phrase to use when I’m asked about those is ‘oh it’s just something got free on kindle unlimited’. Anyone else do this?

I have a lovely little community of followers on Instagram but I still get the trolls. The book snobs who feel the need to force their opinions down my throat. ‘Comics aren’t literature’, ‘listening to audiobooks isn’t reading’, ‘that book was rubbish’ the list is endless. Comments like that aren’t constructive, everyone is entitled to an opinion and you can debate and justify that opinion that’s fine, just don’t do it in a way that tears others down.

A book fandom actually saved me and gave me the courage to express my opinions more. The Path Keeper fandom to be exact. I have a group chat with some of them (the inner circle) and these guys are best. They let me be myself and test my opinions out on them. They might not agree with them (half of them probably think I’m mad), but they listen all the same. It’s a wonderful support network and I’d be lost without it.

The feeling of being judged will never go away but you can get over it. I talked to other people, surrounded myself with brilliant bloggers, bookstgrammers, readers and friends. One’s that still challenge me but let me speak.

I still go through my five-step mental process to put a book down that others might have put down straight away. But it works for me.

We are a strong and independent readers who should not be shamed or judged for doing what is best for us. There will always be books we connect with and that’s fine.

Be proud of your choices and do not change them to fit in. Create your own version of what literature is for you and do not belittle others who have a different view.

What did you think?

    chat 1 Comment

  1. Reading is like anything else, a personal choice and as our personalities vary, so do our tastes. Well done for putting it out there. I write, but I’m also a reader, but unlike you, I tend to read what catches my eye rather than whatever is, ‘The Big Thing,’ at the time. I’d rather make my own choice than go via peer pressure. Some of the hyped books I’ve not even read… the blurb was enough for me and I say hand on heart, I’ve felt no guilt for not wanting to read them. At the end of the day, why read a book that doesn’t speak to you when there are so many out there that will. Just because you ‘DNF’ a book, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book, it’s just not the book for you.

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