Books I DNFed but Want to Pick Up Again Some Day

Do you ever pick up a book and realize now is just not the right time to be reading it? I definitely believe in “right book, wrong time”, and I thought I would share some of the books that I put down for whatever reason but would love to pick up again some day.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top science fiction spectacle from bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente, in which sentient species compete for glory in a galactic musical contest—where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented—something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix—part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick, and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny—they must sing.

A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock. 

I actually made it over halfway through Space Opera before it became too much and I had to put it down. The strange thing is that I actually was enjoying it, but the humour is something you truly have to be in the mood for. I completely understand the comparisons to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is a book I think I would have enjoyed more if I read it at a different time. Humour is just not something I am typically drawn to in novels, but if and when I am ever in the mood, this is the book I will pick up. There was a lot of interesting worldbuilding and I love how quirky and unique the story is.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

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When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

Wicked is a book that I have tried to read many times but have struggled to get into. I want to love this book! I should probably just give up on it at this point, but there is something about it that still intrigues me. I have never seen the play, but it is on my list! It is interesting to see the range of reviews that Wicked has on Goodreads- it seems to be a book you either love or hate. I was thinking about trying the audiobook next time- maybe I will connect to the story better that way.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea. 

I hate to admit it, but I was not the biggest fan of The Night Circus; however, the premise of The Starless Sea definitely intrigued me. I read a few chapters when the book first came out, but I just wasn’t connecting with the writing at the time. I actually have both the physical copy and the audiobook, so next time I read it I think I will go back and forth between both. I have read so many incredible reviews and I really do think I will love it if I give it a chance!

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill


Heather O’Neill dazzles with a first novel of extraordinary prescience and power, a subtly understated yet searingly effective story of a young life on the streets—and the strength, wits, and luck necessary for survival.

At thirteen, Baby vacillates between childhood comforts and adult temptation: still young enough to drag her dolls around in a vinyl suitcase yet old enough to know more than she should about urban cruelties. Motherless, she lives with her father, Jules, who takes better care of his heroin habit than he does of his daughter. Baby’s gift is a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. But her blossoming beauty has captured the attention of a charismatic and dangerous local pimp who runs an army of sad, slavishly devoted girls—a volatile situation even the normally oblivious Jules cannot ignore. And when an escape disguised as betrayal threatens to crush Baby’s spirit, she will ultimately realize that the power of salvation rests in her hands alone.

Heather O’Neill is one of my favourite authors, and I was absolutely loving Lullabies for Little Criminals, but I picked it up at the beginning of March and I quickly realized that I was not in the headspace to read something so emotional and gut-wrenching. This is definitely a book that I hope to read before the end of the year because it has the potential to become a new favourite, right up there with The Lonely Hearts Hotel.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

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Two sisters travel the same streets,though their lives couldn’t be more different.
Then one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.

I am not sure why I stopped reading Long Bright River because I was enjoying it and I was intrigued by the premise. I think I simply got distracted by other books! I have since seen many rave reviews for Long Bright River from fellow bloggers, so it is another one I hope to get to before the end of the year.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

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The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

This series is so beloved and I absolutely love the premise, but I was just not connecting with the story the first time I attempted to read it. Maybe I wasn’t in the book for a romance? There are now three books in the series, so it would be fun to binge read all the books if I end up loving the first one.

I would love to hear all your thoughts on these novels and whether or not I should pick them up again! Do you have a book that you DNFed but want to give another chance?

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37 thoughts on “Books I DNFed but Want to Pick Up Again Some Day

  1. All the books I read I actually managed to finish: part were required reading in school and part were ones I choose to read.

    I did Wicked- but really did not like that book. Prefer the musical of Wicked over the book.

    Here are ones I choose to read: Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Misérables, Don Quixote, and Illiad/Odyssey

    Those are the “old” classics I actually managed to read the entire thing (which I choose to read)- which is a bit surprising with Anna and Pride and Prejudice: those were not books I enjoyed that much.

    There is a lot more books I can say I read- I am a bookworm- lover of fantasy, mythology, and the classics

  2. I am not good at DNFing so that results in books that I am ‘currently’ reading for quite a while. I try to finish them at last and am usually glad I did. Sometimes I which I could just say, not for me.

    I have recently heard a lot about the Space Opera, and it sounds like fun, but also something you really need to be in the mood for…

  3. I listened to the audio book of Long Bright River. It was really good.
    But I know what you mean about DNFing a book because you’re not in the mood for it. I’ve done that a few times too. Actually, when I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming, it took me a couple months to get through it because I wasn’t in the mood for nonfiction when I initially picked it up. I really like her autobio though. Once I was in the mood for it, I sped through it.

