The Difference Between DNF and Abandoned

DNF'ing or abandoning a book

I’ve written before about the difference between DNF’ing (Did Not Finish) and abandoning a book, but I’ve recently realized there’s a bit more to that and how I categorize books as being for the DNF pile or completely abandoned.

Personally, I prefer to not do either, especially now that I’ve been accepting books to review and requesting them from publishers. Even if I struggle with it, the fact that I agreed and wanted to read it makes me feel like I should put in as much effort as I can humanly muster. Which is also why I don’t actually request or accept too many books, because some end up being a bit harder to get into than expected, or ended up being tomes instead of novels that end up backing me up more than I like. I don’t look at page counts, but maybe I should so I can plan better. I do adore tomes, but just don’t have enough time these days. (See my First Grade, Here We Come post.

Anyways, my personal policy is to get about a quarter of the way through before I decide whether to abandon or finish a book. You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about deciding to not finish it. Let’s just jump in and see why, shall we?

DNF: Simply Not Finishing

I don’t not finish most books, but this has happened at least a couple of times.

Many readers will say DNF, but I prefer to use the term abandoned, because that’s what I do: I abandon them. It’s more than just not finishing, it’s a throw it as far away as possible and never ever see or hear from it again because I can’t stand it and must get it away as quickly as possible. You know, abandoned.

I have nothing against DNF. I’ve done it myself. But not quite in the same sense. See, I DNF on accident. While I abandon with intent, there is no real intent behind not finishing a book. There have been some books I’ve just not finished for one reason or another.

1. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: I started reading this just before I started college. Considering last year was my 10 year reunion, that should tell you how long I’ve been working on that book. It was kind of a pet project to read through it and take notes, but it was slow going. I ended up moving quite a bit (because of college and getting married and moving around with my husband), so was constantly misplacing it. By this point, it’s still not finished and I’m still not too sure where it is. See? It’s DNF’ed…for the foreseeable future.

2. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: I got so close with this one. I think I was just a few chapters away from finishing it…and then I just stopped reading. There was really no reason behind it. I think. I just put it down one day and never picked it back up. I’ll maybe finish it one day, but I think I’ve been working on it since before On the Origin of Species, so I don’t actually think it’s likely.

3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: This is a more recently started book. I think I cracked it open last summer. It’s been about a year and a half since I last cracked it open, or even knew where it was. I love the mastery Rothfuss has with prose, but I still had a hard time mustering up the energy and focus to read it. Maybe this series just isn’t for me, no matter how much I proclaim myself a fan of fantasy. For now, it’s just not finished. I don’t hate it enough to abandon it. It’s enjoyable to read. It’s just…I find it boring.


Abandoned is a bit more of a harsher term. It means I can’t stand the book enough to even want to struggle through it. It’s so terrible and annoyed me so much that I just couldn’t do it. Unlike DNF, where time just passed and I moved on, abandoned means I purposefully put it down with the intention of never, ever picking it back up and finishing it.

These tend to be the books with writing so terrible it makes me feel angry. They could also have characters I can’t stand and who make me want to punch them in the face (even though I’m a pacifist). The plot is ridiculous and honestly not even worth my brain cells because there is no clear plot or the story meanders, or it’s literally halfway through when the actual story starts. There are other reasons, but these tend to be the main ones. I hate, hate, hate it when a blurb makes the book sound so good and then I open it up and wonder what on Earth I’m reading.

Clearly, I need to abandon them because the author spent so much time crafting a few sentences to entice readers into it’s fold and extremely little on the content of the actual book.

Actually, that’s one of my pet peeves: the book description and the content not matching. Or the description hinting at an awesome story that doesn’t even start until three-quarters of the way through.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have enough hours in my day to slog through something that’s poorly written, makes no sense, and just makes me angry.

All the Rest

Then there are the books that just don’t jive with me anymore. Or ever. Like Outlander. Now wildly popular with it’s own TV series, my mom tried to get me to read it when I was in 8th grade. That was 20 years ago. I thought it was stupid. Maybe I was just too young, but I just couldn’t get into it and didn’t see myself growing any fonder of it. The last thing I remember is some lady and guy (I suppose it must have been Claire and her husband because it was still very early on in the book) tumbling down some hill. They’ll forever be tumbling down that hill. Then there’s Harry Potter, which I could no longer stomach after reading the sixth book. Harry no longer appealed to me and his slow maturation drove me absolutely nuts. Also, I felt like I was reading my brother and, as I was living through it, I did not want to be reading about all that negativity.

Maybe I just don’t actually like the books that everyone raves about. Oh well. Not every book is for every reader. There are many self-published books I adore, that most people will never hear about unless they happen to read my blog.

So! There you go, how I distinguish between books I need to abandon and books that…I just didn’t finish because I forgot. We’ll forget about all the rest for now.

10 thoughts on “The Difference Between DNF and Abandoned

  1. I had a conversation with some authors on a parallel forum (facebook) about something similar. There was this guy with 50 novels that claims that the literature is cyclic – there are clear peaks and valleys corresponding to an aging population. This just reminded me of that, because I mentioned that now (2020) it’s pretty easy to publish a book thanks to Amaxon and similar. And because of the same tools, we end up buying books we never finish.


    1. That’s interesting! I suppose people are more interested in writing books than actually reading them, especially if they’re younger. I do remember seeing an infographic or something that mentioned older people are more likely to sit and read a book, but it seems a lot of book bloggers are really young. Very interesting! It is very easy to obtain books these days, and so very hard to put any time and attention to actually reading them. Too many books, too little time.


  2. I was thinking the other day that I feel there’s a difference between books I’ve decided not to finish and books I…accidentally don’t finish. I’ve never really seen anyone else discuss this before! I do use “DNF” to mean books I decided to put down, but I think that’s because I picked up the term blogging and that’s what everyone else seems to mean by it.


    1. I thought it was just me since the book community only seems to be using DNF and I was wondering if maybe I was just nuts. I didn’t know about DNF until about 3 years ago, but have had an Abandoned folder on my Kindle since 2011 since that’s what it felt like. It makes it difficult to reconcile my definition of DNF with the community’s, so I figured I’d write about it just in case I needed to reference it one day. Though I’m glad to know you also feel there’s a difference between the two!


  3. It’s so hard for me not to finish a book, even if I don’t like it, but I agree with you that sometimes it’s just better to set one down. As for The Name of the Wind, I listened to it and loved it that way. The reader takes a minute to get used to, but does an amazing job with the accents and such. (Although, if you do get into it, I’m sorry, Rothfuss hasn’t finished the series yet.)


    1. Hmm, maybe I’m just meant to read it after it’s finally finished. I know a lot of fans have been clamoring for the next books and it’s been moving at a molasses pace. I’ve been very tempted to get into audiobooks lately even though I tend to zone out, but I’m really curious to know what all the hype is about.


      1. I keep thinking cleaning is the absolute perfect time to get two things done at the same time. Just waiting for the kids to prefer locking themselves in their rooms so I can hear the book.


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