How to cure a book hangover
Book Hangover - Noun
The feeling one gets when ripped from a fictional universe that you've spent huge amounts of time investing into, because the author selfishly decided to stop telling the story.
E.g. "I haven't read anything for two weeks after the book hangover I got from Flowers for Algernon. I think my everything is broken."
Book hangovers are no joke. We've all fallen headfirst into a world that we've connected with on a fundamental level, or fallen in love with fictional people with more fire and intensity than we've ever felt for our families (except maybe the pets). Then, with crushing inevitability, that final page hurtles towards us like a freight train, and we're ripped from the comforting universe we'd become such a part of like the covers being ripped off on the first day of Secondary School, thrust back into the harsh, cold bright light of reality. Sometimes those characters we love with such pure passion are left broken and tormented - or even dead, and there is nothing we can do but mourn their loss. Alcohol can take eleven hours to leave the system, but a good book can take much much longer. Is there a way to help yourself detox and get back into the world? Maybe. I've tried a lot of methods, and here are some of the ones that... Well, they didn't work, but they didn't hurt either.
TAKE A LONG SHOWER
Aah the healing power of standing under a relentless deluge of scorchingly hot water. When I finished The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks, I sat down in the shower for six days, eating nothing but pickled eggs. Then I realised that of course that I couldn't actually continue reading in the shower without some sort of laminated book. Even then, my glasses would probably fog up.
Science has proven time and time again that greasy food is great for hangovers (probably). But did you know that it works for Book Hangovers too? It's true! I took fifteen test subjects and made all of them read The Fault in Our Stars whilst listening to Morrissey on a loop (to create the perfect atmosphere of despair). Once each and every one of them was gibbering mess of feelings on the floor, I gave each one of them a cooked breakfast. Thirteen of the fourteen individuals tested inhaled the food and reported that it helped fix the hollow emptiness inside them. Result! The grease also helps to block tear ducts, making crying literally impossible.
For the sake of transparency, of the two subjects who did not respond successfully to the cooked breakfast - one threw the meal back in my face and screamed, and the other is currently catatonic, saying nothing but 'Okay? Okay.' over and over again.
SLEEP IT OFF
Ah sleep. Sweet oblivion. Sometimes curling up under a pile of blankets in the dark is the only way to get your brain to switch off. If you're lucky, you might step into a bookish dream that helps recapture the perfect world of the book you've just left behind (Note: This can be dangerous and you may not actually wake up. Always set an alarm). It may be necessary to ring in sick to work while this vitally important process is undertaken. Allow no disturbances, informing all family members and friends to stay away from your room until you emerge of your own free will. Having a cat to stroke is not mandatory, but it is advised. Whale song CDs are not advisable... Mostly because it gets annoying after a while.
TRY SOMETHING REPETITIVE TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF IT
We all know that doing a repetitive task can be very therapeutic. It occupies the part of your brain that normally focuses on existential despair. Lately, colouring in has become all the rage, with books by Johanna Basford (such as The Enchanted Forest) becoming a phenomenon of mindfulness. This is as true of Book Hangovers as it is of any form of stress or emotional discomfort. Sometimes I just dip my fists in paint and punch a blank canvas at four o'clock in the morning whilst sobbing gently. I also enjoy building Lego.
Sometimes the best way to get your emotions out of the jumble of a mess that is your traumatised brain (besides of course, a pensieve) is to talk about it. Now, I assume everyone is like me, and hides in their house for fear that the people outside will shout at them and throw stones, but the internet can be a glorious tool for getting your thoughts out there. Book Blogging, and reviewing on our own site, Waterstones.com, is a great way to pour your emotions into something... probably incoherent and rambling, but it gets it out there. If you're lucky, you might find someone else suitably ruined by the same book, and you can bond!
READ SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Sometimes you need a palate cleanse. A book that's uplifting and funny, not too serious and easy-going. There are plenty of these books out there. Personally, I recommend The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson - though it does contain some scenes of mild peril, it must be warned. Picture books in fact, are my go-to book to make me feel better about the world as a whole. There's a simple, joyous sense of closure about a picture book.
Except Goodbye Mog. Never Goodbye Mog.
MEDITATING IN THE DESERT
When I finished Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, I stood up from the chair I was in, walked past my parents and out of the house. I had no shoes on, and only the clothes I was in, and I walked until I reached the desert I really was 'all about that bass' and did I have the cheekbone definition required to become a YouTube sensation. Eventually I met my spirit guide, out there on the dunes (who looked uncannily like horror titan Stephen King), and together we pieced back together the fractured shards of my soul.
Note: If there is no desert near you, filling your garage with eight and a half tonnes of sand will suffice.
TWEET THE AUTHOR
Twitter is a wonderful thing. It lets you interact with authors in a way that you never used to be able to! Much like reviewing a book, tweeting the author your deep, incoherent and emotionally loaded diatribes about their book is a FANTASTIC IDEA. Authors love to hear from fans, especially if they're responsible for breaking them into pieces physically and mentally. They live for that. Why else would they DO THESE THINGS TO US SO CASUALLY?!
GO INTO A BOOKSHOP AND SCREAM AT THE BOOK
Go to your local bookshop.
Find a copy of the book that has wronged you so wholly.
Place the book face out on the shelf so it can see your tears.
Scream your lungs out in an incandescent rainbow of emotions, from fury to betrayal. The closer you can get to the book, the better. Let it really know how much it has hurt you.
Did that make you feel better? If not, repeat the above steps. The booksellers will probably understand.
'What is that noise?'
'Another customer is screaming at a copy of The Notebook...'
'Ah, again? We've all been there I suppose.'
HAIR OF THE DOG THAT BIT YOU
It's an old adage - suffering from too much alcohol? Drink more! It's actually wildly untrue of drink, but could it be true of books? Could picking that book that's just split your very core into two pieces and reading it from the first page again help you come to terms with what's happened? Can it help you reclaim the things that you've lost? Maybe this time that main character won't be decapitated in the final chapters! Maybe this time they can live happily ever after, without that melancholy bench in Oxford! Maybe the book simply won't end this time, and you'll be absorbed into the pages, living in your favourite fictional world forever and ever!
No, wait, that's just silly. All you'll do is break your very core into four pieces instead of two.
Oh, but it's worth it though, isn't it?
Darran Stobbart is a Bookseller for Waterstones in Durham, where he runs the Children's Section. He has no medical degree or formal psychology degree and may have in fact made all this up whilst re-watching Serenity and crying 'Leaf on the WIND!' every ten seconds.