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The Midnight Library

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Goodreads Choice Award
Winner for Best Fiction (2020)
Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren't always what she imagined they'd be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

288 pages, Hardcover

First published August 13, 2020

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About the author

Matt Haig

107 books34.1k followers
Matt Haig is the author of novels such as The Midnight Library, How to Stop Time, The Humans, The Radleys, and the forthcoming The Life Impossible. He has also written books for children, such as A Boy Called Christmas, and the memoir Reasons to Stay Alive.

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5 stars
541,961 (35%)
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572,075 (37%)
3 stars
310,266 (20%)
2 stars
79,417 (5%)
1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 162,702 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
January 21, 2022
I liked this book until it suddenly decided to moonlight as a self-help manual, replete with messages that would look great and profound on an Instagram post next to a well-posed cup of coffee with those foam pictures on top. Or embroidered on a pillow — pick your poison.
“She realised that she hadn’t tried to end her life because she was miserable, but because she had managed to convince herself that there was no way out of her misery.”

And these messages have the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Forget the readers figuring it out for themselves — no, the moral and the take-home points will be (didactically) in your face, loud and clear, even if it’s awkward and clunky and stops narration in its tracks. Case in point:
“As she switched to freestyle she realised it wasn’t her fault that her parents had never been able to love her the way parents were meant to: without condition.”

Some of these platitudes would also feel right at home in the Hallmark holiday special movie:
“And … and the thing is … the thing is … what we consider to be the most successful route for us to take, actually isn’t. Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement – an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn’t something you measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.”

And I’m just not big on self-help or motivational books. I find most of them cheesy and corny and really awkward and often so painfully earnest that I just can’t take them seriously. It’s just me - I guess I don’t have the right personality to appreciate them. And so I was not too happy with the turn the story took.

The premise was interesting, and the beginning actually had me captivated. It’s a story of a woman who’s had her final straw - a whole bunch of final straws, really - and when gripped by the oppressive darkness of depression decides to commit suicide.
“Maybe she was just really crap at it. At life.”

“She wanted to have a purpose, something to give her a reason to exist. But she had nothing.”

This may be why so many of even middle-aged people like reading Young Adult books — there’s something quite comforting about seeing a brand-new person, right at the cusp of adulthood, when all the possibilities are still there and no clocks have yet started ticking, and there is enough time and energy to regroup and move on to the road not yet taken. But Nora is thirty-five, an age considered way too late (especially for women, with that damn idea of a biological clock) to not have it all figured out. It’s not the time (at least for women) when the world is considered to be your oyster — it’s the time when you really are expected to have your shit together. And Nora most certainly does not. “Well, don’t hang about. Tick-tock tick-tock”, says a well-meaning stranger in that unasked-for-but-nonetheless-given bit of advice.
“When she thought about it – and increasingly she had been thinking about it – Nora was only able to think of herself in terms of the things she wasn’t. The things she hadn’t been able to become. And there really were quite a lot of things she hadn’t become.”

In that moment between life and death Nora finds herself in a library full of books that are the alternate lives she could have had — lives that would have stemmed from one different choice, one different decision. (Jo Walton’s quiet gem My Real Children had a similar premise, and it was wonderful). And the point is - once Nora finds a perfect life for herself in this endless tapestry of parallel and “perpendicular” lives, she can choose to stay in it and live it as her own.

The logical place to start is to revisit all those regrets that weigh her down. And Nora has quite a few of those.
“Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices … Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

And then, after a great beginning (which was not always easy to read given how well Haig was able to capture the snowballing depressing crap happening to Nora) we careen right into the didactic self-help book where each parallel life exists to teach Nora a lesson that sooner or later will be unambiguously spelled out so that we don’t get it wrong.
“She realised, in that moment, that she was capable of a lot more than she had known.”

And if you had any doubts about the ending, doubt no more. It ends exactly like anyone would have predicted at the beginning of that self-help turn, except it’s even more unrealistically saccharine than I even dared to anticipate. It takes a turn into that meaningless “let you be you” drivel that seems to say so much while actually saying very little. It becomes the cotton candy of advice - sweet but of little value.
“She didn’t need a vineyard or a Californian sunset to be happy. She didn’t even need a large house and the perfect family. She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential. She wondered why she had never seen it before.”

And all that relentless hammering of the “profound” message into to readers’ psyche interspersed with tired cliches makes the whole book eventually seem bland and repetitive and tedious and, honestly, a bit trite.
“I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other.”

2.5 stars. I did not sign up to read a self-help manual.
But my opinion is decidedly in the minority — maybe I’m just a crusty soulless cynic. Oh well.
“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.’
Nora shook her head. This was a bit too much for a Philosophy graduate to take.”

