There is nothing quite as depressing as the morning-after hangover. Everything hurts. Your head pounds. Your vision is blurred from your late night. You don’t want anybody to talk to you until you’ve had your requisite vat of coffee. And you swear to yourself that you’ll never do that to yourself again.
But we both know you will. We both know I will. We both know that we are too weak to resist. You can’t. It’s impossible. It’s an illness for which we don’t want to seek help.
We are all victims of book hangovers.
I caught myself sitting here, daydreaming about a book I read years ago and wondering how the characters are doing today. Isn’t that ridiculous? They’re book characters. I should remember they’re fictional. But it never fails. I get sucked in and worry about them as if they’re real.
So I want to share with you my list. (If anybody wants to participate, feel free to steal this graphic I made. I like to share.)
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Paper Towns by John Green
10. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
First of all, I am a sucker for punctuation marks in a title. Isn’t that ridiculous? You’ll find, dear reader, that I am utterly ridiculous. And I don’t want to change. Aside from that, this book was recommended on one of my favorite podcasts, Books on the Nightstand (may it rest in peace.) It’s a lovely book; it’s an epistle told through emails and paper scraps and documents. The small bits are narration are through the eyes of a precocious middle schooler. The characters are hard not to love, even crazy Bernadette. Even the characters on the fringe. They all have depth and complexity and their stories are so intricately woven that you almost don’t notice how the pulling of one string affects everything around it. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything different from someone who’s responsible for one of my favorite shows of all time, Mad About You.
But for days after I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I wondered about the characters. I hoped they were all recovering after the events of the book. I wanted to know more about them, even though their story was over. I was hung up for days.
9. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Jazz Era Manhattan? I’m sold already. I love anything set in New York. I love New York. (I’m going to New York in two days!!) I would read a book about a dog in Central Park just to read about New York. Luckily, though, Rules of Civility is not about a dog. It’s about Katey Kontent, a working-class daughter of a Russian immigrant who falls, by chance, into elite of Manhattan. She meets wealthy men and dines with socialites. She’s beloved by all. And my favorite thing about Katey Kontent? Throughout everything she stays true to herself and keeps her morals and her scruples. She’s one of my favorite characters ever written. She’s kind. She’s intelligent. She sticks to her morals, even when her friends don’t. Seriously. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a protagonist of a novel.
And I wonder how her life turned out after the opening of the book. (The book opens at a time much later than the rest of the novel.)
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
When I first read The Giver I had no idea it was a series. I didn’t know there was a companion. I didn’t know there was a sequel. Part of that was I remember when the book first came out, in 1993. Gathering Blue didn’t come out until 2000, so my early memory of the book was that it wasn’t a series. That said, when I finished The Giver, I closed the book, stared into space for what seemed eons, and wondered what happened. Did the characters get a happily ever after, or didn’t they? The ending was unclear. In later interviews, Lois Lowry would state that she was surprised at the amount of people who were confused by the ending. (I won’t give away whether they did or did not get their happy ending. That’s for you to learn on your own.) But I had trouble recovering from it.
7. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I read The Hunger Games books back-to-back right after the third book was released. I don’t think I did anything else but read them for like five days. I read and read and read. I cried and laughed and cried and yelled. I consumed them like they were the last books on earth. And then I sank into a deep, dark coma. I didn’t pick up another book for days. I had so much trouble recovering from the pain of these books. There’s loss and devastation and unpredictability. I should have paced myself better, but I didn’t. I couldn’t stop reading them. It was awful. And I was afraid I’d never recover.
6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I HAVE SO MANY OPINIONS ABOUT THIS BOOK AND THEY’RE ALL WONDERFUL! But, seriously, I loved Fangirl. It spoke to my middle-school fanfiction writing soul. I loved the characters. I fell in love with Cath. I fell in love with Levi. I wanted more and more and more of the Simon Snow story. I wanted to live in this fantasy. Lucky for me, my prayers were answered!
5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I GOT MY WISH AND THERE WAS MORE OF THE SIMON SNOW STORY! There wasn’t more of Cath or Levi. There wasn’t more of the real world in which they lived. But I got to learn everything I wanted to learn about Simon Snow and Baz. I got to watch this beautiful story unfold. And I wanted to live in this world. For real, Rainbow Rowell, I want to live in any world you create. You’re the best. I am not worthy.
4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
This was not my first John Green. I know, I know. It’s everybody’s first John Green (if not TFIOS, of course.) Mine was Paper Towns, which I objectively love more than Looking for Alaska. But I was so hung over from Looking for Alaska that it was hard to function for a whole day afterward. I was on Spring Break. I was hosting a workshop. I had pneumonia and wanted to die. So when I wasn’t at school, I was laid in bed, reading and wishing for death. So I picked up Looking for Alaska for a lighthearted, easy read. (You’ll find I don’t actually pursue lighthearted reads. I want a book that will rip me open when I read it.) And I was not disappointed by the gut-wrenching emotional rollercoaster that was Looking for Alaska. It left me dazed and awestruck and gave secured John Green’s place in my list of favorite authors.
3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I picked this book up simply for the cover. (I judge books by their covers, okay? Sue me.) And I sat on the couch to read the first chapter. And several days or months or years or lifetimes later, I looked up and I had finished the book. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t do anything but read this delightful, amazing book. I read it right on the heels of Carry On and then I didn’t want to do anything but think about the Simons for days. It was bad. I was stuck in this world with these amazing people. I loved their stories. I loved them. I wanted them to be happy and to stay as beautiful as they were when the books ended. I wanted their lives to continue in a way that I was invited to watch. And I wanted them to be happy.
2. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
I read Ender’s Game when I was in the ninth grade. And I immediately when out and bought the boxed set of the rest of the series. And then I bought the Shadow series. And I read them in this order: Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, and finally, Children of the Mind. And after all that, I still wanted more. I wanted everything the Enderverse had to offer. And eventually I got more. And I’ve loved it. But nothing was as fire-starting as reading all of them back-to-back-to-back. They consumed me. And when they were over, it was like a part of me went missing. I wanted that part back.
1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Okay, okay, okay, okay. Listen. This book. It messed me up. I cried. And I yelled. And I threw things. And I stayed up all. freaking. day to read it. And it kept tearing me apart. It kept ripping me to shreds. I wanted everything to work right and it just kept getting more complicated and more twisted. And every time I thought I had it figured out, I didn’t. And everybody’s stories effected everybody else’s and I couldn’t see how they were connected, just that they were. And I couldn’t put the book down. I read my way into a migraine and that didn’t stop me. I did that thing where I switch positions to all those awkward upside down reading yoga poses and everything. I was the quintessential nerd. And I loved every moment of it. One of my greatest regrets is that I will never, ever be able to read I’ll Give You the Sun for the first time again. Ever. It’s so sad.
Now, go out there and give yourself a hangover!
The Plucky Reader