How to Get Over a Book Hangover

That moment when the book ends and you're struggling to get back to the real world? Don't worry, we get it. Read on for six recovery tips.

book on bed

Whereas a real-life hangover may take you by surprise, you’ll know when you have a book hangover. That’s because it’s best defined as finishing a book and being unable to return to the real world, because the real world feels incomplete or surreal in comparison to the fictional world you just left. Other symptoms might include an inability to leave the fetal position and a tendency to yell out (or whisper) characters’ names in public.

Fear not! There are ways to cope with a book hangover, but they’re more private than public. In truth, you have to live in it in order to ride it out; just follow these steps:

woman reading a book


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1. Seek out fanfiction. This is a key way to extend the feelings of a book hangover for just a little bit longer. Fanfiction communities on Archive of Our Own, LiveJournal, or are made up of readers who’ve gotten a head start on you, in that they’ve already started to fill that hole with what-if stories or missing scenes. Quality can be a mixed bag, but if the Internet gods are smiling down on you, you’ll find a few fics by strong writers, with near-canon characterizations.

2. Find a community. Fanfiction often points the way to message boards or Tumblr tags where you can find endless conversations and interpretations of what you just read. And of course there’s also GoodReads and Read It Forward! These can be especially helpful if your friends either don’t share your tastes or are too behind in reading; find kindred spirits with a quick search.

3. Read the author’s social media posts. Many authors are great about being available on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other platforms to talk about their books. John Green and Rainbow Rowell especially represent in that category, posting their favorite fan art, clearing up debates about characters, and teasing about their own cliffhangers and loose ends.

4. Take a piece of it with you. Just because you’re no longer carrying the book around doesn’t mean that you can’t feel physically close to the world and its characters. Visit Etsy or Out of Print for all manner of book-related goodies, from minimalist jewelry to framed quotes to clothing or tote bags.

5. Find things IRL that excite you again. Now that you’ve got a token of your time in the book world, start to transition back to the real world. If you have trouble remembering what can be magical or romantic or inspiring about daily life, take a walk, try a new hobby, or even just sit outside and people-watch to get a sense of all of the stories happening around you.

6. A little hair of the dog. That’s right, you’ve got to dive back into a book sooner rather than later. You could exhaustively read through the rest of the author’s body of work; you could try for something else in the same genre, though those books may not have the same effect than if you weren’t still a bit hungover; or you can pick up an entirely different read. In this case, I’ve found that a genre palate cleanser works wonders.

How do you get over book hangovers? Share your tips!

Image Credit:Aleksandar Mijatovic/,Vadim Georgiev/,vita khorzhevska/

About Natalie Zutter

NATALIE ZUTTER has always been a voracious reader, from reading Agatha Christie and Entertainment Weekly above her age level as a kid to squeezing 52 books into the year whenever podcasts aren’t taking over her commute. A 2016 Amtrak Residency writer, Natalie also writes plays about superheroes and sex robots, and Tumblr rants about fandom. You can find her giggling over pop culture memes on Twitter @nataliezutter.

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