It’s a bit too much for this science graduate over here, too.

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,307 reviews28k followers
November 24, 2020
“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
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
February 15, 2023
Everybody probably knows the premise of this book by now (I mean this book is everywhere): a library with an infinite number of books. The books of regret. You open one and it transfers you to the life where you didn’t make that particular regret. Was it marrying someone or traveling or maybe other little things.

While I admit I don’t actively pursue parallel universes kind of books on one hand, and on the other, the main reason why I read this book is that I was choosing the best fiction this year (to vote in the GR awards), I was actually looking forward to it. Most of my friends on GR gave it 5 glowing stars. A book beloved by the majority... I had a high chance of enjoying it. Sadly, I didn’t.

First, it was boring. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator wasn’t the best, honestly. Not that her voice was annoying but it was kind of monotone. It certainly didn’t help either that I was listening to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine at the same time, in which the narrator was so animated reading the book.

I also found all of Nora’s revelations and enlightenment typical. Like sure I already know that. The ending was also painfully predictable from the start. So when you can guess where the book is going, everything in between becomes not so interesting anymore, especially if you don’t care about the main character. Unfortunately, I found Nora dull. She wasn’t interesting as the main character and I couldn’t relate nor care about her and empathise with her story. I can’t believe she was this multitalented in fields that aren’t related whatsoever to each other. She could’ve been an athlete, a scholar or a musician. All successful. All are based on life decisions. I also think that she had the privilege of choosing such different options. Many don’t. I don’t mean by that the book of regrets but rather focusing on a particular career path from the start. For example, many parents don’t nurture their children’s interests like music or gymnastics for several reasons maybe they can’t afford it or they just don’t care. But Nora had so many options.

Luckily, the book was short. I also didn’t hate anything about it, hence the 2-star rating. But at the same time, I can’t name anything I liked. Maybe one of the lives, in particular, was more intriguing than the rest because of the two characters we met and.. the concept. It didn’t help that the book got repetitive sometimes. The premise was much more promising than the book itself. The “message” was also pretty plain obvious. Yet many liked The Midnight Library, however. So it might be more of a “me and not you” kind of book.

But let me tell you this: if you don’t find the parallel universes interesting to read about in stories, don’t read this novel. Don’t be fooled with “LIBRARY. MIDNIGHT LIBRARY. BOOOOOKS.” The library is just more of a metaphor. Most of the events in this book take place in the real world. And unless you’re interested in kind of self-help books (or motivational ones), don’t read this novel either. Because it’s more about what Nora discovered about herself and life, of course, by dealing with/trying to escape from her regrets.

But then again, the majority liked this book so you might too and it's simply not my cup of tea. Yet, it was a dreadfully boring.

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,315 reviews44.1k followers
September 14, 2023
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.

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,715 reviews25k followers
May 31, 2020
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.
Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
March 18, 2023
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?


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.


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

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.

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.


(deep breath)

Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.8k followers
April 16, 2022
"That is just me. I add nothing. I am wallowing in self-pity."
No truer words have been said by Nora, the world's largest wet blanket. Woe is her, folks.

Nora ends up at The Midnight Library, a place between life and death, because she doesn't want to live anymore. The library is full of books, each representing a life she could've had, had she made different choices. Now she has a chance to undo all her numerous regrets and to try out all the lives she's missed out on, to see if there is another one she would like better.

Lest you think I'm cold-hearted for not loving this, I assure you, I'm not. Normally, I love sappy, cheesy, inspirational mush. I watch Hallmark movies. I believe in soulmates and happily ever after. I cry during every sweet scene in every movie. And yet this book left me so cold inside, and I'll try to put into words why.

For one thing, this story doesn't come across as fiction so much as self-help disguised as fiction. The lessons to be learned in here are pretty obvious right from the beginning, yet they are presented like some sort of epiphany that can only be understood if explained slowly and repeatedly. We are forced to endure these lessons over and over every time Nora goes back to the library. Either Nora is the most dim-witted of characters, or the author thinks us readers are.

Another problem is that it's really hard to connect with Nora. She'll take a situation, suck every ounce of joy out of it, and interpret what's left in the most negative way possible. She's full of regret for every decision she's ever made, and thinks the grass is always greener. However, other than being negative, she literally has no other personality traits. She's a blank slate, dull and uninteresting.

