I have a tickle in my throat that will not quit this morning. I keep coughing, clearing my throat, blowing my nose, slowly sipping water — but there it lurks, a little itch somewhere low in my right… something. Is the throat made up of parts? The sinuses must connect somehow, right? But that’s the spot, I suspect — right where the sinuses join the throat — and no way for me to scratch. Except to keep trying to clear my throat. The dogs are not sure they approve.

So in a comment on the last post, Carol* asked:

Question — have you ever been turned off by a book to the point where you quit reading it? I get the feeling that you did just that with the Shinn book you just reviewed. Do you ever feel guilty about it and hang onto the book, telling yourself you’ll give it another chance some time in the future? Or do you just pass it along or donate it?

I love this question! First, though, I definitely didn’t do that with either of the Shinn books. She’s such a good writer that even when I have issues with a story for one reason or another, I keep reading. It’s why I risked the hardcover purchases — not a risk so much because of the price, which was excellent, but because I don’t really like keeping books made with paper anymore. I don’t want the clutter. If I let myself go, I would have a house filled with bookshelves, overflowing with books, accumulating dust. Instead, I try to keep my bookshelves limited to only books that are keepers, that I loved enough that I will reread again and again, or that are meaningful to me for some other reasons. I’ve read some of the books on my keeper shelves dozens of times. Sharon Shinn’s got plenty of books on my keeper shelves and The Turning Season will join them. She writes so beautifully, even when I want to object to elements of the story. Plus, it’s a really hopeful book and sometimes that’s what I’m looking for in a reread. Yes, it’s on the bleak side, but a reminder to search for blessings in the midst of sorrow is not a bad message.

But I didn’t mean to write more about that book — instead I wanted to answer the DNF question. Yes! I used to persist with every book I picked up. If I started it, I felt obligated to finish it for some reason. As if the book would know that I didn’t like it and have its feelings hurt. I read so many utterly forgettable books that way. But now… now I am merciless. If a book doesn’t grab me or it loses me somewhere along the way, I just stop reading. And I don’t even feel guilty about it anymore. Or at least not very guilty.

At the beginning of 2015, when I decided to really try to track the books I was reading on Goodreads, I also tracked DNFs (Did Not Finish). There was a Kindle Prime book where my review started, “I’m admitting the truth on this one: I’m never going to finish it. I just didn’t like the main character and I don’t want to spend any more time in her head.” and another book that I picked up from the library, where my review included the line, “If it wasn’t a library book, it would sit in my “keep trying” pile forever, but since I had to bring it back, I can admit the truth — it’s a DNF.”

Another one is a pretty perfect example of a DNF review for me. It was Nevada’s Barr’s Destroyer Angel. My review, in full:

4th DNF of the year for me, but I’m not blaming the writing. I have enjoyed Nevada Barr’s books before, so I didn’t look too closely at what the book was about, but this one is more thriller than mystery. Three women, two girls, and a dog are attacked in the woods by a gang of men. When the bad guys first hurt the dog and then debated killing the dog, I realized it was not going to be what I was looking for in a reading experience. I’m sure in the end good triumphed over evil, but the intensity level was not for me. Ironically, one of the bad guys is willing to kill the women but not the dog — I guess he and I have something in common, because I read plenty of books where women get abused, but I apparently had to draw the line at dogs this week.

I actually stopped tracking my DNFs, though, because most often — especially with ebooks — a DNF is either obvious within the first three chapters or falls into that “maybe I’ll try again later”. If it’s obvious right away, I don’t want to leave a review on Goodreads, because it doesn’t seem fair since I haven’t really read the book, and if it’s “maybe later”, I don’t leave the review since, you know, maybe later.

I definitely used to feel much guiltier about not finishing books, though, and I have tried really hard to give up that guilt. The world contains more books than I will ever, ever be able to read, and I figure if I give up on one, I’m making time to read another.

Hmm…you know, I am not going to follow that train of thought out to its logical conclusion, which is that if I give up on writing A Gift of Grace, I’m making time to write something else. I am not giving up. Not, not, not. And so I think I’d best get back to it. But great question, Carol, and thanks for giving me something to write about today!

*Californian Carol, not New Zealand Carol. It’s kind of funny in a blog with half a dozen readers or so that two of you are named Carol. I’ve wondered more than once if I was just confused but since you both commented separately on the same post, I have once and for all concluded that you are two separate people. 🙂