Reader Dilemmas: When you really don’t want to finish the book

Objectively, Picasso and Dali were masters of their craft. Subjectively, I adore Picasso and wouldn’t hang a Dali in my house if you paid me. – Sara Megibow

I love this quote from Sara Megibow with the Nelson Literary Agency. I follow her on Twitter (of course I do) and have discovered that she posts some very insightful gems about publishing, writing, and agenting. (Translation: Go follow her. And if you should discover that she reps the kind of stuff you write, you might consider querying her.)

At any rate, I keep this quote top of mind when I’m reading. I don’t think everyone will like everything, and that’s okay. I could not stand reading The Grapes of Wrath, for example  – or almost anything by Steinbeck, for that matter – though I know lots of people who swear that it’s one of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century. It may very well be; I just didn’t care for it. At all.

(This also is why I’m not likely to ever win the National Book Award or the Pulitzer, since The Grapes of Wrath was a winner of both.)

I’m struggling through a quirky YA book right now, which I decided to make the book that I’ll review this week. A part of me feels like I need to finish it to say that I’ve read the whole thing, but I’m in the middle of Chapter 10 now, and I’m so tempted to just shelve it.

I don’t particularly care how this story ends (I couldn’t tell you what’s at stake), but I hate putting books in the Did Not Finish pile.

Is it ethical to write a review on a book that I don’t actually finish?


  1. arbliss

    In my opinion, no. I think as long as you state that you did not finish the book you are reviewing, then the readers won’t hold it against you. I’d also recommend stating how much of the book you actually read. If you read half of the book, then your review is still relevant to the first half of that book. After all, you can’t review something you haven’t read. Your review only reflects what you did read and your reluctance to read on (which is a review in itself) would only support your “bad” review.

    • E.M.

      That’s kind of what I’ve done. (I’m still drafting my review; I’ll post it later tonight.) There are a few things I like about it, but the things that bother me are starting to outweigh the things I initially liked – and worse, I’m starting to not care about what happens next.

      But my taste in books could be questionable. I mean, I really don’t like Steinbeck, and he’s won all kinds of awards (including a Nobel Prize)!

      I plan on treating this review in the same way that I hope someone will treat my book should they decide not to finish it. (And because I will mark it “DNF”, I will not post a review on Goodreads or Amazon. I don’t think it’s right to assign a star value to a book I didn’t complete.)

      • arbliss

        I agree with you about the star value. That would be a hard thing to do, if you don’t finish it. And I’m with you on the questionable reader thing. I don’t like any of the classics (no matter how many pulitizers/awards they’ve won). Well, I take that back. I read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, which I found interesting, I’m very particular on my reading tastes. Most historical things bore me, though I’ve found a few good ones. And anything I read has to have a heavy romantic element or at least something to keep me entertained, such as humor. They say writing is subjective, but I feel that way about reading. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Also, I sent you an email. 🙂

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