DNF: The Pressure to Enjoy Books
Not finishing a book is an often difficult concept to me.
I am easily impressed and entertained, it takes something big (or I guess, not big at all) for me to put down a book. Either it’s really boring, or there is an element of the story I really don’t like.
Of course, that’s the same for everyone; you put down a book because you don’t like it. Books are subjective. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion yada yada yada.
But when being a part of a reading community, you can often get whirled up in hype. I hate hype. It’s like this infectious thing that latches onto a book/series and spreads, deeming the book too boring and disappointing. Hype has put me off books completely, tearing down the idea that I’ll even pick it up!
But then there are some books that I’m dying to read, are incredibly popular, and so well loved.
Last night, after reading only forty pages, I DNF’d a really popular book in the online reading/book blogging community. I was actually offended that this book was so popular; after reading not even a tenth of it, I had ticked off almost everything off my checklist in what I don’t like about a book: misogyny, a Mary-Sue, a poorly developed world, the hashing out of old ideas, character stereotypes (manic pixie dream girl for one), and unrealistic dialogue.
This book, that so many people love, was awful. How, as an avid reader and book lover, though, could I not enjoy it? I began to doubt myself, staring at the book as I discussed with people on Twitter why I didn’t like it, and why they actually loved it. Was it me? Was I the problem? Was I not reading it properly? Missing the point? I mean, I’d only read forty pages, that’s not really enough to decide whether a book is good or not.
But…don’t agents, don’t publishers, only read the first chapter? I read five, and I would have put this manuscript in the trash immediately.
But it must have something; people love it! They love the author, they love the story, the characters, the messages. Yeah, it must definitely be me.
For a long time I felt very guilty about putting a book down that I didn’t like. Because maybe I just didn’t get it, I was missing something that everyone else was seeing. But it was only after talking about it to myself more, rereading parts, and talking to others on Twitter about it more, did I realise that no, I will not feel guilty about disliking something.
I have genuine feelings about why I dislike this book, and just because it’s so popular, does not mean that I am wrong. As I said before, reading is a very subjective experience, and through outside factors along with the individual past and present experiences of the reader, you are also bound to have a different interpretation of it as the writer. Just by being a woman, I already have a different outlook on the world than the writer. Hell, just by being another human, I do.
And just because I did not like this book, does not mean there is anything wrong with me, anything wrong with the writer, anything wrong with the book, anything wrong with people who enjoy the book. It all boils down everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I didn’t really feel it until I had this largely unpopular opinion. It wasn’t until people who loved the book sent me smiling emojis and told me my review was interesting.
To me, life is too short for books you don’t enjoy, life is too short to feel forced to pick up books you don’t fancy. Book recs are great, publicity is what get a book out there. But if you don’t like a book, do not be afraid to give it one star, do not be afraid to show an understanding and give constructive criticism (without being downright rude). Do not be afraid to put a book down and say “Yeah, I’m done.”
Considering I only read forty pages, I think it would be redundant to post a review. However, I have put down some thoughts on said book on my Goodreads. If you haven’t read the book and were planning to, please do not be put off by my opinion. Still want to read it? Absolutely go for it, there’s obviously something in there that readers love, and I would hate for you to miss out on a story that could very well be your best read of the year!