How to Survive a Book Hangover

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

Book hangover. Noun. Definition: The state that occurs when one finishes a book that is so good that one cannot stop thinking about it, often resulting in the inability to enjoy another book. Duration and intensity vary. 

I know that I’m not the only person who experiences book hangovers. If you read a lot, and if you know your tastes well enough to pick good books, then book hangovers are an unavoidable part of life. Just like real hangovers, they have their silver lining: They mean that you recently were having a great time. But also just like real hangovers, they’re painful to endure.

While you can alleviate a real hangover with a greasy breakfast and some ibuprofen, the same tactics don’t work for book hangovers. Here are my suggestions for things to try, instead.

Read something completely different.
You’re not going to find a book better than the one you just finished, at least not for a little while, so it’s pure folly to read something too similar to it. The new book is not going to be able to compete, and the similarities–in genre, for example–are only going to make its perceived shortcomings all the more glaring. Instead, try reading something that’s a complete 180, in format, genre, or both.

Read something that you have to read.
It’s so easy, in the midst of a book hangover, to browse your shelves, picking up book after book, only to cast each one aside after a handful of pages. When nothing is really grabbing your attention, it’s nearly impossible to commit. However, if you have a book that you don’t have the option of putting off–it’s a piece of assigned reading for a class, your best friend loaned it to you and wants it back, or it’s a high-demand library checkout–the external pressure can force you to keep reading long enough to really get into the material.

Read something by the same author.
If a book has just devastated your life and the author has published multiple books, it might be the perfect time to binge some or all of their oeuvre. Why make yourself immediately defect and read someone else when you’re flush with infatuation for a particular author? This works well for writers with large bodies of work, but beware if they’ve only published a few. You might read yourself out of new material too quickly and waiting years for their next release.

Reread an old favorite.
When you’ve discovered a new favorite, the only book that might hold up is an old favorite. Pull out a book that you’ve loved for years and revisit its unique magic. It will remind you that you’ve gotten through book hangovers before. Besides, rereading books can be illuminating: You are likely to pick up on nuances and details that seemed less significant to you in the past.

Take a break.
This might be controversial advice to offer on a library blog, but I’m doing it: Maybe you should take a break from reading. A short one, mind you, but a break, nonetheless. All the books in the world still be there, waiting for you, after a day or two, or a week, or even longer. When you’re ready, they will be, too. And in the meantime, take a walk, have a meandering conversation with a good friend, work on a hobby, heck, even tear through a few seasons of a reality TV show. It might be exactly what your mind needs to prepare to absorb your next great read.

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