I haven’t participated in a Top Ten Tuesday tag in soooo long. But this week’s topic really spoke to me. On the one hand, I love reading books that get to me so much that they give me a book hangover. On the other hand… who likes book hangovers? Whichever book comes next has a really hard time, nothing feels like you really want to read it, and the world is just a little sadder because that one book is now over.
But let’s focus on the good thing which is that all of these books are excellent and made me feel all the feels.
The last ten books that gave me a book hangover
Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer
Oh Laini Taylor! It may have taken me a second start to finally finish this book but that was entirely my own fault (time management, man) because this is a masterpiece. Everything about this book was amazing. The characters, the story, the world, and especially the language. It’s lyrical without feeling too flowery, it evokes such images in my mind, it literally made me daydream. Which is also the reason I have saved the second part of this duology for a time when I need a book I just know I’m going to love.
Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni
This is a book that quietly grew on me the more I read. The story of two mythical creatures – the titular Golem and Jinni – are thrown into a world that is completely unknown to them. While this may be read as an immigrant story, the fact that we’re talking about two beings who are literally magical makes this all the morei interesting. Getting to know Ahmad and Chava, learning how to navigate the world alongside them, and figuring out who they really were was such a wonderful journey. I felt so deflated after I finished this book because whatever came next would have a hard time living up to this.
Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Warrior
This was a more pleasant type of book hangover. I absolutely adore the world Nnedi Okorafor has created and I just want to spend more time in it! The only reason I didn’t have a book hangover after the first book, Akata Witch, was because I had the second one ready to go. These books sucked me in so much because of the amazing world-building and characters and because it’s so different from any YA fantasy novel I had read before. I’ve said it in my review and I’ll say it again: the Akata books had the same effect on me as when I first read Harry Potter. It is entirely its own story but that feeling of discovering a secret magical world was the same. And who doesn’t want to feel that way again?
Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races
It took me a while to find my way into this book. Stiefvater isn’t known for flowery language but nobody can create a three-dimensional character with just a few lines the way that she can. In this case, she has created not just a cast of wonderful characters but an entire island filled with tradition and myth and life. Once I had allowed myself to get fully immersed in this world I never wanted to come up for air again. The ending was a thing of singular perfection. I cried and wanted to start reading the entire book again.
Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale
This entire trilogy swept me off my feet, but the first book gave me a particularly tough book hangover. It was like the author had looked into my brain, picked all the things I like about stories and stuck them into this novel. Russian fairy tales, a brilliant heroine, lots of conflict, a compelling wintery setting and fantastic writing. How could I not love this? The problem was that I read this shortly after it came out, so I had to wait for the next book. In the meantime, all I could do was yearn for another novel that combined all of my favorite things as beautifully as this one did.
S. L. Huang – The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist
Nobody was more surprised than me when this little book completely destroyed me. It’s a reversed Little Mermaid retelling – where the human scientist wants to become a mermaid – that packs way more punch than you’d expect. I’m so glad I bought the physical book from Book Smugglers Publishing because this is a story I want on my shelf. As it’s a retelling, you do know what’s coming ahead of time, but nothing could prepare me for the emotional punch. I was devastated, I was shocked, and I was very impressed. Here it was not so much that I didn’t think anything could live up to this book again, but more a general feeling of depression because of the story.
C. S. E. Cooney – Bone Swans
You can always tell when writers are also poets because even when they write prose, there is something special about the way they use language. C. S. E. Cooney is one such poet and in this collection, she wrote nothing but stories that gave me hangovers. Seriously, after every single one I thought to myself “This was the best one yet, nothing can be better” and then I repeated this until I reached the end of the book. One story in particular hit me right in the heartstrings (the Rumpelstiltskin retelling) but all the others were gorgeous as well. I have since tried to buy everything I could find by this author and I hope we’ll get to read much more by her.
N. K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season
As a three-years-in-a-row Hugo winner for this particular trilogy, I probably don’t have to tell you how great this book is. I had read Jemisin’s work before and was already a big fan, but when The Fifth Season came out, it was clear that she had reached a whole new level of excellence. All the things that are important to me (characters, language, world-building, plot) exceeded my expectations, and then there is one of the best most surprising twists that I have ever come across. This deserves every award it has won and it still makes me doubt I’ll ever read anything quite as good again.
Angela Slatter – The Bitterwood Bible
Here’s another short story writer that completely blew me away. Slatter’s short stories are interconnected (and also connect to her other collection Sourdough) so this didn’t feel so much like a story collection but rather like a mosaic novel. Fitting the pieces together, seeing how each story fits within the context of the others, was almost as much fun as the stories themselves. Slatter writes fantastic characters, putting women front and center. Her writing has a fairy tale vibe, all while doing completely her own thing.
Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance
There had to be a Valente novel on this list, didn’t there? It’s not surprising that my favorite writer also gave me one of my biggest book hangovers. In this retro futuristic novel, she combines so many styles and voices that at first I was most impressed with the writing. But then she also created this heartbreaking characters and tells an extraordinary story that I didn’t know what to love more. Reading this was truly an experience. This is a book you fall into like a dream and waking up feels just as painful as leaving loved ones behind.
I had to browse through my “read” list on Goodreads for quite some time to find all these books. It turns out I have read a lot of fantastic novels but not that many of them gave me proper book hangovers. Either because they had really satisfying endings that made me happy to start a new and different adventure or because they may have been great but not as outstanding as others.