  4. Oh no, I have both The Night Circus and The Starless Sea on my shelves to be read!!! I’m really nervous about reading Erin Morgenstern’s books because they just seem so flowery and dense. I feel so guilty when I DNF, but I’m getting better about knowing when a book just isn’t working for me and not wasting my time! I think the most recent I DNF’d was Anna K. Great post! ♥

  5. Once I DNF I never look back….I think it’s because of the few times I’ve forced myself to finish a book that I was tempted to DNF, I always ended up regretting the time I spent. I’ve learned to follow my initial reactions. My reasons for DNFing are usually rather strong so it’s difficult to imagine overcoming them.

  6. DNF’d Wicked too. like, I loved the idea, but just couldn’t get into the novel.

    Space Opera was such a weird one! i was so close to DNFing it probably 10 times. I finally connected with one of the side characters. the humor was just ok for me, and the prose was solid sensory overload. I really enjoyed a lot of Valente’s books that she wrote earlier in her career, but her experimental stuff and her new stuff just isn’t doing it for me.

      1. Deathless was wonderful! and if you like more poetic style prose, The Habitation of the Blessed is so beautiful!

  7. I DNF’d Wicked too about 15 years ago and though I keep insisting to myself I would pick it back up, I haven’t yet! I feel the same – it’s a book I should love because it’s all the things I love (Witch villain origin story!!! Please!!) but for some reason it never got me the way I thought. I think it was because it was a more intellectual book then a heart based one, if that makes any sense at all?!

  8. Definitely do go back to The Starless Sea!! I also didn’t feel The Night Circus but The Starless Sea is one of my favs!! And the audiobook is great too — it’s a story about stories and the feeling of sitting near the fire and having someone recite it for you makes it much more hitting!! <3

  9. I highly recommend picking up The Starless Sea again! It’s one of my fav books ever, however, I can definitely see why people don’t gel with the writing style. The Bromance Book Club is also on my TBR, but I have no motivation to pick it up 😅 Great post!

  10. I definitely believe that “right book, wrong time” is a big deal! I’ve DNFd plenty of books that I think I’d probably be more into at some other point, and there are books I’ve come back to that I’ve ended up loving. I’ve always had a hard time with Gregory Maguire’s books — I always want to love them because the premises sound so great, and then when I read them, they just don’t end up appealing to me the way I thought they would. I’ve read 3 or 4 of his books at this point, and don’t think I’ll read any more.

    1. I’ve gotten better at putting down books that I’m not in the mood for at that time. It’s not fair to the book if I’m reading it at the wrong time!

      That seems to be the consensus with Wicked- great premise, not so great execution!

      1. And for Wicked, I actually think it suffers by comparison to the Broadway version, which is just so engaging and visually appealing., The book is kind of dry by comparison.

  11. I really liked Long Bright River, it’s been one of my most memorable reads so far this year! I hope you would fare better with it on a second try, especially if you were enjoying it already the first time. 🙂

  12. I’ve only read Wicked, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Granted, I was fourteen when I read it, but the musical is so much better than the book, and you don’t need to read the book to enjoy the musical.

    It depends on the book, but I generally don’t like to say never so I do DNF most books with the hope that I just picked it up at the wrong time and will actually love it. Some times it works out, and I do end up loving it. Other times I don’t like it.

    1. So many commenters are saying the play is better!

      I’m sort of like that too. There are some books I dnf knowing that the book just not for me, but the majority of the time I think it’s right book, wrong time. I think it’s worth giving a book a second try because you never know!

  13. I was loving The Starless Sea until about part 4/5 (I don’t remember for certain which one) and from then on I didn’t enjoy it much. Wanted to DNF but at that point I was pretty far so I pushed through anyway

  14. I really enjoyed Wicked the first time I read it, although I do remember it taking me some time to get through. But, I tried to do a re-read a few years ago and just couldn’t. I just could not get through the book a second time and viewed it completely differently.

  15. Honestly, I wanted to love wicked too, which is why I kept trying to read even though I kept DNFing it… and even though I did end up finishing it, it wasn’t really worth it, cos I never ended up connecting with it.

  16. Wicked is so bizarre. I read it all the way through (more than once?) in high school despite the fact that I wasn’t enjoying it AT ALL. I also didn’t connect with the humor in Space Opera, and it is similarly just WEIRD. Wouldn’t blame you if you never picked either of those back up.

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