The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig

351,159 ratings - 4.16* vote

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life wel Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a

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Book details

Hardcover, 288 pages
September 29th 2020 by Viking

(first published August 13th 2020)

Original Title
The Midnight Library
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Nilufer Ozmekik

Okay! No more words! This is one of the best sci-fi dances with fantasy which carries additional philosophic vibes novel of the year! I LOVED IT! ( this is not kind of toasting for the book and raising your glass kind of loving it. This is more like climbing at the top of the roof and declaring your love by shouting and howling to the moon kind of love. If you read the song lyrics of “ Howl” at the book you may probably understand why I feel so enthusiastic and why I’m writing a high volume review!)

This book is not only about Nora Seed who is trapped in her life, seeing herself a failure, a disposable human waste who has nothing to achieve, will never be missed by anyone . It’s about regrets, unfinished plans, what ifs, approval of families, drugs, mistakes, giving up, realizing other people’s dreams, self regret, insecurities, self harm, love, passion and hate...

When Nora tries to end her life, she opens her eyes in a library filled with books which contain different versions of her life story. If she finds the right book and most proper life she can live fulfilled and happy, that will mean she can be saved!

Thankfully the librarian Mrs. Elm here for here just like she has done when she was a little girl who recently learned she lost her dad.

Nora could be a swimmer, a rock star, a philosopher, a wife, a traveler, a glaciologist, a mother, winery or local pub owner. She can say “yes” to her ex and accept his offer to live in a small town and own a local pub. Or she can say “yes” to coffee offer of a nice doctor candidate Ash to pursue happiness and love. She can win Olympic medals or she can taste the tempting charm of fame with her songs she writes and performs all around the world. She can be everything or anything.

But after living so much lives, nearly thousand different versions, will she find which is best for her and which life form will suit to catch the real happiness?

Can she live without family members or can she handle losing her friends to death?

What does she really want? What does she expect ? And most importantly will she learn to face the things she regrets the most? Because however she’s ready to start her fresh life with open hands, those clutches of regret always pull her back and prevent her to see what she’s really looking for!

Beautiful, meaningful, dazzling, emotional, heart wrenching, poetic, realistic : these are the words which come to my mind after reading this book. Just like the definition of ideal life.
Sigh...

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Paromjit

It is no secret that Matt Haig has mental health issues, dogged by the darkness of depression that has taken its toll on his life. His acute observations and experience of his condition informs this exquisite, inspiring, compassionate and empathetic novel where he creates the concept of the midnight library, to be found in the spaces between life and death, to explore life, the issues that afflict our world, through philosophy and more, endeavouring to tease out what might make life worth living and a joy and what gives it meaning. The device used to implement his goal is the ordinary Nora Seed, who has lived her life trying to please others, who has hit rock bottom, suffering the loss of her cat, her job, overwhelmed by the burden of a lifetime of regrets, seeing no light in her life whatsoever. She is tempted by thoughts of suicide that has her ending up at the midnight library.

The midnight library is magical, for a start, the library has a limitless number of books, and these books are far from ordinary, Haig sprinkles gold dust in each book, offering Nora the opportunity to see how her life would have turned out if each and every decision at every point in her life had been different. The books illustrate the endless possibilities that life holds for Nora and all of us. Nora explores each book, with inquisitiveness and curiosity, the widely disparate lives that could have been hers, no easy task as she has to slip into each new life with the complications of being unfamiliar with it and do so without alerting the other people present. It soon becomes clear that there are pros and cons to each book/life, to each decision and choice made, each life containing its own mix of despair, pain and regrets that must be accommodated and handled.

Haig offers a touching narrative that speaks of the joys to be found in living, attained through Nora's eyes as she tries to untangle what really matters in life, putting life in context and perspective with all its ongoing changes, complexities, and an understanding no life is perfect in itself. In some ways, this is a version of It's A Wonderful Life, a favourite film for so many people. What I was so struck by is just how many readers might find this helpful for our lock down times, so many have suffered unbearable losses and illness, have had to face not seeing all those we love and mean so much to us, whilst being weighed down with worries and concerns about how to cope with fears regarding jobs, childcare, money and more. A beautifully nuanced novel that I am sure many will love as much as me. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC.

Jayme

Unpopular opinion!

In between life and death is a library, The Midnight Library. With books curated just for you..

You will start with “The book of Regrets” your regrets, which could be “not telling your father you loved him before he died”, not marrying a certain sweetheart or not following a dream.

Select another volume and see how a different choice may have played out.

Discover that an alternate choices may not have necessarily led to a different outcome.

This is a MAGICAL premise!

But, I must be honest.
As much as I wanted to LOVE this, I just wasn’t AS riveted by the explorations of “what could have been”.

This will appeal to those who enjoy stories which revolve around sliding doors, alternate realities and time travel. That isn’t me.

I gravitated toward it because of the appeal of the library.

We all know that books resonate (or don’t resonate) with readers based on our own personal experiences.

Perhaps if you share a certain regret with our leading lady, Nora, you will connect with this book more than I did.

Perhaps, it was just timing.

This book has almost all 5 star reviews, so please read others for an alternate opinion.

Or, if you are one of the few, who like me, LOVED the idea more than the story, know now that there is at least one other person who felt the same way as you.

Emily B

This was cute and the concept was great but unfortunately it really lacked some depth for me!

noelle

What a way to end this year of reading! ?

