I FINALLY read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline a few weeks ago. Blew my mind sky high. I mean, like there was much room to go wrong with a book that’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Matrix. It’s Harry Potter and Hunger Games fun. If you haven’t gotten on it, what are you waiting for, go on and git!
I finished the audiobook in a few days. And then I had no idea what to do with my reading self.
It’s easy to move on from a good book. And it’s REALLY easy to move on from a terrible one. But how do you get past a great book? A story that used your brain chemicals as its own personal chemistry set! A book that played cat’s cradle with the strands of your DNA! It’s like breaking up with someone you’re still in love with. It’s like having to move the minute you got all your stuff settled into your new house. It’s like being starving and only getting to take two bites out of your lunch. How do you get over that?
I was going to come up with a list for this piece, of ways to recover. I brainstormed reading a bunch of essays and poetry and short pieces before your next book, watching a slew of documentaries on Netflix to palate-cleanse, reading, if possible, the backlist of the author who blew your mind clear to the stratosphere. (Curses, Cline, for not having your follow-up Armada written and published, I want that sucker in my hands yesterday.) I think all these things could work. I do.
But then I posed the question to our Book Riot team and got an answer that to me feels like THE answer.
Rebecca Schinsky said, “Only thing that works for me is to switch genres completely. Mindblowing novel? Time for a food memoir.”
Jodi Chromey agreed, “I call that nextbookaphobia and I’m with Rebecca you have to read something so totally different it can’t suffer in comparison.”
Peter Damien made it a consensus, saying “I do the same thing. Got to shift gears wildly. I’ll go from an amazing fiction book to a biography, or to a comic. Frequently I’ll go reread a book after the mindblowing.”
So that’s exactly what I did. I genre-switched big time. I read Martin Dressler: The Tale of An American Dreamer by Stephen Milhauser, Pulitzer Prize-winning historical fiction. Then I read George Saunders’ new collection of short stories The Tenth of December, warped views of America that remind one why Saunders won his Genius Grant (hint: It’s because he’s the raddest). Now I’m reading Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, delicious navel-gazing New Adult literary fiction. All books came with the highest recommendations. There would be no f—ing around with these reads. This wasn’t the time to read something that was good for me or something I should have read in high school. This was the time to try to find a book I would love to pieces. I can’t say I LOVED these subsequent books to pieces. But I liked them a lot to pieces. And liking a book a lot to pieces can be enough.
It wasn’t one book that pulled me out of my Ready Player One stupor. It was ALL of them. My revised theory, building off of Rebecca and Jodi and Peter’s thoughts is that you need a combo of really good books after one great one. If you get, like, NUTS lucky, you’ll love one of those books almost as much as you loved that mind-blowing book that ruined reading for you forever. We readers know those books are few and far between. No, what you need is the aggregate of some really good books. There are few great books. There are more really good books. It’s critical to ease back into really good after having your life changed by great. It’s crucial to remember that really good is usually enough.
Have you recently had to recover from a mind-blowing book? What’s your reading hangover cure?