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We all experienced that moment. You know, when you open a book, read a few pages and then set it aside. You might read several chapters or half the book, but eventually you stop. For a myriad of reasons, you choose not to quit and add it to your growing DNF stack. And that pile can just grow and grow. But … sometimes this book doesn’t stay in the DNF pile. Sometimes you decide to give it another chance. This could be due to a recommendation from a friend who piqued your interest in the book or a desire to find out what happens in the end. Perhaps you came into contact with the book as a child but never finished reading it until you were an adult. You may have started a book at some point in your life but came back to it later when you were older and in a different state of mind. There are some books that stayed in my DNF pile, but others that I picked up and devoured pretty quickly.
The time interval between reading sessions can range from just a few days to longer periods such as months or even years. However, after finishing one of those books that I like to call “the books that almost escaped,” I felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for giving it another chance. Had I put it aside permanently, I would not have had this closure. Don’t get me wrong, some books definitely stay in the DNF pile. For real. However, this post is not about those books. It’s all about the books that we took a second or third chance on. For this post, I asked my fellow campaigners to share the books that they no longer read but later finished. Here are the books that almost escaped!
Meet me in another life of Catriona Silvey
I was quite excited to start this book because it seemed to promise adventure, curiosity, and love. In the end, it had these elements, but it didn’t present them as I expected. When I started reading this book, I was put off by the sad tone and monotony of events. Even so, I kept reading it until I was about halfway through the book. At that point, I didn’t really feel it. It was aimless and tragic, two things I didn’t know I was going to get when I decided to read it in the first place. Because of these factors, I made up my mind not to quit. I just didn’t see the roll call. Well, that didn’t take too long. After a few days, I kept thinking of a certain scene in the book that didn’t make sense. Why did that happen? What was the purpose? My curiosity did not let go of the book until I had read a little further. And I was not disappointed. After reading a few more chapters, the book took an unexpected turn that pleased me. These scenes included more action and some in-depth conversation. I flipped through the remaining pages and when I was done I knew it was going to be one that would stay with me for a long time. This book wasn’t what I expected, but it was better. It wasn’t until later that I realized what the author had created.
– Gia R.
Good lecture by Mira Jacob
When the world raved about Good Talk – a graphic memoir by Mira Jacob exploring her experience of racism through conversations she had with family and friends – I was left disinterested. I had seen preview pages once, but after realizing that I wasn’t in love with the artwork, I decided not to read any further. Then the Feminist Book Club members chose it as one of their monthly favorites and, well, when a book club tells me to read something, I read it. When I gave him a chance, I became addicted. I liked the structure of the book. I loved the conversations Jacob had with her son. I loved the way the book made me giggle and make me angry and make me sob. I couldn’t believe that with my quick judgment, I almost missed an amazing memoir months earlier. I liked it so much that I let my other book club read it. But I think that something like this happens a lot. We make these quick judgments based on our mood at the moment. The place where we are in life. Sometimes the time is just not the right time to read a book. But if we’re lucky, it comes back to us.
Shadows and Bones by Leigh Bardugo
Given the current popularity of this television series on Netflix, you would be surprised that I stopped this book halfway and didn’t pick it up in two years. Yes, two years. Look, I loved Alina, Mal, the Darkling, and all of the drama, but for some reason it wasn’t time to read this YA fantasy. Maybe I was too overwhelmed with all the fantasy books at the time, but for some reason I felt like it was off to a slow start and I didn’t know if it would deliver the tension I wanted and looked for in a book had . Boy was I wrong When I picked it up again, I finished the whole show in one weekend and now I’m a total Leigh Bardugo fan. I even hosted her at the Miami Book Fair for Six of Crows, another of her books that I enjoy, and it was great to hear her talk about her inspiration behind the Grishaverse. Thank you, book slump, for preventing me from reading it, and thank you, determination, for making me pick it up again. Now I recommend this series to family, friends and students. Not picked up yet? Please. Don’t wait years to finish like I did … well worth reading!
—Aurora Lydia Dominguez
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The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings holds an incredibly special place in my heart as being a real nerd and becoming a real fan of something was probably one of my first experiences, and this world offers me immense joy and comfort to this day. But it wasn’t always like that. When I was 10 years old I started enjoying movies, which led me to read The Hobbit, a book I loved. I then tried The Lord of the Rings and 6th grade just couldn’t. I gave up while Treebeard was talking to Merry and Pippin in the Fangorn Forest because, my God, it was easy. So slow. But after seeing the films so many times and basically memorizing them in the intervening years, I returned to books in high school. This time around, I’ve flown through the whole thing, with attachments and all, and very happily solidified myself as the big Tolkien nerd that I am.
A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I tried reading this book for the first time when I was 16, fresh out of high school, and eager to prove my intellect by reading what the big city kids of literature appeared to be reading in college. The pressure of love was great, which made it easier to begin the slow and complex story without knowing the historical subtexts. I gave up after reading about a quarter of the book, but for some reason I carried it with me every time I moved. I picked it up again about five years after the first attempt and was intrigued. I understood why this is such an important book, its anti-colonial overtones, and the sheer magic of prose. It remains one of my all time favorites and was an introduction to magical realism, a genre that has led me to many other books that I have loved.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
This happened to me several times in college: I was assigned parts of a book for a class, and then I had to wait until the end of the semester to have time to finish. I’m always glad I did, especially when it came to The Devil in the White City, which I had to read a few chapters of for a creative nonfiction class. Since then, I’ve read almost every book Larson has ever written! Other books I graduated from college myself are Mouse by Art Spiegelman (how could you only assign part one ???) finished the whole thing. It was a great way to learn about Tolkien’s work, I can say that much!
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
My mother loved this book, so she was dying to read it to me. Actually too eager. I’m not sure when she made the first attempt, but I clearly didn’t have the attention span because I remember hearing that opening sentence and immediately vetoing it. The opening line is incredibly long, describes landscapes (which remains a deal breaker for me) and isn’t even about Anne. I didn’t pick it up again until I was an adult, in search of a gentle, calming read, and fascinated by the Sapphic subtext. I ended up loving it, and even found the first line delightful. And yes, I definitely think Anne was in love with Diana.
They both die at the end of Adam Silvera
In order. I know. I know. This book is very popular with the youth these days, at least according to #BookTok. Because of its unique premise and recent popularity, I was excited to read it. So I bought it, read the first few pages, and then … well, it sat on my desk for months. Unlike other books I’ve added to my DNF list, I had no clear reason not to finish this one. But I had no clear reason to read on either. I think I wasn’t really interested in reading anything sad at the time. As the months passed, I wondered why I bought it in the first place. Was it because it was popular? No. Was it because I wanted to read about the deaths of two teenagers? Still no. To find out, I opened it again and started reading it again. And I have to say I’m glad I did! This time I was ready to read about two cute teenagers who decide to live for a day.
– Gia R.
Which books did you stop but later finished? Which books almost escaped?