Terms in the book industry are weird. We’ve got cinnamon rolls that we ship—neither of which have anything to do with breakfast or the high seas. Writers experience writer’s block—though we still haven’t received a block of wood, thank you very much. And readers get book hangovers—who comes up with these terms? I don’t drink, so I don’t care for this last one, though I’ve certainly experienced it before.
Book Hangover: noun, 1) Being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. 2) Having nothing to read, not necessarily the absence of reading material; synonymous without having nothing to wear or having nothing to do.
I wish I could say I’ve never had a book hangover, but it simply wouldn’t be true. Right before we moved, I set aside all the books I wanted bring while I didn’t have access to a library, and I slowly returned all my library books and forced myself not to check out any more.
Unfortunately, there happened to be several days in-between my setting aside the books and not having any library books, so I had no idea what to read. I tried asking my sister, and she kept pointing to books to which I said, “No… No… Just read that one… No… No… I HAVE NOTHING TO READ!”
Eventually, she just gave up on me. After a day of reading boredom, I finally settled on Esperanza Rising. Sure, I’m still learning, but overall, I’ve come up with some methods that have helped keep me from getting a book hangover.
I’m not saying you should read two different genres at once, though if that works for you, go right ahead (see next point). What I mean by this point is switching genres each time you finish a book, unless you only like one genre (how?). For example, if you just finished a fantasy novel, try a contemporary or nonfiction.
Not only does this form of genre hopping help me get into a new story better, it also helps me enjoy it more. I’ve found myself leaving higher star ratings. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of books I haven’t enjoyed, but it’s been easier to get into the ones that I do.
Bribe Reward Yourself
Sometimes, I have a hard time getting through nonfiction and classics than I do historical fiction or YA. I’ve found that listening to audio versions of nonfiction helps me because I can be productive at the same time. While listening to a book, I’ll often clean or commute. I’ve also found that sometimes, I’ll read a YA book after a chapter or two of another book, especially for classics as dense as Moby-Dick or Les Miserables.
Of course, if you just can’t get into the book or you don’t want to read it, there’s no
saying you must finish it. Unless it’s for class. Then, you poor unfortunate soul, bribe yourself. In my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I would study for 45 minutes, then read a chapter or two in a fiction novel. That’s actually how I finished all 1,000 pages of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in a week. Everybody needs a study break. Why not enjoy it by reading?*
*Granted, you should take other study breaks too, like going outside, eating food, and hanging out with friends. As a former hermit, I can confirm that these are helpful methods too.
Know Your Reading Habits
On an average day, I focus best on writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. If I try to read in the morning, my eyes start watering, even with reading glasses. If I try writing in the afternoon, I usually can’t focus. Of course, there are exceptions such as when I’m traveling or visiting with friends, but this schedule is generally the one I follow.
As such, when I start a book in the afternoon, I either try to finish it that evening or the next day. If I finish a book too early—at say, two o’clock—I may not know what to do with myself the rest of the day. For some reason, I just can’t read two books in one day, unless it’s a series.
Likewise, I’ve found that if I’m in the mood for a certain genre, I should pick that one up, even if I’m in the middle of another book. While this can cause some plot confusion, it can also keep the forward momentum going. If I try to force myself to read a book I’m not interested in at the moment, I’m just going to find ways to avoid the book more and more. Lately, I’ve been struggling with getting into some graphic novels—which is weird because they’re generally quick, easy reads—so I picked up Sadie and quickly breezed through the novel.
It all depends on what you like. And of course, most of these tips have to do with the first definition of a book hangover: being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. I still have yet to figure out what to do when I have nothing to read.
Let’s chat! When’s the last time you had a book hangover? What are some methods you use to avoid them?
Literary references: Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Courtney Summers’ Sadie.