Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Book hangovers

Here’s a post at Book Riot: The Psychology of Book Hangovers

A “book hangover” is the slangy shortcut for the feeling when a reader finishes a book—usually fiction—and they can’t stop thinking about the fictional world that has run out of pages. The story is over, but the reader misses the characters or the atmosphere of the novel. Personally, I know the hangover is bad when I have trouble even looking at another book. What passing delights can a new novel hold for me when I only want more of the story I just finished?

Sure, that happens to me all the time. Literally dozens of times per year. Not all good books cause this phenomenon, but lots of them do. Generally speaking, my response is to immediately read part or all of the book again. I re-read From All False Doctrine from cover to cover just a few weeks after reading it for the first time. That’s something that works for me when I have a book hangover. (I’m currently reading the sequel, Neither Have I Wings, which is imo not as good and not going to cause a hangover.)

After re-reading a book, I’ll very likely still be in a hungover mood and I may not read anything for several days or a week. After THAT, I am either in a “reading slump” I specifically make an effort to break out of; or I listlessly try some new-to-me book that turns out to be really good and knocks me out of the original book hangover while setting me up for another one.

Incidentally, when a reading slump wants to turn into a Thing, I most often get out of that by picking up a book that previously caused a book hangover. Re-reading a novel I really love is the single best way I’ve found, maybe the only way, to knock myself out of a reading slump. Oh, no, there’s one other way that reliably works: picking up a new book set in a familiar world. That’s very much like re-reading because the world and often the characters are familiar and appealing. For me, Ilona Andrews works well this way.

The Book Riot post emphasizes sadness at the book’s ending and discusses ways in which a lingering book hangover signals an opportunity for personal growth, and honestly the whole thesis seems to perhaps have gotten a little overblown at that point. I don’t quite believe that a book hangover a bad thing, or even a sad thing; and a lingering period in which I don’t want to pick up another book has nothing to do, as far as I can tell, with personal change or anything like that. I mean, now and then, probably, but that’s hardly typical. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to spend more time with the familiar world and characters in that book and I’m disappointed there’s no immediate sequel and I’m not in the mood to read anything else. To me, none of that seems particularly sad, except in the sense that all fictional series are finite, and that’s difficult to avoid.

I wonder if it’s possible that readers who experience a book hangover rather rarely also experience it as a bigger deal than I do; and I also wonder if people who re-read a LOT, which I do, have less trouble with book hangovers because we freely revisit the book we loved and enjoy the re-reading process almost as much, sometimes more, as reading the book for the first time. When re-reading From All False Doctrine, I greatly enjoyed picking up lots of hints I missed the first time through.

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7 Comments Book hangovers

  1. SarahZ

    Yeah, I don’t view it as a bad thing – I just reread the book, then read an old favorite or start exploring the author’s back catalog if they’re new-to-me. Forever Young Adult calls it TEABS (the end of an awesome book syndrome)

  2. Rachel

    I like TEABS better as a term for the phenomenon. And I should have said, The end of an awesome book is a GREAT time to buy everything else the author has ever written and read all those books too! I usually read about three or four books by an author and if I love them all, I just quit fiddling around and buy everything in their backlist right then. It can be a while before I read them all, but sometimes I swoosh right through their whole backlist. Martha Wells was like that for me — so was Andrea K Host.

  3. Mary Anderson

    The worst is when it’s an author you haven’t read before and you get all the TEARS, and try to fix it by finding all their other works, and discover they’ve not published anything else…yet. I still remember many, many years ago when I had a bad case of TEARS-inspired doldrums and read all of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, which jolted me right on out of it. Sometimes when I’m in a horrible post-great-book-nothing-else-will-do slump, I’ll read a really good middle school book. Acts almost like a palate cleanser.

  4. Rachel

    Mary, I KNOW. Doesn’t the author understand they should have at least half a dozen books out so this doesn’t happen to readers?

    I haven’t specifically tried re-reading a much-loved MG story to knock myself out of a reading slump, but I bet it would work. The minute you mentioned that, I felt an instant desire to go re-read a couple of my all time-favorites.

  5. Kristi Thompson

    I’m currently suffering from a bad hangover – due to Tuyo! I’ve already reread it, and nothing else on your backlist is due a reread just yet. I really enjoyed this more than anything I’ve read in a while!

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