january book

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

literary · science fiction · emotional · fast-paced | 304 pages

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. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.


club meeting date: Wednesdsay, January 26 @ 7:30pm

discussion questions (spoilers):
  • The Midnight Library is different for each person who enters it. Nora experienced it as a library because of the meaningful relationship she had with Mrs. Elm, her childhood school librarian. Later, we learn that Hugo experienced it as a video store, with a cherished uncle instead of a librarian. What do you think your Midnight Library would be? And who would be there?
  • Nora experiences a number of alternate lives in which she achieves a great deal of success in one area of her life at the expense of all the rest, be it in music, swimming, or polar exploration. Do you think it’s possible to reach fame and fortune in a single field and still maintain balance with other areas of your life?
  • In the library, Nora learns that the life she gave her cat was one of the best he could have experienced. Are there any parts of your life that you feel could not be improved by living it differently?
  • In her life before she finds herself in the Midnight Library, Nora gave up many of the pursuits that brought her joy because she didn’t feel like she could be the best at them. Do you think it’s understandable that she would have given these things up? Do you think that wanting to be the best at something can inhibit us from enjoying it?
  • Mrs. Elm showed Nora the Book of Regrets when she first entered the library, and Nora was overwhelmed by it when she first looked in. But as she experienced more and more lives, her list of regrets began to shrink. Do you think by considering the ways in which our lives might have turned out differently our regrets truly go away, or do we simply learn to live with them?
  • In the world of the Midnight Library, the books take on the role of portals into alternate realities. Do you think the role books played in the Midnight Library is similar to the role they play in your own life?
  • As the story progresses, Nora finds herself in lives that she could be more satisfied with than others that proved more difficult. Do you think you would be able to live as an alternate version of yourself? Would you want to?
  • Over the course of the book, Nora lives a whole spectrum of lives, some for minutes and some for months, but only at the end does time actually pass, and by the time she wakes up in her root life it is one minute and twenty-seven seconds past midnight and her outlook on life has changed entirely. What do you think this says about the speed at which we decide things about our lives and ourselves? Does it take a lifetime or a just few seconds?

    questions from Penguin Random House

member reviews

email your reviews to alicia@thedigitaldiarist.ca


This is a very beautiful concept - and I think the way that it makes you want to believe that you can be better in a sort of desperate way is a huge reason why this book resonates with so many people. The message of "the life you deserve is the one you earn" I think is a valuable, but nuanced one. The pacing of the book was solid, and there was enough of a dramatic flair through each of the chapters that it did in fact warrant a name as fantastical as "The Midnight Library." Points all around!

The only problem with it is that I literally did not like a single one of the characters. None of them. Hated all of them.

I think if we look at the Midnight Library as a series of concepts, then it does a fantastic job. But as a narrative, I think it fails to go deeper. And in a library of infinite possibilities, I feel like we don't ever get past the front desk.

Fave quote: "ominous B flat" because it's so wild to give us the detail that Nora has perfect pitch while in the midst of being fired from her music store job.