(Source: Henn Kim)
I’ve always been pretty fortunate with the books I’ve picked up and chosen to read. In less you want to count ‘Starter For Ten’ — which I definitely hung onto for far too long before finally relenting and tossing it to the DNF pile — I’ve enjoyed and even loved most of the stories I’ve decidedly delved into. That shouldn’t be altogether surprising, really. We, for the most part, like to think we’ve got a pretty solid judgement on the things we’ll like and dislike, and even if we’re being a bit reckless, pushing ourselves to the very edges of our comfort zone, there’s still a huge element of hope that it’s going to be good. But sometimes — most of the time actually, for me anyway — the satisfaction we get out of a book is almost too much to handle and every painstaking page turn is another sharp shooting pain beneath our ribs that this story, we’re quite literally hanging on to every word of, is going to inevitably end. And when it does, no matter how showstoppingly good the ending might be, no matter how well wrapped-up, how inspiring or brilliant, we’re going to feel sad and subsequently enter into a post-finished-book funk. At least, that always happens to me, anyway.
Even if it wasn’t a particularly tearful ending (i.e. the characters made it through without dying on us, or the relationships that were tested are reconciled, or stronger than ever), I find it so difficult to just hop onto the next book and get swept away with that story. Because I need to think about the other book first, right? Reading it and taking it all in at the time the words are bouncing off the page and into my imagination, formulating images and building up walls for me to escape into, just isn’t enough. I actually have to experience the book as it hangs around afterwards too, sometimes quite unwelcomely. Like a grey cloud or a bad smell (except not, because books rarely smell bad).
It’s difficult to let that world or those characters go, especially if the book was quite distinct, be it a fantasy novel, or a particularly vibrant main character or narrative. And don’t even get me started on a book series, which more or less get their claws into you and don’t let go until they’ve taken you on an emotionally draining rollercoaster and bled your bank account dry — not that I even mind when it’s happening, because if I’m going to spend a ridiculous amount of money, I feel far less guilty when it’s on books.
I’ve also tried to get into the habit of making time to read before bed, because staring at screens right before you close your eyes and go to sleep isn’t exactly proven to help with slipping off to dreamland. Plus, if I’ve had a particularly busy day, right before bed might be the only time to squeeze a bit of reading in. But, if I’m too hung up on the book before to start another, how is sleep expected to come easily to me and take me on beautiful technicolour dreams (because I swear reading before bed also makes my dreams ten times more vivid and coherent) if I’m still grieving another book?
So how long should you grieve a book for?
Well, I guess as long as you like and as long as you deem you have to. It differs from person to person and, indeed, book to book. Some touch you more than others, and some of us (read: me) are more sentimental than others. I’m also a slower reader, partly because, well, biology I guess…? But I’m actively trying to read more books in a smaller chunk of time. I feel guilty for all the lost time in university where I was too busy with other things, or too lazy — shock horror — to pick up a book. Rarely was I a person seen growing up without one in my hands, but as I’ve got older and work has warranted more of my attention, books have been unfairly cast to the back-burner. But now I’m back with a little more time on my hands and the only thing getting in my way is this pesky grieving of books.
The thing is, I think even if you’re the sort to miss other characters and feel as though you need time before moving on, you could probably manage to open the pages and crack the spine of another if you so wished. (This sounds like some awful euphemism for heartbreak, or even cheating — I don’t condone that.) If it’s a goal of your’s, as it is mine, to read more and completely gorge yourself on the past-time of reading, you just should. It’s the same task of letting a book get its hold on you. Some people think there’s a fifty page rule, or even a one hundred page rule in which the book has to grip you by, and that’ll probably always be the case, whether you’re grieving another or not. So I guess for any of you suffering the same post-book grief I do, plough through and reach for the next. It’s also probably a pretty good idea to have the next book be one you’ve been excited and geared up to read since you purchased it, as opposed to one that’s been gathering dust on your TBR pile which you know you’ll get to one day, but isn’t exactly a priority. Besides all that, I think all my post-book grieving might just be solved by writing up reviews about them. But I’ll get back to you on that when those start to happen…