I also have issues with the core messages in this book. Nora finally learns her lesson, but only after having fixated on each regret, remade every decision, and lived all subsequent lives. I'm also uncomfortable with the implication that if you're depressed, you only need to change your outlook and you will feel better. That goes against everything we understand about mental illness, including that it's important to seek out professional help, that it can be chemically based, and that it's not a matter of not trying hard enough.

So many readers loved this book, as evidenced by its overwhelmingly favorable reviews. But it's just not for me. This is the second book I've read by Matt Haig, and I've had trouble connecting with both. So I think it's time I part ways with this author and just accept that we are not compatible.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
April 4, 2023
For almost three years I have resisted.

Friends told me to read this. Goodreads told me to read this.
You'll like it, they promised.
But I didn't like How to Stop Time and I didn't finish The Humans, I replied.
Shh, this one's different.
It sounds like one of those books where a depressed person with lots of regrets decides their life has worth because if they'd made different choices, they'd still be unhappy.
Oh no, it's not that.

Sorry, but it is kinda that. The best thing about this book is that it's a super quick read with really short chapters. But I am too cynical for this kind of story. The Midnight Library is a very self-helpy novel with a number of cliche messages at its heart.

On the night Nora Seed (because she will experience growth!!) feels suicide is the only option left, she wakes up in a library filled with books, each book containing another of her lives, a path unchosen in her root life. Of course, as she explores each one of her regrets, they contain a message that, basically, regrets are stupid and there are good and bad aspects to all possible paths.

I'm sorry to all the people who liked this and are having to see me grumble. I shouldn't have done it because I knew, deep down, I would not like it. I am way past the point in my life where inspirational quotes in novel form work for me.

To be clear, I am a suicide survivor and have struggled with my own mental health. If this book pulled people away from the edge, if it was the answer, then I don't want to be dismissive of that. Sometimes what feels cheesy to one person is a genuine lifesaver to someone else. I am just trying to articulate that this magical in-between idea does not work for me personally. I think, perhaps, when it comes to mental health, I appreciate a more realistic approach and not magical solutions that don't exist in reality.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,476 reviews2,412 followers
October 2, 2023
My mind is blown; my soul is lit and I am happier.

"She realised, in that moment, that she was capable of a lot more than she had known."

(In one of her many lives)

"I think you might have lost your way a little bit."

"Isn't that why I came to the Midnight Library in the first place? Because I had lost my way?"

"Well, yes. But now you are lost within your lostness."

This story is so fascinating and one of the most amazing stories that look into life, dissect it and offer too many chances to live in each making us wonder what could have been if we we're given a chance to live in each.

It talks about regrets, relationships, dreams, pets, friendships and other relationships, what-could-have-beens and most importantly how to live in the present and make the most use of it.

The writing is amazing and picks up really fast. Once you get into the book, it's hard to put it down.

A thought provoking story, it will make you wonder things about your own life and what you could have been in the infinite other universes.

It makes me believe that I can do so much in my life at the moment and learn what I could have done from the things that happened instead of regretting about it.

A must read.

It will make you want to have a hard look at your life and make you think about the many unimportant things that you've been worrying about all your life and instead make you want to focus on the things that really matter.

A sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary kind of writing makes the narration so effortless, fast-paced, interesting and intriguing.

Loved it.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,191 reviews2,265 followers
November 25, 2020
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.
Profile Image for AdiTurbo.
720 reviews79 followers
August 22, 2020
What a shame - this could have been such a great novel if the author had the capacity to write about the issues of regrets and suicidal thoughts with maturity, complexity and depth. Instead, we get this young-adult-like novel in which the main character behaves and thinks like a 15-year-old, and every other character around her is just a cardboard poster rather than a human being. This is not what I expected from Matt Haig, whose previous books I recommended to people who wanted to understand depression. It's like it isn't the same author at all. I can't believe how silly and superficial its treatment of its topics is. Even with the fantastic elements of the premise, this could have been so much better.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
December 12, 2020
(4.5?) After loving The Humans, I was very excited for this new release and I wasn't let down!

The main character is full of regrets after attempting suicide and ends up in a library where she gets to try all the other lives she could have lived.

This books was heartbreaking and unputdownable. My main regret is starting it late at night because I had to wait until the next day to finish it!

The writing was beautiful and hit almost too close for comfort. I can't recommend it enough!

Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 3 books46.9k followers
February 25, 2021
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 :)
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
January 31, 2022
I think this is a really deeply personal book, and it's definitely one that resonated with me. It is kind of part self help book and part story, but that was why it meant a lot to me. I think I'd love to reread it to fully get its message. I can see why people wouldn't like it, but I can also see why it'd be really meaningful to a lot of people. I fall on that side.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
August 18, 2021
Corny like a Hallmark movie and probably the least subtle book I've ever read.

