Unfinished business

WHY are some books abandoned halfway? We ran a survey to find the answers, and we also wanted to know if you would give the book another chance, and why.

With the help of Times bookstores, we offered a little token to the readers who sent in the five best answers to our Read Me Not! survey. The following five readers will each receive RM20 worth of book vouchers from Times. Here are their replies as well as some of the best of the rest of the almost 200 replies we received from people – people of all ages, too, ranging from students to retirees!

The winners

Chan Jia Hui (Student, 19, Johor) couldn’t believe that The Island At The End Of The World by Sam Taylor received positive reviews, let alone be published, due to its use of “terrible English” in alternating chapters.

“The writer purposely writes with lots of grammar mistakes and spelling errors in the chapters written from a young boy’s point of view. I can’t tolerate this type of writing style.”

Izarin Izmir Izhar (Student, 23, Selangor) was in awe when he learned about the avant-garde writers and artists in college. But when he read Room by Emma Donoghue, he found out that “admiration does not necessarily entail enjoyment”.

Lean Ka-Min (Copywriter, 38, Penang) could not get through literary classic Anna Karanina by Leo Tolstoy. After reading 100 pages (out of more than 800), he gave up the chase.

“The genteel, mannered world of the Russian aristocracy which the novel depicts, with its stifling customs and stiff ways, was not one that held much fascination for me.

“Some may call it a patient buildup, but I found the proceedings draggy, as the narrative shifted focus from one nattily-turned-out character to another, most of whom seemed to be hankering after another fellow member of polite society.”

Ng Chia Shyn (Student, 19, Malacca) abandoned Mercy by Jodi Picoult because it was “too good”.

“The writer managed to articulate the betrayal and infidelity by the husband so well that I was gripping the book hard in anger. It was too hard to read on for a hopeless romantic like me.

“I plan to have another go at this book because I feel it is unfair to the author if I do not finish such a well-written novel. I will prepare to have my waterworks turned on at the end of this book because of the inevitable sad ending.”

Sofea A. Ghani (Student, 19, Selangor) stopped reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë six years ago because the Victorian prose made for difficult reading.

“‘Dear Sofea, I am giving you this book because no young lady should go through life without having read it.’”

“At 13, I found the book confusing, long, detailed and very deep. Today, at 19, it is time that I do justice to this book, a gift from an aunty six years ago, and appreciate the beauty which will show in due time.”

Notes to authors

These are the entertaining little missives some readers wanted to share with the authors of the books they abandoned.

Dear David Baldacci,

The Collectors is definitely not collector’s material for me. There are two plots running simultaneously and I know that sooner or later the stories should merge. But I don’t see the light at the end of my tunnel.

Public relations consultant, 43

Dear Steve Barry,

Your priests think nothing of having intimate relationships with women. I abandoned The Third Secret because I felt it wasn’t right – even if it’s fiction.

Retiree, 53

Dear Michelle Brooks,

Syd in Bone Dressing is so annoying. Is it really necessary for her to have a pointless argument that goes on for several chapters?

But I will give the book another go because it is rude to judge a book without reading till the end.

Freelancer, 25

Dear E.L. James,

The first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy is ok. Christian Grey is perfect (minus the erotic part).

But your second book is a disaster. You just repeat the same thing over and over again.

You think you can get away with it by stuffing it with endless romantic gestures and Christian-Grey-exercise-routines, if you know what I mean. Can he really be THAT sex-driven? I’m sick of Christian and Anastasia going around in circles. 

Student, 19

I was curious about how you would build up to the climax (no pun intended) but I was disappointed. Bland writing style, not worth my time. I didn’t get past Chapter Five.

Student, 17

Writing style too fan-fiction-ish. Inappropriate use of the F-word. (Every single line? Come on!) I have read erotica before, be it good, bad, or plain dirty. I simply can’t stomach this one.

Clerk, 29

Dear Stephen King,

Pennywise the clown in It scared me when I was 14. I kept dreaming about Pennywise and his terrorising smile. I stopped at page 770 and have not touched the book since. But now that I am older and have survived (horror movie) The Conjuring, I will give it another go.

