The short answer is yes.

I can practically hear the collective gasp of horrified readers. Shocking, I know, for a writer to say it’s okay to stop reading my works. Or the work of any other writer as well.

I know that many readers have really potent feelings about DNF’ing a book, as if it’s a personal slight to the person who put in the hours to write it in the first place.

Or like skipping boring parts somehow diminishes your achievement of reading that book. Spoiler: it doesn’t.

The whole point of reading is to do it for pleasure.

There are many other times in life when you have to read things, that are not for pleasure but serve some kind of function.

You read exam questions.

You read recipes.

You read street signs.

You decipher Swedish furniture assembly instructions with barely any text (and come out of it none the wiser).

The beauty of being able to read for pleasure is that it pulls you in, rather than pushes you to slog through it.

I recently started going through my shelves and lists and TBRs to see where I stood. Turns out, instead of the four books I thought I was currently reading, I’ve got 10+ in progress or unfinished books.

Now, some of those were more for work and were never meant to be devoured from cover to cover, so I ticked a few off just based on that alone. I’d got what I needed from those books and that was enough.

Then there were a few books I recently got because I really wanted to read them.

One for research because I’ve always loved ancient Egyptian stuff, and I’m in the process of writing Egyptian inspired shorts.

Another because I was mildly curious to see how the dark Peter Pan retelling turns out (based on other reviews, it’s more in the Plot? What plot?-category with over-the-top sex, but I’ll see how far I get; my track record with erotica shorts is better than full-length erotica books).

Then there were the books that I’d started reading, but had got bored with at some point, and simply stopped reading. Not in a yeet-it-across-the-room kind of DNF, simply a simmer slowly dying down as time went on.

In my life, I think I’ve officially DNF’d a book once.

And that was a yeet-it-across-the-room kind of DNF where I just had to stop reading for my own sanity as it was burning my blood.

Most others that I’ve stopped reading have just quietly faded into the background, unfinished when stories that have been more gripping, more engaging have come across my path (usually because I’ve gone in search of them out of boredom with my current read).

Getting bored with my current read usually happens when I couldn’t care less about the characters and what happens to them. Or, sometimes, I really love the characters, but I’m also forced to slog through a bunch of chapters from secondary characters’ POV (or other mains’ POV that I don’t care about) and just lose interest in reading.

And that’s all okay.

If something doesn’t float your boat, don’t force yourself to slog through it needlessly. Save the slogging through literature for the times when you absolutely must do so, and just read for pleasure.

That’s what being bookish is all about: going on adventures you love.

Not slogging through shit you have to do. That’s life and one per person is enough to deal with.

And we can’t talk about DNF’ing a book without touching on the topic of bad reviews.

Is it okay to leave a bad review for a book you didn’t like?

The answer, to this also, is yes.

Not every book is for everyone.

Should you leave a review of a book when you didn’t like it?

You don’t have to. If you didn’t like it, I wouldn’t expect you to take the time to review it.

But I find the 1-2 star reviews incredibly helpful.

(When they’re honest and to the point, not when they go on a personal vendetta.)

The gushing full-star reviews rarely look at the thing critically, so I go to the “bad” reviews to find out what the problem was.

Sometimes it was a non-issue – such as complaining about there being sex in an erotica book – and sometimes it’s not an issue for me specifically – like a book having depictions of rape.

For both the readers and the authors, it’s infinitely more fun to read and write books when you get to do it among people who love the same books and stories and themes as you do.

There’s no reason to feel bad for not liking a book, or liking something about it.

And when you want to leave a review for a book you didn’t enjoy, there are three questions to ask yourself if you’re teetering on the edge of speaking up or quieting down:

  • Did you mean it?
  • Can you defend it?
  • Did you say it with love?

These are from Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ TEDTalk, Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and though she’s speaking of a different kind of staying silent, I think we can all use these questions as a mantra for when we have to say uncomfortable things that need to be said.

If what you say checks all the boxes above, you’re in a pretty good place to move forward. And chances are your review will be helpful, not just to other readers, but also to the author.

When I solicit feedback for my writing, I tend to smile and nod at the people who come with only, “That was great!” because it tells me very little. They enjoyed it, okay, but how?

The feedback I love best falls into two categories:

  • I liked it because…
  • I didn’t like it because…

When you can articulate what specifically made you enjoy or dislike something, it becomes constructive feedback for me that I can use going forward.

If you’re complaining that there was sex in an erotica book, then I know I don’t have to worry about it so long as plenty of other people understood from my metadata (cover, blurb etc.) that it was erotica.

If I’ve written a romance book and I upset everyone because it doesn’t end in a HEA/HFN then – I’ve got a bigger issue than a bad review – but I’ve also got information on where I went wrong and can fix it.

Whether you liked or disliked a book, it’s always a good idea to think about why.

Analysis is a wonderful tool to help you understand what you enjoy or pinpoint why one story otherwise seemed fine, but you walked away from it incredibly frustrated.

Reading for pleasure is a great privilege that not everyone has.

Make the most of it. ❤️

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10- and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.

– Neil Gaiman, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”

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