Update: for those butthurt about my sentence-long review I just wanted to say that as a person who also struggles with depression, this book will become my 13th reason if y'all keep trying to defend it to me (jk)
Profile Image for Emily B.
442 reviews440 followers
March 29, 2021
This was cute and the concept was great but unfortunately it really lacked some depth for me!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
March 9, 2021
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
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!


Just posted my Goodreads Choice 2020 Reaction Video on Booktube! Click the link to check it out!!
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Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 18 books1,600 followers
November 22, 2020
This is a quaint little book. A quick read that I enjoyed. It is another form of the Groundhog Day plots that I have read this year. The library in this book is an infinite number of lives not taken. The opening is a little depressing, but it has to be to establish the motivation for the rest of the story. Even so there is a continued darkness in the tone. With each life to which the character ventures she only has to not like it in order to move on to the next. She is in constant search of that perfect life. The conflict of the book is set by page 38 and the pace increases. I am in constant search of the “Fictive Dream,” where I get buried in the story and the rest of my world falls away. The structure of this book, the constant shifting from life to life gives the story an episodic feel. This story is an odyssey and the character evolves as she comes to realize what life is really all about.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
436 reviews4,266 followers
June 21, 2023
Nora has a rough 24 hours, and she thinks her life is not worth living. She finds herself in a library where she can pick a book where her life would be different than her current life. Will Nora ultimately find the answers she is looking for? What about happiness?

Sorry, this book has received absolute rave reviews, but this book was not for me. I found it extremely boring and unoriginal. There was a movie ages ago called "The Family Man" with Nicolas Cage which has an incredibly similar plot. The MC wakes up and finds himself married to his long lost love and is the father to two or three children. Nora spends a good deal of the book complaining about her life. I am surprised that she didn't try to bump herself off earlier if just a bad 24 hours is all that it takes to tip a person over the edge. Many people have horrible, no good, very bad days. They don't jump to the conclusion that life isn't worth living!

Why was The Family Man better? Because it focused on one alternate life. He had built up relationships. In The Midnight Library, Nora tries on so many different lives that deep, meaningful relationships were not developed.

There were some quotes in this book that I enjoyed. Also, I am absolutely obsessed with Walden by Thoreau, and he had quite a few mentions.

Overall, not worth the hype, largely forgettable, and a better investment of your time and money would be to watch The Family Man.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,275 reviews2,444 followers
March 22, 2023
A sojourn of a human to the multiverses through a library, which is as normal as this bizarre world without an exit to trap us there. Nora Seed might seed our mind with melancholy and heart with love in her quest for perfection. Can perfection be attained through the careful movement of the pawns in this deliberate game of life? Through the underlying current of sadness, this literature transcends us to a library between the universes with a librarian who is a mental metaphor that can be fathomed only by a few.

“Aisles and aisles of bookshelves, reaching up to the ceiling and branching off from the broad open corridor. Books were everywhere. The shelves really did seem to go on forever, straight and long to the far off horizon. There were no title and names adorning the spines of the books.”

The library between life and death with a vagabond poacher through multiverses, who gave an open invitation to death and didn’t want to be preserved from death as she can’t decide how she wants to live.

“You don’t go to death, but the death comes to you”

The fact that the day never ends due to the never-ending light is like living one terminal day. It is exceptionally depressing for an already depressed person who decided to die by traveling with her best companion - solitude from a society so lonely owing to the detachment due to the extreme social media attachment.

Does life seem more attractive in the face of death? Is death the one that makes life beautiful? Is death an obligate parasite that wants to change the relationship to a symbiotic one with life?

Is the simplification of the three-dimensional worlds by humans making it more complicated?

“This is the wrong life. It is really, really, really wrong. Take me back. I do want to avenge. Take me back to the library.

In the cosmic order of things, there is no rejection only redirecrtion.”

Can a person cry due to sadness, smile due to the speck of light at the end of the tunnel, and be surprised due to the philosophical brilliance at the same time. The reading experience of this book gives us that unique experience.

“The thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory.”

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Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
August 15, 2021
Are You Serious, Matt?

Could it be true that clinical depression arises from bad choices and disappointments; or is it more likely the other way round? Or is it the case that depression is a consequence of environment, one’s less than sane immediate family perhaps; or possibly genetics, an historical aberration passed down from family far distant in space and time? Is the world an objectively depressing place; or made so by our attitude towards it? The philosopher Schopenhauer thought depression was an heroic human condition and promoted it by writing about it; Freud thought it was an illness and tried to cure it by talking about it.

