The books most commonly left unfinished


Deciding not to finish a book can be a freeing experience. Our time as readers is limited and there are SO MANY good books out there. Choosing to DNF isn’t an indictment of the book itself—usually—but a necessary aspect of the reader’s life nowadays. Some books, though, get DNFed more often than others….

Well, that’s nice to say, but pretty often hitting the DNF button is totally an indictment of the book itself. Not always, I grant you. But often. Let’s see which of the fifteen on this list seem to possibly fall into the not-for-me-but-not-bad category and which might more likely toggle the switch to it’s-not-me-it’s-you.

Also, this sensible disclaimer:

This list also skews towards very popular books, so while these books are commonly DNFed, they’re also very, very commonly read. Likely, they weren’t finished because they were so widely advertised and attracted readers who weren’t the best readers for these books to begin with.

That hypothesis sounds very plausible.

Moving on to the actual list. Without peeking, do you have any predictions? I bet Fifty Shades is on there somewhere.

So …


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1,240 total nopes)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (1,100)

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (1,012)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (956)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (928)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (907)

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (862)

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (838)

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (805)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (766)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (731)

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (729)

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (723)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass (705)

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (701)


Hah, I was right! Number two! Well, that did seem likely. Allllll the hype, but badly written porn? Plus it sold soooo many copies, one would think just statistically it would rack up lots of DNF votes along with lots (I presume) of rave reviews.

Have you personally not finished any of these books?

I started but did not finish: Outlander, The Book Thief, and Shiver.

The ones I have not tried are Fifty Shades, Casual Vacancy, Night Circus, City of Bones, Red Queen, Discovery of Witches (I’ve never heard of that one), Allegiant, Throne of Glass, and The Magicians.

The ones I have read are American Gods (which I did not like), Song of Ice and Fire (I DNF the series, but I did read the first three or so), and Miss Peregrine’s Home. That one was just okay for me.

The ones I would like to try eventually are Night Circus and The Magicians.

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10 thoughts on “The books most commonly left unfinished”

  1. I believe I’d heard that about Allegiant. But I lost interest before that because I thought the worldbuilding was so unbelievable.

    Red Queen: noted!

  2. I DNFd The Casual Vacancy and the Magicians, both for not having any characters I liked or cared about. I enjoyed Outlander the first time around, pre-kids, but gave up on a re-read to try to catch up to where the series was – no brain space for that kind of detail these days, plus the romantic relationship started to feel really problematic. I really enjoyed the Night Circus, Shiver, and a Discovery of Witches from this list.

  3. Had in my hands but didn’t even start: Fifty Shades of Grey, The Casual Vacancy, A Song of Ice and Fire (all brought into the house by, then, teenage daughters).

    Read, and even finished, but didn’t like: American Gods, The Magicians.

    Want to read: The Night Circus, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. (Am I ill-advised?)

    Heard of, don’t want to read: The Book Thief,
    City of Bones.

  4. Irina, for me, Miss Peregrine’s Home started strong but lost steam partway through.

    In the beginning, it seemed like dark fantasy or horror. Then the protagonist actually gets to the school and I felt that at that point the pace slowed down and the feel of the book changed to a less-dark fantasy. Oddly, even though I’m not usually crazy about horror, I didn’t like the change.

    Your mileage might well vary. Certainly there’s no reason not to try it.

    Katy, I really wanted to like Shiver. But I got like 30 pages in and was all: No. This is just not at all what wolves are like and I absolutely do not believe any of this.

  5. personally not finished: Book Thief, Night Circus, City of Bones, ASoIaF, Discovery of Witches, Throne of Glass, Magicians.

    I remember Discovery of Witches seemed forced and same old, same old, when I started it (fortunately from the library).

    Read Outlander and #2, and stopped. Most of the others didn’t bother picking up for whatever reason.

  6. The only book I’ve read on the DNF list is The Night Circus. That’s a wonderful book. I’ll probably read it again.

  7. I wholeheartedly recommend Night Circus. I did read the whole series for The Magicians, because the general premise and curiosity got me through, but the characters (especially the pov character) all have a *lot* of growing up to do in book one, and it was definitely my least favorite of the trilogy.

    I was ok with Outlander and Throne of Glass, but ended up DNFing both series. Outlander got really bad really fast, particularly. Think more of the DNFs on that one are due to length/pacing vs the part nearer the end (spoilers!) where the male love interest is raped?

  8. “A lot of growing up to do” is a comment that immediately turns me off, so not sure I’ll get far in that one, even if the second book improves.

    Night Circus has been recommended by enough people whose taste I often agree with that I will probably try it eventually. I think it’s in my Samples folder now, but heaven knows when I’ll get to it.

  9. I second (third?) the recommendation for Night Circus. Lovely book.

    I DNF’d The Magicians 3/4 of the way through because I simply could care less about any of the characters.

    American Gods was okay but I didn’t love it the way I love his books for kids and his more recent stuff.

    Maggie Stiefvater is a fantastic writer and I adored her Raven Boys trilogy, but I can’t read her werewolves or fairies. (I don’t really like anybody’s fairies, but I can usually get into werewolves.) (Kind of spoiled by black dogs now, though!)

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