Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Being brave: the dreaded DNF

As an almost-rule, I am a compulsive finisher of books. I read so fast as a kid that I would read and re-read (and re-read again) most books in my collection, and a lot of books from the library, just to constantly have something with words and pages in my hand. This would include books that I wasn't really getting along with, because every book deserves a chance, right? Plus, great or not, it was a new story to plough through, and to a kid with limited pocket money and a library with a finite selection of kids and teen books, that was enough.

As a result, though, I've read some pretty terrible books in my time.

I finally DNF'ed something a couple of years ago, when I gave up Stephen King's Black House as a bad job, and moved on to something else. Over Christmas, I was reading Death Comes to Pemberley, the P.D. James crime novel set six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice. On paper, this was an exciting mixture of a brilliant crime writer and an intriguing look at some beloved characters, and yet by the time I was halfway through I just didn't care. The writing was unengaging, the plot was plodding and I cared neither about the character who was dead, or who might have done it. (My mum was, incidentally, reading it at the same time by coincidence, and although she finished it she was reasonably underwhelmed.)

So I gave it up and put it to one side, and today I finally marked some other stuff as DNF on Goodreads. Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, fascinating as the idea is, failed to grab me in the first place and has been dragged from bookcase to shelf over the last three years as I've moved house again and again, only to remain largely untouched a couple of chapters in. The audiobook of Bill Bryson's Down Under was something of a chore - I was hoping for a more positive foray into audiobooks when I picked this up at the library, but the narrator is appalling. He reads in an affected American accent, presumably to mirror Bryson, and the frequent lapses into an Australian accent hurt my brain. I'm sure the book is great, and I'm a big fan of Bryson, but I've had to stop listening to this.

Although a little part of me feels bad about giving up on these books and casting them aside, I'm now free of them, and free to go and read something else that I might actually enjoy. My time is increasingly limited, and as a result I'm less inclined to carry on with a book that isn't holding my attention. It's taken a while, but I think I'm finally happy to DNF the duds!

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