Monday, April 18, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner No. 4: 'The Book Hangover' and Some Perpetrators Thereof

Welcome to my Monday feature!

I have moved this feature
from Friday to Monday.

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

The idea of 'the book hangover' is nothing new; it's been familiar to readers for years. In fact, I have found some blog posts dedicated to this topic. At some point in the past, an anonymous, and clever, bookworm came up with this term, and it  is a very appropriate -- as well as funny -- one to describe the state of mind of a reader who has just finished a book which has totally and irrevocably captivated them.

Since there are two broad classifications for books -- fiction and nonfiction -- I will first discuss the symptoms of the hangover in the case of fiction. 

Depending on how much a reader has enjoyed and, most importantly, identified with, the characters, setting, plot,  and prose style of the book, this state of mind can range from one of mild irritation that the book has been completely read, to one of total, stubborn denial of that irrefutable fact. A given reader might be absentminded for a few days, while their mind constantly replays scenes from the book. Another reader might fall into a bad mood that will also last days, and which nothing will take away, not even the normally enticing prospect of reading another, possibly even more exciting, more fascinating novel. Then there's the case of the true addict. This person will simply lie in bed, staring off into space, and refuse to get up except when absolutely necessary. If forced to do so by a concerned relative or significant other, they will comply like a lifeless zombie or robot; it's as if they were actually not in their body. If prodded, they might say something that a character in the book would say, which indicates that, indeed, they are not in their body, but inside the book, and even living through the plot. 

It seems that the only cure for any of these types of hangovers -- especially the last one -- is to simply re-read the book that caused this agonizing condition. However, a re-reading will never be the same as a first reading; things will just not be fresh and new for the sadly afflicted reader. Re-readings are usually most effective when some time has gone by. In cases of extreme hangover, though, this might be an intolerable proposition to the 'hangoveree'. In such cases, nothing but total immersion will do. The effects are usually immediate, and very noticeable to observers. The reader's eyes lose that tell-tale glazed look, the person regains their composure, and is able to return to normal activities, as long as, of course, these don't interfere with their rapt re-imbibing of the beloved tome that caused the symptoms in the first place.

While I have never been as severely affected as the reader in the third hypothetical scenario above, I have gone around in a sort of sulky funk whenever I've finished reading a novel that I loved SO much, I never wanted it to end.... This has been especially the case with book series, although it's also happened with stand-alone novels. How have I gotten over these 'book hangovers'? I simply have let them run their course. While in this frame of mind, I have not been able to start another novel. I haven't even been able to pick up a nonfiction book, instead. So this means I simply haven't read anything at all for several days. Perhaps I won't be able to do so for at least two weeks, or more....

Nonfiction books are a bit different. They don't usually give me hangovers per se, simply because there are no memorable characters to fall in love with, no fascinating plots full of twists and turns to keep me glued to the book. Nonfiction books, if they carry a heavy impact, are actually meant to give a reader a hangover, but of a far more pleasant type. In the first place, the reader might not read them at a frantic gallop, because, in many cases, these books are supposed to be pondered. This is especially so with books of philosophy or literary criticism, for instance. Psychology books, whether academic or self-help, are also meant to be pondered, and, in the case of the second category, often contain exercises the reader is supposed to go through. Books on theology also fit the description. Perhaps history books do not lend themselves as much to pondering, but then, it depends on the author's theme.

In short, nonfiction books do not generally cause a reader extreme suffering when they are finally read. They will, of course, linger in the reader's mind, but this lingering will be one that is actually welcomed by the reader. At least, such has been my own experience. I will sometimes go back to these books in order to re-read and absorb favorite passages. At other times, I wlll return to passages which have actually angered me, as I am in disagreement with the author. In one case, I even wrote some very strong rebuttals in the book's margins, thus breaking one of my own sacred rules regarding books -- NO writing allowed in books! It didn't matter in this case, though, as I owned (and still own) a second, unsullied copy of this very same book.

