Book Hangover: 6 Tips For Overcoming The End Of A Reading Era

Liquor before beer, you're in the clear. Beer before liquor, never sicker. And if you finish a five-star read and immediately jump to the next book on your to-be-read pile, you might have a book hangover for a while.


A great book can make you fall back in love with reading and lead you to feel like the library is yours for the conquering. A really great book, on the other hand, can make you feel as though no book will ever measure up. No matter how many pages you flip and new spines you crack, your follow-up read may fail to live up to expectations. 

You're experiencing a book hangover: a topic that has taken over the book community. Book Riot defines the experience as the ongoing emotional investment in a book's universe after the book ends. Of course, your mind-altering read doesn't even have to be fiction — a stunning memoir or mind-blowing non-fiction book can certainly send you into a hangover. Urban Dictionary puts it simply: A book hangover is "characterized by sadness" due to "the realization that one will never have the opportunity to feel the way they did reading [that book] for the first time." 


The cure for a book hangover lies in first identifying that this is what you're dealing with. Then once you're ready, you can jump back in the reading saddle while keeping a few things in mind. 

Know the signs of a book hangover

How do you know if you're experiencing a book hangover? It's perfectly normal to not want to dive into a new book after finishing another one. You may find yourself wanting to take time to digest your feelings about your previous read, dive into a new hobby instead, or give your eyes a break. However, if you're typically an avid reader — or are hoping to become one — and suddenly can't find a single book that sounds appealing, a book hangover may be to blame. 


There's no shame in taking a step back from reading. Ruts in your reading life are perfectly normal, and your ability to read quickly or often doesn't make you more or less of a valid reader. However, it's also understandable that book hangovers would be distressing to readers of all speeds. If you stop finding yourself drawn to something new but are still hung up on your last great read, your to-be-read pile and Goodreads goal may suddenly feel completely insurmountable. 

If this sounds like you, you're already on the right track by identifying the problem. You know what they say: The first stage of grief is acceptance. The second stage? Leaning on your fellow bookworms. 

Understand you're not alone

Experiencing a book hangover can be an unsettling feeling. Even the most devoted book-bingers may finish an epic adventure and feel completely drained, with no other story sparking their interest. Will this last forever? What if you never read another book as good as that one again? 


You can at least take comfort in the fact that this isn't an uncommon or new phenomenon. A decade ago, "BookTuber" Christine Riccio went viral with a comedic YouTube video discussing the mourning period that can follow a five-star read. Now, YouTube's BookTube community struggles have been echoed by the BookTok community on TikTok. The "book hangover" topic on the short-form video platform has over 33 million views — with creators sharing their experiences, recommendations for recovery, and even sharing some books that are sure to cause a hangover. 

While that last genre of content may seem like a bad thing, it actually speaks to the fact that book hangovers don't need to be dreaded. If anything, they speak to the profound impact that a great story can have on our lives. And, as the rest of the videos prove, these hangovers aren't completely insurmountable. 


Explore other books in the genre

When you're done commiserating with your fellow hungover readers, TikTok is also an excellent place to find new book recommendations. Virtually every genre, trope, and author has found their niche within the platform, and you shouldn't have a hard time finding a book to fill the void your last read left. 


If you miss the escapism that a fantasy read brought, you can join the 2 billion viewers who have taken in the recommendations on TikTok. Or, if that isn't your preferred reading community, platforms like Goodreads and StoryGraph also host user-generated lists relating to all story preferences. 

If you're fearful of falling into another book hangover, consider picking up a long series! Although all stories eventually come to an end, diving into an author that has a long backlist means that you've guaranteed some extensive page-time with your new favorite characters. Better yet, if you pick up an ongoing series, you may have to wait some time between new installments ... but then at least you know your hangover has an end date. 


Go rogue with your reading

A particularly bad book hangover might inspire a rebellious streak in your reading life. Perhaps you're convinced that nothing will compare to the last summer romance novel you read, so you're steering clear of the genre for a while. This makes book hangovers a perfect opportunity to try out a whole new area of the library or your local bookstore. 


Keeping a fresh mix of books on hand can help prevent book hangovers and stop your reading life from becoming stagnant. If you've just read a five-star fantasy, your next foray into a fictional world might inevitably fall short, just like how an alcoholic hand sanitizer can make you feel nauseated, thinking about the quality vodka from a night before. 

It wouldn't be reasonable, however, to compare the fairytale world of "A Court of Thorns and Roses" to the royal court in Prince Harry's "Spare." Your favorite topics can be explored in distinct genres, providing equally enjoyable taste-breakers between your five-star stories. 

Take on a buddy reading challenge

Drinking is more fun with friends, and you shouldn't have to recover alone, either. The same goes for reading! If you fall into a book hangover, reach out to a reader pal to see if you can take on the challenge together. Picking a book to read that you're both interested in can transform your hangover from a curse to a collaboration! 


Like an informal, small-scale book club, buddy reading involves two or more people picking up the same book at the same time — encouraging progress through check-ins or discussions. By reading with a friend, you can help yourself to re-engage with the text, even if you're still a bit hung-up on your previous story. 

Best of all, if your buddy reading pick also sends you into a hangover, your reading companion will know exactly what you're going through. That person can commiserate, reflect on favorite characters, and know exactly what type of book to recommend to pull your out of your slump. 

Revisit favorites when you're ready

With a typical nasty hangover, some people will advise to treat it with "hair of the dog that bit you." That is, stave off a hangover's side effects by drinking more of the same alcohol that made you sick, and keep the happy, drunk feelings rolling. Using this logic, you may be tempted to simply restart the series or book that sent you spiraling in the first place. If your heart is aching and missing its favorite characters, why not just open up their story again? 


Unfortunately, in the case of a book hangover, rereads might simply exacerbate the issue. If you can't stop fixating on a particular fantasy world, restarting an adventure will likely only hone your focus more. Of course, this doesn't mean that you need to kick hangover-inducing stories to the curb. On the contrary, your favorite reads can serve as motivation to cure your rut. 

After all, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Your five-star reads may feel like even stronger stories when you revisit them with some distance and time. Take out the bookmarks, put them back on the shelf, and take the next few reads easy.