Top Ten Tuesday

10 Novels To Generate Hangovers

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover .

Though its many, many years since I experienced a hangover, I can still remember the symptoms. The disturbed sleep; the thudding headache and the feeling of nausea.

No-one really goes out drinking with the intention of getting a hangover do they? No more than I ever deliberately choose books that I think will give me a hangover feeling. But some of them do provoke those unwelcome reactions.

Headache Generators

I’m thinking here of books that have complex plots or complicated structures or are written in a very dense style.

How Late it Was How Late by James Kelman

Appropriately this Booker Prize winner begins with the protagonist Sammy waking up in a lane after a two-day drinking binge. It would have been challenging enough to understand because everything that happens to this guy is told in stream of consciousness style. But its made even more challenging because the story is rendered in a working class Scottish dialect. (Imagine a drunken rant by Billy Connolly and you might get the picture). I struggled my way through just over 100 pages but then decided I’d had enough.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

This was a clever novel of two characters and three versions of their lives. The chapters switch between the different versions of the couple but at the exact same point in time. It was a fascinating approach to narration but I did find it confusing initially and had to take notes to keep each couple and each version clear in my head.  

Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie

Rushdie’s much-lauded novel falls into the category for me of “impressive rather than enjoyable.” It had such a dazzling array of allusion and digressions plus political references I didn’t understand that reading it felt like wading through mud. I could read only a couple of pages a night.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A beautifully contrived novel with two time zones and two settings that incorporates several themes. One of them considers the elusive nature of time:

In the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then. Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn’t. It’s like the word is committing suicide or something.

Maybe not the best thing to read late at night when the brain wants to shut down. But worse was to come – a section that baffled me was an explanation of a thought experiment called Schrödinger’s Cat which tries to explain how a being may be simultaneously both alive and dead.

Sleep Disturbers

The books in this group are all books that were so engrossing I had to keep reading, even though it was far beyond lights out time.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Boy am I glad I’m not reading this right now. It’s premise of a flu virus that is so virulent it wipes out 99% of the world’s population would be rather too close for comfort to the current Coronovirus outbreak. It does make you worry about how you’d cope in a world where everything you know no longer exists.

The North Water by McGuire, Ian

Long listed for the  Man Booker 2016, this is a fast-paced novel that pulls no punches about the brutal and bloody business of whaling in the 1840s. It leaves no doubt that this is a business in which only the most nimble, selfish and ruthless men will survive.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

I imagine there are English lit students beavering away even now on comparative essays involving The Hours and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. That wasn’t what kept me awake however. The Hours is simply a brilliant novel of three generations of women who all, in different ways, suffer issues of mental health and alienation.

Nausea Inducers

Horror stories or tales with graphic violence are absolutely not to my taste. Sometimes however you can’t avoid an element of violence or passages which are not for the faint-hearted.

Alex by Pierre LeMaitre

The opening chapters of Alex are gruesome; definitely not for the squeamish. But just when you think you can’t bear to read any more, Lemaitre masterfully brings us some relief in the form of the police hunt for a girl who’s been abducted. If it hadn’t switched gear I couldn’t have continued reading.

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

The beauty of Lullaby is that it contains the suspense of violence without forcing us to confront its reality. We know right from the beginning that a nanny kills two children in her care. The interest isn’t what she did but why.

Pure by Andrew Miller

 The smell of stench and decay is impossible to avoid when you read this book. Set in Paris the book introduces us to an engineer charged with removing the graves from a cemetery in the city. But the stench of corruption and evil presages what happens a few years later when the Revolution is in full flood (or should that be full blood?)


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

22 thoughts on “10 Novels To Generate Hangovers

    • True, it was interesting to read but I’ve forgotten many of the details now.

  • I don’t get hangovers – something to do with my BP medication rather than not drinking (but yes it’s a long time since I was ‘wiped out’). I like the category “impressive rather than enjoyable.” which seems to be one some writers aim for, and which I mostly avoid. War + Peace though I find quite straightforward, must be my preference for C19th Lit. Horror (and thrillers) I just straight out won’t read.

    • I tend to avoid those books where I feel the author is just trying to show off (I’m looking at you Will Self!) and having more fun than I am

    • i do have that Lemaitre – its been sitting on my shelves for a few years now. Slimani I thought was very well done…

  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Oooh, I love what you’ve done with this prompt!! I’ve long stayed away from horror novels, Stephen King especially, because of the sleep-disturbance element – I need to stop being such a chicken 😅 Luckily, I have a pretty strong stomach, though, so I can handle the nauseating ones okay. Now I’m thinking about what books I’d choose as hangover cures, the Gatorade-bacon-and-aspirin of books… hmm… 😆

    • Way back when I was a teenager I read some horror fiction – no idea why because I don’t recall particularly enjoying it. But I never go out of my way to find that kind of story now; if there is an element of it in the book and it feels like it fits I’ll read it but not if its just there for the sake of it.

  • I think the one that does it for me is Never Let Me Go. It was just so hauntingly beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It’s been almost a decade since I read it and I still think about the morality and ethics of it all.

    • I have a copy of this lurking somewhere. Now you’ve got me interested I might have to dig it out

  • I feel exactly the same about Station Eleven! Really glad I’m not reading it in the wake of current events because it would be even more ominous. Your review of reading Midnight’s Children reminded me of when I tried reading The Satanic Verses for a university course – I could only handle a couple of pages at a time because the writing was so dense and mind-boggling.

    My TTT:

  • It’s usually my immersive Russian books that give me a hangover – Anna Karenina, War and Peace, anything by Dostoevsky, Victor Serge. When I’ve been *living* the book it’s very hard to move on….

    • Oh yes, those darn Russians and their propensity to use multiple names for the same character. I got through War and Peace but only with the help of the character list

  • Great post. I don’t do gruesome, if the opening chapters are too graphic I don’t read any further.

    • It depends on whether I think its there just for the shock value rather than telling me something important about the character – if its just the shock value then I probably wouldn’t read on either

  • lydiaschoch

    I’ve heard great things about The Hours.

    My TTT .

    • Definitely a book I will want to read more than once


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