Ruby Granger

okay WOW. This was amazing.

I must say that I was kind of skeptical? going into this because the idea is SO good that I didn't know if the writing would be able to live up to it (which can sometimes happen)... but alas, no! Haig's prose is fast-paced and easy to read, but also believable and deeply philosophical. There is just so much to learn from this book. I mean, you COULD read a self-help book on stoicism, or you could just read this :)

emma

Okay. Picture this: you are about to bite into a cookie. A big, warm cookie. Kinda crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, yummy and chocolate chip-y and presumably made with brown butter and flaky sea salt, as all the best cookies are.

And then you take a big ol' chomp, and...oh no.

Not a chocolate chip at all.

This cookie is filled with...RAISINS.

Have you immersed yourself in that experience? Really felt the high expectations and the all-consuming disappointment?

Good.

Because that was my experience with this book.

This is not a bad book, necessarily, just like raisin-y cookies are not a bad food. (They are closer to granola bars than cookies, but my favorite in the Chewy Granola Bar Variety Pack was always oatmeal raisin, like a six-year-old grumpy old man, so that's not a negative in my personal lexicon.)

It's just that it could be much better. And I thought it would be.

I thought this was going to be a magical realism-y (my favorite), book-filled (my favorite), beautifully written (everyone's favorite) romp through a brilliant new world.

Instead, it was a very fluffy, very...done-before-feeling It's A Wonderful Life-esque feel-good discussion of suicide.

(I mention this further down, but this is SO, SO triggering for suicide.)

That's not a bad thing. It's just not what I wanted. Or needed. Or anything the genre really aches for at all.

But whatever.

Bottom line: I should bake cookies and reread The Starless Sea. Both instead of having read this and as a daily routine.

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pre-review

for a book with library in the title, and a library as the setting, and "library" four times in the synopsis, this had remarkably little to do with libraries.

(also, this is massively, unrelentingly triggering for suicide. fair warning because i wish i'd been more prepared!)

review to come / 3 stars

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currently-reading updates

started this and immediately realized i'm mentally comparing it to the Starless Sea already.

both book + i are destined to fail.

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tbr review

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality.

um.

(deep breath)

YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES

Gabby

“The only way to learn is to live”
Fuck, this book hit me so hard. I finished this book a few days ago and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It has one of my favorite themes or tropes in a book, where we follow a main character who at the beginning of the story is very depressed and possible suicidal and doesn't see the point of life, but then slowly throughout the story begins to build an admiration toward humanity and life. This book was so beautifully written and I love the way this book asks the question: what is the best way to live?

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

It's a really cool concept, that between life and death you enter the midnight library, where you get the opportunity to see how your life would've been different had you made different decisions. I think a lot about this, what my life would be like had I made different choices and wondering if I'm the happiest version of myself? This book forces you to ask hard questions, like what makes a life worth living? And are your dreams for yourself really something you want? I love the way this book talks about regrets and how most of the time our regrets are a load of bullshit of things that are out of our control and they are causing a major burden on our life.

“A person was like a city. You couldn't let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don't like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worth-while.”

Matt Haig is such a talented writer and there are so many passages and quotes I'm obsessed with in this book. Much like The Humans (one of my all time favorites) this book has you questioning what the point of life is and thinking how truly absurd life can be. But I feel like this book is much more serious than The Humans, there are trigger warnings for depression and suicidal thoughts in this book, and it was very very heavy on my heart to read this book, where as The Humans feels a lot more light-hearted and hilarious.

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren't living. Easy to wish we'd developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we'd worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga. It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn't make and the work we didn't do the people we didn't do and the people we didn't marry and the children we didn't have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out. But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It's the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people's worst enemy. We can't tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”


But god damn, I loved this book. I cried a lot at the end. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time. I also filmed a reading vlog and I included this book, you can see that here: https://youtu.be/9NiJtrbogyo

Miranda Reads

So, first of all, HUGE thank you to goodreads for featuring my kindle highlights and notes for this book - wow.

I never would've expected such an amazing opportunity to share my love for this book NOR would I have expected to "meet" so many wonderful people through the comments.

It's been so much fun and I'm definitely doing more highlights/notes soon!!

The Written Review
description
Life has just gotten to the point where it's overwhelming and all-encompassing and above all, Nora can't see a possible situation where it gets better.

Everyone she's ever known has pulled away, her job is gone and her best friend in the world passes.

All she's left with is herself and a cripplingly black hole.

She slips herself a few too many pills and then drifts...and finds herself in a library.

Not just any library though, the Midnight Library.

Guided by a person who may (or may not) be Mrs. Elm (young Nora's favorite teacher), Nora begins to take a look at the shelves.

And every book is her. Well. A version of her. Other lives that she could've lived, decisions and paths she could've pursued.

If you could undo any and all "bad" decisions you make, would you?

In short, this book was amazing. Really, truly.

I struggled to write my summary cause I didn't want to give too much away - so much of my joy of this book comes from just discovering where this story led.

The world-building and the writing were phenomenal. It felt like I was marking a new quote on every page cause so much of it was THAT good.

Nora's character felt so real and she got me all teary so many times.

I loved the ethereal magic of the Midnight Library and the various mind-bending scenarios that Nora went through. All in all - this book was amazing and I could not recommend it more!

description

Just posted my Goodreads Choice 2020 Reaction Video on Booktube! Click the link to check it out!!
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