Have you ever finished a book so good it has left you feeling deflated once it’s over? You could be suffering from a book hangover.

A book hangover is a common affliction for many of us, even if we don’t realize it. It happens when the ending of a book causes emotional distress to the reader which can take some time to recover from.

Book hangovers happen most when a reader has formed a strong attachment to a book. This means that when the book eventually ends, which it has to, the reader isn’t ready for it. It brings a feeling of loss and emptiness, wishing there was more to read.

A book hangover can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. We might even find ourselves thinking about that book a year later. It is a legitimate experience for many of the world’s book lovers, no matter how much others don’t understand.

What’s important to know is that it’s totally normal, and now you have a name for it.

Symptoms of a book hangover:

  1. Exhaustion

Book hangovers don’t just apply to the finishing of a book. A book hangover can also be experienced when you stayed up too late reading because you just couldn’t put it down. This makes us tired and agitated the next day due to lack of sleep.

It’s normal to binge read, especially when you just got to the good bit. This stage is almost always toward the end of a book because all the best bits happen toward the end.

  1. The urge to share it with everyone

Sometimes a book is so good you have to share it with the world. If you find yourself telling everyone to read it, you’re definitely suffering from a book hangover. If you find yourself jealous but excited for those who haven’t read it yet, you know you’re suffering particularly badly.

The best books are the ones you want to share but also the ones you would erase from memory just to read them again if you could.

  1. A hollow, empty feeling

Finishing a book is not always satisfying. It can leave us feeling empty, like something is missing. We miss reading the book and finding out the characters’ next moves. It almost feels like a loss, as though we need to grieve for the characters we got so attached to. This feeling will pass, but we may still think about the characters and storylines for a while.

The problem with reading a good book

  1. An inability to start a new book

A common symptom of a book hangover is that it’s too hard to start a new book. Almost as though we’d gone through a breakup, we might not be ready to connect with new characters. This is entirely normal, especially if the book didn’t give you the level of closure you needed. Take your time, you’ll be ready one day.

  1. A disconnect with reality

The best books pull us into their unique world. We completely lose ourselves in the story and imagine ourselves living alongside the characters. This means that when it’s all over, it can feel difficult to come back into reality.

You may feel a little disconnected for a while, and that’s totally normal. A story powerful enough will do that to you. Give yourself time to reconnect with those around you.

  1. Panic you’ll never find another book as good

A natural feeling which accompanies book hangover is an absolute terror of never finding another good book. It’s natural that you can’t imagine yourself finding the same level of connection with a new book. Nothing will ever be as good as a loved book, and it will never be the same. However, when you’re ready, there will be another book out there that’s right for you.

How to treat a book hangover

Treat the affliction for what it is – a loss. Let yourself grieve a little bit and take some time to heal. Let yourself recover in your own time. Have a good cry if you need to and eat some ice cream. Go back and read some of your favorite parts, check out if there are any sequels are in the works.

You don’t have to start a new book right away, only when you’re ready. When you do decide it’s time for a new book, however, sometimes it’s helpful to try something new.

Experiment with a different author or a new genre, they might surprise you. Listen to some podcasts or read some recommendations for a good book when you’re ready for a new one. Take your time, you’ll get past the book hangover eventually.

Book hangovers are the horrible reality that comes from literary art. When we have a particular love for a book, its ending can be a traumatic experience. Book hangovers can take anywhere from days to weeks, to months to get over.

Although painful, focus on the fact that you got to experience a truly great book. If you don’t feel ready for a new book yet, don’t rush it. The next one will come when you’re ready, and the cycle will start all over again.

Francesca Forsythe, LL.M., M.Phil.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Marko

    Loved the article. And yeah, the struggle is real… when I was a kid I coped with this stress by re-reading the whole book, books… I always found something that I didn’t notice in the first few reads 🙂 🙂 :). But the tips I found in this article seem to offer more variety in content… And this sentence… ” Book hangovers are the horrible reality that comes from literary art”. I still can’t stop laughing… just awesome.

  2. Avatar
    Sarolta

    The Lord of the Rings, Momo, The Neverending Story, The Leopard, The Emperor of Portugal, Crime and Punishment, The Magic Mountain (just the mention of it`s title floods me with memories), Earthsea, The Last Unicorn, Book of Esther (in the Bible), The People of the Pusztas, Death of a Racehorse, A Doll`s House (exam…), The Wild Duckling, The Wolf`s Yard, Black Beauty, Wuthering Heights (gift from my 80 year old aunt when I turned 18), Jane Eyre, The Call of the Wild, White Fangs, Perfume, The Three Musceteers, The Ringer of Notre-Dame, Les Miserables,

    Wait, are there actual people in the world writing these….????
    There are people in the world!!!!??????

  3. Avatar
    Joelle

    This is an article I never knew I needed. Thank you for validating the deep sorrow that comes with the ending of a great book. Very well written article 🙂

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