As for advice in getting over a 'book hangover' related to fiction, I say the best thing is to let some time go by. Do not attempt to immerse yourself in another novel's fictional world until you feel you are totally ready, until you have completely gotten over the 'loss' of the read novel's world. Do pick up the beloved novel you have just finished, look longingly at it, and perhaps give it a loving caress. You can even hug it if you like. Then put it back on the shelf. If this is too stressful for you, then just carry it around with you everywhere you go. Open its pages and take a whiff every so often. Perhaps re-read a favorite passage at lunchtime. Laugh over it, or cry over it (as the case may be), as you read. Just be careful not to get carried away, if you're in public. I would thus recommend you drink some soothing tea as you read, if you're at lunch. During working hours, you won't be able to dip into the novel, of course, but, if possible, you can, from time to time throughout the day, unobtrusively open the desk drawer you've hidden it in, giving it a little pat, along with a fond smile.

After following the above procedures for a few days, you will probably have desensitized yourself to the novel enough to then start another one.

If the above suggestions don't seem to help, then just give in and re-read the whole book. It's not worth it to go through such agony!

Again, with nonfiction books, the torture of the hangover is practically non-existent. However, if you really love the book, then the above tokens of affection toward it can accompany any subsequent dipping into it, and will make these re-readings much more pleasurable.

Now here is a partial list, in no particular order, of books that have given me this condition which is so common for us bookworms:



Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
My Name Is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok
Narcissus and Goldmund - Hermann Hesse
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn - Betty Smith
The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Victory, by Joseph Conrad

Popular Fiction -- All Young Adult

The Twilight Saga - Stephenie Meyer
The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
The Vampire Academy series - Richelle Mead
(fortunately, she has a spinoff of this series, but it's not quite the same...)
Of Beast and Beauty - Stacey Jay
Spellcaster - Claudia Gray


The Story of Philosophy - Will Durant
From Socrates to Sartre - T.Z. Lavine
Personal Power Through Awareness - Sanaya Roman (this is the one I had some disagreements with)
A Kabbalah for the Modern World - Migene Gonzalez-Wippler
Daily Guidance From Your Angels - Doreen Virtue

For further information on identifying and dealing with this all-too-common literary affliction, please consult:

Book Hangover Memes @ ermilia (This post presents some pictorial descriptions of the condition.)

What are your thoughts 
on this subject?
Which books have given you 'a book 
hangover'? How did you come
out of it so that you were able
to start another book?  


Brian Joseph said...

I love these posts where you explore such bookish subjects.

This one is getting me to think.

I would classify my own hangovers into two categories. The first being, as you mention when a book is so good, that I immerse myself deeply in the characters that I do not want to let it go. It is interesting that my list would include several books that you picked and would include Jane Eyre as well as several Hermann Hesse books.

The second type of hangover for me occurs when a book really disturbs me. I listed my top books that did so here:

This is not a good feeling! All these books listed left me a bit down for days after reading.

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

Thanks for the good word!! I love to explore bookish subjects, as well. I began to create these kinds of posts on A NIGHT'S DREAM OF BOOKS, but don't think they had much success there.... But you, of course, always read and commented on them, which I greatly appreciate!

Although my lists were drawn up in no particular order, I did put "Jane Eyre" at the top of the fiction list. That novel, for me, is simply so absorbing, so well-written, so masterful in its depiction of the characters and events, that it deserves a category all by itself, I think!

I could have included more Hermann Hesse books, such as "The Glass Bead Game". One thing about Hesse, though: some of his novels -- the ones I've read so far, anyway -- have left me with a feeling of example that comes to mind is "Beneath the Wheel". And, as you know, I totally DETEST "Steppenwolf". I have mixed feelings about "Demian". As for "Siddhartha", I don't remember much of it. I would have to re-read it.

I might write another post on this subject, but one along the same lines as the one you wrote -- about books that left you with a very disturbed feeling. As you say, this is NOT a good feeling! You might recall that this is how I felt after reading "Rebecca" for the second time. I need to re-visit that post of yours. I found it very enlightening!

Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment!! :)