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On Wanting Another Book As Awesome As The One You’ve Just Finished

A photograph of the Arabian room at Cardiff Castle

That slight feeling of sadness after you’ve finished a great book, it’s over. When that happens it’s tempting to want to find another book just like it; even when you’ve reading plans to continue you can still have that wish.

Sometimes it’s easy – pick up the sequel. There’s a chance – sometimes fairly big – that the sequel won’t live up to the book you’ve read, but it’s the best chance of reading more of the same that there is. Other times the author may have written another book with the same atmosphere. Lesser times but still significant enough, another author in the same genre or with books set at the same time (for example if it’s a historic novel) may provide a similar reading experience. Recommendations are great here, particularly as people tend to specify what is and isn’t the same.

The thing that interests me in a literary way, though, is those times it isn’t easy to find another book that’s similar, which includes times when you can find one similar but it takes time and during that time you’ve ‘recovered’ from the ‘need’ (though that is a fair alternative in itself). I find it interesting that the process of reading a great book and being unable to replicate the experience for whatever reason can lead to a slump. Perhaps it’s because I’m not as avid a film watcher as I am a reader, but I don’t find the same process in the context of films as powerful. Nor music, although I love music and the right song can be a stunning experience.

Sometimes TV series can produce a similar feeling, which makes me wonder how much is down to length and time invested. In books, a book can be shorter than, well, a tome, and still produce the same result because of how much relative time and attention it uses. It’s generally easier to watch a TV series than to read a book no matter the genre of the book as it requires less attention; all the imagination has been done for you. A short book might not cause the same feeling as a longer one due to time invested, but I’d say it’s more likely to cause it than a film.

I think it’s fascinating that a good book and the resulting wish to read more – which a re-read won’t do – can cause a slump. We talk about good books being the pinnacle. We talk about average books causing a slump, burnout causing a slump, and the daunting nature of the anticipation of a good book causing a slump. But the aftermath of a great book can be a slump. (Of cause a great book can also put off a slump, but that’s not the topic here.)

Looking at the times I’ve had this problem in the past, it relates most often to times when I’ve been able to give the great book not only the literal attention but the physical space, that is to say when I’ve set myself up for an evening of reading, for example, rather than just happening to have reading time. This often leads to associations which, I suppose, play their own role – ‘when I’m at the beach I’m going to get my book out and read’, ‘I’m making a cup of tea on this particularly bright February afternoon and am going to read this book because it’s getting great and I want to enjoy it’. That second one is something I’m still musing on, 9 months later.

How do you handle this situation?

 
 

Kelly

October 25, 2019, 8:06 pm

This is an interesting topic to ponder. When I finish a great book, I try to wait a day or two before picking up anything else. (usually a good time to fit in a magazine or two) I also tend to switch to a different genre so that I don’t have any expectations of a repeat performance. I think this is one of the main reasons I don’t ever re-read books. I have that fear they won’t be great (or worse yet, even good) the second time around!

Now, music is a whole different thing and probably rates higher in life for me than reading. (that’s saying a lot given my love of reading) Most of the time, I find the actual music far superior to the lyrics.

Felicity Grace Terry

October 26, 2019, 6:22 pm

Hmm! Definitely something to think about. In a bit of a slump at the moment (I’ve had a run of books that as it turns out aren’t to my taste) I cannot even begin to think about reading a book by one of my favourite authors that has been on my shelves since the summer. A big tome to begin with, part of me is also concerned that what if it has been me and not the books; that I pick up this only to find myself disappointed or, worse still, not having liked it at all.

MoniqueReads

October 26, 2019, 6:46 pm

This is a very interesting topic. I’m still trying to learn how to combat a reading slump. But regarding your topic, I’ve found that spacing out reads help. I find that giving myself time to process a really good book after I’ve completed it dampens this desire. It allows me to approach the new book without too high of expectations.

Jenny @ Reading the End

October 29, 2019, 11:25 pm

This is suuuuch a tough nut to crack. I think I tend to have the best success by reading something in a totally different genre, and preferably some quite intimidating book of academic nonfiction. It kind of resets my brain into a different reading mode, and I don’t have the same expectations that I would of a fiction book.

Charlie

November 4, 2019, 3:16 pm

Kelly: You know, I’ve done the wait a couple of days thing myself before but never thought to fit another sort of reading in in the meantime. It’s a really good idea! (Part of the reason I don’t tend to wait a few days any more is because I kind of do want to be reading outside of the context of the book just finished.) Yes to your fear – I tend to have that. It’s not always but is often down to how long ago it was – how much you’ve changed in the meantime – but what’s interesting is that sometimes it’s only by re-reading that you discover you’ve changed.

I can relate to you in terms of music, it is technically the same for me, music came first.

Felicity Grace Terry: Urgh, that sort of slump is no fun. I hope you’re through it now or will be soon. Yes, exactly – ‘what if it have been me and not the books’ – kind of what I said to Kelly above about change. And unfortunately you won’t know until you try it which could be a wonderful surprise or a ‘damn it!’.

Monique: I agree about processing the book, whenever you can do it, it is important. It is strange, in a way, that it does help with expectations but very useful regardless. (I have wondered before if it means you’re – general you – are forgetting the book already, always a worry when you read a lot, but either way it’s useful.)

Jenny: Oo, academic non-fiction as the next book isn’t something I’ve thought of. I can see a lot of sense in that.

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