What Books Have Given You a “Book Hangover”?

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Recently I came across the article “The Psychology of a Book Hangover” by Clare Barnett, who describes a book hangover this way:

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?

Here are five novels that left me in that state.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

Cover: A Simple Plan

This was Scott Smith’s first novel, and it’s a true gem. Three friends find a small airplane crashed in an out-of-the-way spot. The wreck contains a dead pilot and a bag containing $4,000,000. What should they do? I’m not giving anything away here because this all happens right at the beginning: They decide to keep the money. And somehow, right from that instant, I knew exactly how the story would play out. 

Reading the rest of the book was like coming upon a massive crash on the highway: Seeing it was painful, but I couldn’t look away. The story proceeds inexorably to its logical conclusion. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fates of those characters and wondering if, in the same situation, I would have been strong enough—and honest enough—to walk away empty-handed from that plane crash.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Cover: Empire Falls

There’s a lot to remember about this novel: the economic decline, the dominance of social class and wealth, the small-town milieu with its generations-old entanglements. 

But the most memorable aspect is the relationship between single father Miles Roby and his teenage daughter, Tick. Here’s a father whose first priority in life is to love, provide for, and protect his child.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Cover: Miracle Creek

We humans tend to think in dichotomies:

  • good vs. evil
  • us vs. them
  • love vs. hate
  • you’re either with me or you’re against me

But Angie Kim’s novel demonstrates, over and over, that the world we live in is almost never that simple. Life is complicated and complex, and there’s always yet another factor to consider to get the full picture of something. I found it difficult to stop thinking about such issues after I finished reading this amazing novel.

Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

Cover: Blue Diary

What happens if you discover that your whole life, your seemingly idyllic existence, is based on a lie? How do you pick up the pieces, take care of the people you love, and move on?

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Cover: The Last Flight

I’ve saved this one for last because it raises a lot of the same issues as the previous four. Two women, both maneuvered by men into untenable circumstances, try the best they can within those circumstances to find a way out. I’ve thought a lot about both of these women since recently finishing this novel, especially about the one who . . . . You’ll have to read the book to figure out which one, but, believe me, the experience is well worth the effort.

How about you?

What novels have given you a book hangover?

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

8 thoughts on “What Books Have Given You a “Book Hangover”?”

  1. The novel that immediately comes to mind is That Night by Alice McDermott. It stayed with me for a very long time, probably because I was in my twenties when I read it.

    1. When I started thinking about this topic, Liz, I thought of a couple of candidates that I’d read when I was college age. But the more I think about it, the more I come up with titles that I read in my 40s and later. I think that’s about the age when issues like family, relationships, personal identity, and self-knowledge became more salient in my daily life. I haven’t read much (any?) Alice McDermott, so thanks for the reading suggestion.

  2. That quote is definitely one of the best summaries of a book hangover I’ve seen!
    The book that immediately springs to mind for me is Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. I read the sequel right after it to try and help my book hangover, but even that didn’t help, because it just couldn’t live up to the first book!

  3. I don’t get book hangovers very often. I had a small one after reading Nevermoor and Wundersmith. Mostly because the third book in the series isn’t out yet, and I want to know what happens! Miracle Creek is on my TBR list. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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