I recently finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, and for the next three days that followed, my memory was just one huge blob of haziness. I was what we call, a breathing robot. I experienced a persistent book hangover that I did not think I would recover. All kinds of lazy had invaded my body. I cannot even compare it to the time when I read Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris or Who fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.
The book is only 542 pages and I completed it in two days, yet it felt like I had read four books and lived through several time dimensions. It is high time we discussed how intense an impact some books can have and of course, how for a few days we walk like zombies on autopilot trying to process what the hell just happened.
Book hangovers are usually awful for me. Worse than the morning hangovers. They feel like I have been gripped by an alternate universe that numbs my system. Unlike the morning hangovers where I can take some painkillers and a hot cup of coffee, there is no immediate cure to getting rid of a book hangover. I cannot just snap out of it. The numbness is indescribable. At that moment, I can’t think nor can I do anything meaningful. I quite feel lethargic throughout. It’s a wonder what a good book can do! I like to fantasize that it’s the book’s way of mourning and letting go. How else can you explain it? Like, how dare you move on like nothing happened after we had such a blissful relationship? That’s cheating, right?
The problem is, book hangovers are quite counter-productive. If I fail to get my head straight fast enough, it means that I will not do anything meaningful for all that while. If I had been a millionaire, maybe I would not mind much. I would probably hang around the alternate universe for a few more days until I can let go in my own time. Unfortunately, I got bills to pay and a life to pull together and that’s why I have had to get creative in speeding up the process. Below are personal tips that I use to bulldoze through a book hangover:
1. Taking a nap
Of all tips up my sleeve, this is my favorite one. Naturally, I love to sleep. I think sleep is the third best thing to have, after money and love. I normally look for trivial excuses to take a quick nap and I can’t find a better excuse to nap than sleeping off a book hangover? I once read that sleep cures a lot of things if not everything. Although longer naps work the best, shorter naps still do the job. It feels good to completely shut down and not have to think or do anything. I feel this helps in lessening the numbness even though not completely.
2. Googling up more about the author and the book
This is a habit I picked up from watching movies. If a movie has an interesting actor, I will google them up and find out more about them including their net worth, personal lives, past and present projects that they are working on, and so on. So it is that I apply these techniques to books that I love, only this time it cures a book hangover. I will check what others thought about the book, what Wikipedia says about it, and if there is a sequel that I do not know about. Also, I will dig up all information I can find about the author, and if they have active social media accounts, I give them a follow. There is something about having this extra information that bursts the bubble of the alternate universe that a book hangover puts me in.
3. Cleaning up my room or washing the dishes
This one is weird, right? Although I don’t know how or why, when cleaning up and rearranging things, it feels like I am clearing my head as well. Book hangovers make my mind feel all cramped up and tired. So, I guess doing mechanical work that involves organization is a therapy of sorts.
4. Taking up a light read
There is a saying in Swahili that says, “Dawa ya moto ni moto”. It means that, sometimes, you will have to use fire to fight a fire. In this case, to get rid of a book hangover, I read some more. This time, I pick light reads that are easy to digest. My preferred version of light reads is short stories, poetry, and comedy books. My favorite short stories books are the Chicken Soup for the Soul books including the Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul by Jack Canfield. There are so many books in the series which offers me an assorted variety of short stories to choose from. Also, my go-to comedy book is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I love re-reading the book because every time I do, I read it in Trevor’s voice which makes it all the more hilarious. It is not a formula that always works depending on how bad the hangover is. But when it does, I do not even realize that I have moved on.
5. Share my feelings and thoughts about the book
There is a local WhatsApp book club where I go to “vent” my excess feelings and thoughts with fellow book lovers. If I am not sharing there, I will collect these excesses on WhatsApp status or IG stories. When I talk about the book, I feel like I have let go of a burden. After doing this, my mind is usually calmer and less tangled, and I cannot explain how freeing that is.
In conclusion, book hangovers are very real. It would be the understatement of the year to compare a bad book hangover to a bad morning hangover. How dare you? Moreover, each hangover is unique. There are those that I only need to sleep and they will be gone. Others like the hangover induced by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I had to do all five of them. I am currently taking a break before I can jump into the second book of the Millennium series, The Girl Who Played with Fire. It would be a good idea to start getting my room untidy because, in a week, I will be looking for solace in tidying it up!