With select(2). This is called asynchronous or event based programming. Most answers here mentioning the D state (which exact name is TASK _UNINTERRUPTIBLE from Linux sate names) are incorrect. The D state is a special sleep mode which is only triggered in a kernel space.
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Finally in userspace the blocking system call returns with proper status and data, and the program flow goes on. It is possible to invoke most I/O system calls in non-blocking mode (see O_NONBLOCK in open(2) and fcntl(2).
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I believe that most "D states" are actually invisible, they are very short lived and can't be observed by sampling tools such as 'top'. But you will jenga game for pc sometimes encounter those unkillable processes in D state in a few situations.
Read this article for the cool solution introduced in Linux with the TASK _KILLABLE state. Before this era there was a hack where you could actually send signals to NFS process clients by sending a SIGKILL to the kernel thread rpciod, but forget about that.