The Propriety of DNF

Sometimes I imagine there's a clerk sitting behind a desk situated between the brain and the mouth, whose job it is to examine utterances, and either stamp them with approval or send them back for reconsideration. If there is such a clerk, mine must be very harried and overworked, and sometimes he just lays his head on the desk in despair and lets things pass without a second glance.

There are some passages in fiction, like the one above, that enchant me to the point where I could not imagine not reading the rest of the book in question. (This passage, however, doesn't appear until more than halfway through the fourth book in the series, so I think I was probably well and hooked by then.)

There are other books which I truly and literally dread picking up to read. Sometimes it's that the writing is not in a style I like, sometimes it's that the plot is not paced in the way I would prefer, sometimes it's that the main character (or one of the side characters) just rubs me the wrong way.

But there is a point at which I must look at myself and ask: Is it worth reading this book if I'm not enjoying myself?

And that's the kicker, I think. Am I reading for me, or am I reading for my blog? Am I reading to enjoy myself, or am I reading just to read? At what point is it okay to set down a book and say "I'm not going to read any more of this"?

Recently, I started listening to an audiobook that I picked up for free, titled Wishes and Wellingtons. I can't really say what it is about the book that made it so... unenjoyable. I guess the main character wasn't very interesting, but I've read much longer books with uninteresting or irritating main characters (Anne of Green Gables, for one). The pacing wasn't all that great, but that could have been due to my intermittent reading style, which only got worse as I started avoiding the book. It might have been the juvenile content, but I read children's books all the time (I just finished Misty of Chincoteague a couple weeks ago).

So... I don't know why I wanted to stop, but I did, and I decided that forcing myself through the rest of the book wouldn't really benefit anyone, when I obviously want to read other books more.

What I really want to know boils down to two "Why" questions:

1. Why did I want to stop reading?

2. Why do I have such a negative reaction to "giving up"?

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to say for sure what the answer is to #1, and I'll just have to be okay with not knowing (at least for now). #2, though, I think that's an easier one to answer. I'm not the only one that feels this way.

For most, I think it generally comes down to either a feeling of guilt or a fear of missing out. What if someone was counting on me to finish and review this book? I can't review a book I haven't finished. Or what if the ending is so fantastic that it redeems the rest of it? Rare, true, but it happens.

My problem is mostly the former - I feel guilt, either because I may have let down my readers or because I've disrespected the book somehow. Guilt is never fun, but I've decided not to let it direct my life. Not over books.

And as many wiser folk have said before me: "Life's too short to read bad books."

How about your, Inklings? What's your DNF policy?

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