Army officer, 34

Dear Sophie Kinsella,

Your heroine in The Shopaholic And Baby is supremely irritating and a complete idiot. I felt like shaking her till her bones rattle, so I decided to abandon the book before I burst a blood vessel. Sheer waste of time. Will not touch it again, not even with a ten-foot pole. It’s pointless reading a book that lowers one’s intelligence and at the same time increases one’s risk of getting a stroke.

Self-employed, 45

The protagonist in Remember Me is memorable only for one reason: she is a total klutz. It’s ridiculous how she gets herself into the most absurd situations. Won’t be reading this book again. It was torturous enough just to get to the point where I stopped – where she accidentally killed some irreplaceable and extremely valuable ornamental fish.


Dear Herman Melville,

Moby Dick was too thick for a 14-year-old me. But now I will attempt to read it again because I am grown up.

Consultant, 64

Dear Stephenie Meyer,

It’s so unfair that in Twilight: Breaking Dawn you made Bella treat Jacob like a change of clothes. He deserves better. But it is unthinkable that he later “imprints” on Bella’s daughter! The message is: If you cannot get the girl you like, you get to have her daughter instead?! This really shouldn’t be happening.

Healthcare provider, 23

Dear Audrey Niffenegger,

I was bored to tears with the protagonist popping in and out through time like a Jack-in-a-box in The Time Traveler’s Wife. The constant time travelling doesn’t allow his character to develop nor form a satisfying relationship with the love of his life. It feels like reading a journal of a backpacker who attempts to cover as many countries on a budget holiday! I can get a far better read from a travel blog, so won’t be picking up this book again.

Lecturer, 50

Dear J.K. Rowling,

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire makes no sense, I could not make head or tail out of it. The sheer number of pages and the thickness of the book just frightened me off. Reading it was an exhaustive effort which drained me mentally and physically. I was quite relieved that I decided to put down the book.

Teacher, 56

Abandoned Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows because the plot is confusing and there are far too many characters walking in and out. Everything in my head was screaming at me to put down the book. Eventually I put an end to my misery and am quite relieved that I have come out of it in one piece.

Head teacher, 51

Why do you make Harry and his friends do such peculiar things? I feel like I have to learn another language to understand what you write. I tried reading Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001. Twelve years, seven books, eight movies and three kids later, I still haven’t finished reading it.

Homemaker, 36

A Casual Vacancy is a superb way to lull me to sleep when I feel insomniac. The plot is mundane and unimaginative; characters are uninspiring, almost dull. A downright BIG YAWN!

Retiree, 60

Characters (in A Casual Vacancy) were boring with no distinctive traits to tell one apart from another. Had way too many expletives, had to watch out for my kids in case they take a peek. But still feel the need to trudge on because of the author’s popularity and the sheer price of the book.

Full-time mum, 45

Dear J.D. Salinger,

Catcher In The Rye made me depressed. My copy of the book was confiscated at the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I’m not going to read it again. I’ve stopped reading fiction.

Geologist, 29

Dear Indra Sinha,

You might have translated the Kama Sutra beautifully and written engaging award-winning ads, but Animal’s People rambles on like an uncle that no one really wants to listen to.

No occupation given, 39

Dear Tan Twan Eng,

Cameron Highlands? All too familiar to a Malaysian. Japanese garden? A bygone fascination. Comfort women? Banal. The elusive orang asli and their versatile blowpipes? They are no mysterious, mystical creatures to us. The Garden Of Evening Mists has a slo...slo...slo...sloth-y pace. But I will persevere because I paid RM59.90 for it. Such a highly-acclaimed book must have a jewel hidden in it – I just need to patiently crawl-read to reach the climax. A fellow Malaysian deserves a second chance.

Lecturer, 46

Dear David Foster Wallace,

Flipping back and forth through my massive 1,104-page copy of Infinite Jest to keep track of the 300+ footnotes – most frustratingly located at the very end of the book – gave me horrific arm cramps. Also, it was much too heavy to read while in my favourite reading position (ie lying on my back in bed). I do plan to eventually finish the book because, despite being unwieldy, is actually an interesting read.

Student, 26

Thanks for taking part, everyone! Keep an eye out for more surveys next year. And if you have any suggestions on what you would like to see in our Reads pages, do write to us at

Top 5 books that were abandoned

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

2. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

3. The Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy by E.L. James

4. Various books by Sophie Kinsella

5. Various books by Leo Tolstoy

Lifestyle , poll , abandon , books , reads