21 Books Everyone Has Started But Never Finished

I have a chronic problem with starting books and not finishing them. My DNF (did not finish) list is probably twice as long as my read list. Even when the book is wonderful, amazing, or life-changing, there’s a high chance that it will be sitting, half-read on my nightstand for years. But I know I'm not alone — there are countless books that everyone has started but never finished.

There's always something that gets in the way of my reading —  whether it’s having too much going on at work, crazy life drama, or (more often than not) a shiny new book that I just can’t wait to start. There are so many wonderful, amazing books in the world, I tend to get excited about new books and start them right away, forgetting the book I started just that same morning. I also have the habit of reading about five books at once, picking up specific books depending on my mood. This is not great for progress, and many of my books end up getting left behind.

But, hey, I can’t help it! Everyone reads in their own way, and everyone has their own guilty stack of DNFs. And I’d be willing to bet that everyone’s DNF pile shares some of the same titles. Whatever your reason for DNF-ing these books, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. We all do it, and (as much as I love actually a finishing a book) when there are so many books and so little time, you’ve got to learn to move on.

Images: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

'Infinite Jest' by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is one of those books that everybody is either obsessed with or just "doesn't get." And clocking in at over 1,000 pages and boasting hundreds of footnotes, Infinite Jest it definitely one of the most challenging books ever written. This is one of my favorite books, but it also took me seven months to get through it. So I completely understand when people tell me they haven't finished it.

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'Ulysses' by James Joyce

This classic takes place during a single day, but it can takes months to read. I bet you did the same thing as me: bought a copy, got excited about taking on the challenge, and then got winded about 40 pages in.

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'Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin

After the success of the HBO show, so many people picked up the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and (like the characters in GoT) only a handful made it through to the end.

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'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens

This book is obviously a classic, but it was also the bane of my existence in high school. The rumor that Dickens got paid by the word isn't true, but it would make so much sense.

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'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy

This is a classically challenging book to read, clocking in at 1,392 pages. Finishing it is something people put on their resume. Seriously.

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'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy

Speaking of Tolstoy, this classic has been sitting on my DNF shelf for years.

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'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel García Márquez

Márquez is a force of nature, and this book is a classic. But it’s also a very, very dense read.

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'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

Everyone has started this classic, and it’s obviously adored by millions. But there’s also a huge camp of people who would just prefer to watch Colin Firth do the same thing in less time.

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'Les Misérables' by Victor Hugo

You probably checked this book out from your high school library after being introduced to the musical, only to find that it was a million pages long, incredibly dense, and super depressing.

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'Eragon' by Christopher Paolini

There's a period in middle school when everyone was reading this series. But the first book was so long — and the subsequent books seemed to be even longer.

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'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman

This is one of my favorite books, but I often encounter people who haven't finished it. American Gods does require a commitment of its reader, but it's worth it. Finish it before the TV adaptation premiers.

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'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt

This Pulitzer Prize-winner made its way onto most people’s bookshelves after its illustrious win, but so many people gave up before finishing all 784 pages.

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'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë

Another challenging classic that was probably assigned to you in high school. You either loved it or you hated it. There was no in-between.

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'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë

Another Brontë sister classic, this dark book is at times exhilarating and at times frustrating.

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'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Every ambitious reader has added this to their TBR shelf. It's challenging for sure — no matter if you're reading in English or in the original Spanish.

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'Fifty Shades of Grey' by E.L. James

Let's be real, everyone has read at least some of this phenomenon. Some rushed through to the finish. Others couldn't make it past the first few chapters. No judgment either way.

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'The Old Man and the Sea' by Ernest Hemingway

I feel like every reader goes through a Hemingway phase. The Old Man And The Sea is short, but how many people have actually read it in full?

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'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain

Sure, this is a classic, but after reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it's hard to get through what is inarguably an inferior book.

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'The Fellowship of the Ring' by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you're a fan of the action-packed Lord of The Rings movies, you may have been a bit let down by the books. Tolkien's novels move at a much slower pace, and they are filled with long, detailed descriptions of Middle Earth and all its characters.

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'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand

This well-known book is one that everyone's at least a little curious about. But whether you were stopped by its controversial message or the fact that it's 1,168 pages.

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'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

If you like Dostoyevsky, you love Dostoyevsky. But this long book, while a classic, can be a real drag for those on the fence about the author.

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