DNF is an acronym used in running to indicate when a runner Did Not Finish a race. When Ryan Hall pulled out of the Olympic Marathon, for example, his performance was referred to as a DNF.

Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches tweeted that about a DNF review, and it turns out it’s a category on her site. I think the term works well for books, too, so I’m going to use it here.

The timing of her post was apt as I was considering marking a book that I thought I’d enjoy as a DNF. It’s a summer beach read set mostly in Avalon, N.J., a town that I write about often. It’s endorsed by a favorite author. But the writing is so flat, and the characters so bland, that I’ve wanted to chuck it across the room.

Usually I’ll nix a bad book before the end of the first chapter, but I’m stopping here at page 87. Why so far in? Because I wanted to give it a chance. Local book! Good endorsement! It has to turn around soon, right?

No, not for me at least.

Sometimes bad books are worth reviewing. I gave a negative review to Curtis Sittenfeld’s second book, The Man of My Dreams. I proceeded only because I knew a lot of people would be interested in reading it it given the strength of her first novel. Same with Julie Powell’s follow up to Julie and Julia.

But this? It’s not a high profile book or author, and it’s just not worth my time to gnash my teeth over its faults, then gnash my teeth over writing a negative review. So I’m putting it in my donate pile.

Readers, how do you decide to mark a book DNF?

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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