Haig thinks depression has something to do with regrets, that is, thoughts about what might have been if we had done things differently. And perhaps he has a point. In his view, regrets occur because of alternative histories we fabricate for ourselves in which disappointment with one’s lot is reduced or eliminated because life would be more fulfilling/successful/happy than the life one actually has. Depression, in other words, is a literary phenomenon. It’s a result of the what-if stories. Imaginative, articulate people, therefore, would be particularly susceptible to the condition. There is in fact substantial anecdotal evidence that this might be so (see, for example, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

Based on this essentially linguistic theory of depression, Haig has a suggestion for therapy. At this point he crosses the line from playful fictional speculation to a less than savoury quackery worthy of Ayn Rand and Tim LaHaye. Haig thinks that some down-to-earth horror stories are just the thing to augment the happily-ever-after alternatives in our heads. Re-write the script, he implies, picking up all the tiny contra-indications of bliss because “undoing regrets was really a way of making wishes come true.” Or just remember that people, jobs, relationships, and desires change. Perhaps what was the case about these things when the alternative history was written hadn’t persisted. Or the outcomes remain the same despite different choices. Haig’s point, I suppose, is that things could be worse; that maybe Leibniz had it right: this world could be the best of all possible worlds. Disappointment with one’s regrets as a cure for regrets, and therefore a therapy for disabling, suicidal depression?

Things could be worse!? That’s your therapeutic message? Are you serious, Matt?

Haig even makes a pitch for a sort of group therapy in which those formulating alternatives to the alternatives get together for solace and encouragement. And of course he feels compelled to bring in quantum mechanics to bolster the non-literary reality of simultaneous lives - a cliché I was mightily hoping he might avoid. And the allusion to YHWH as the master of ceremonies (very Leibnizian), in the guise of a benevolent librarian, keeping all the disparate quantum selves in line is pretty cheesy. Ultimately Haig opts for the cheesiest of all criterion for the story one must have about one’s life: authenticity, we must be our realest, bestest, truest self. “Aim to be the truest version of you,” the godly librarian suggests, as if a depressive has a choice in the matter. I think Haig may have been to one too many EST seminars, or at least spent too much time in Southern California reading Heidegger on the beach.

Of course in creating these new personal stories another issue eventually arises if one’s authentic self is the depressed wreck one started with. Then “It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from,” says Haig’s protagonist, brought back from the brink of suicidal death. But the important point, according to Haig, is “You just had to never give up on the idea that there would be a life somewhere that could be enjoyed.” Can one help thinking of Eric Idle’s magnificent rendition of ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ in the Life Of Brian? Did I mention cheesy.

I think it clear that The Midnight Library is a grave insult to those suffering from depression. It is a facile, trivial, misdirected, and (did I mention?) cheesy book. Am I entirely off-base in thinking Haig wrote it as a feel-good piece for those who just need a little pat on the back for their recovery from a bout of the blues, or a failed love affair? If not, you’re a louse, Matt.
Profile Image for Jenny Lawson.
Author 6 books17.5k followers
November 29, 2020
I got this before it came out but I was in a bad place mentally and it would have been dangerous to read. I'm better now, in a different life as it were, and it was exactly what I needed to read.
Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
816 reviews12.7k followers
September 15, 2020

“Let’s be kind to the people in our own existence.”

The Midnight Library is a book about choices, regrets, and embracing life.

Nora Seed is having a really bad day. She is mugged, loses her job, blamed for other’s people’s failures, and her cat is run over by a car. She is also seriously depressed. This day is one of many bad days that Nora has experienced over the last decade of her life. She can’t take life anymore and attempts suicide.

Nora wakes up to discover that she is in the space between life and death known as The Midnight Library. Here, Nora is given the opportunity to take the paths she didn’t choose and undo her regrets. She travels into the multiverse, getting to experience her other lives. What she finds is that the grass isn’t always greener, and in order to live, one must push aside their regrets and embrace their potential.

“She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential.

There are many versions of Nora, but she finds she is the same person in every life she chooses. She might be happier, but she doesn’t have what she needs, which is love. She cannot heal until she can open up and accept the love of others, but also love herself and recognize her value.

I love Nora’s character. I felt all of her emotions, the dark, and the light. She is fragile, desperate, adventurous, a rockstar, a loving sister, a good friend, a kind neighbor, a good teacher, and, most importantly, a survivor.

This is my first book by Matt Haig and I love how he weaves in bits of magic, fantasy, and whimsy alongside Quantum physics, literature, and philosophy.

This is an emotional read. Reading about a character who is in such a desperate state of mind that they attempt to take their life wasn’t easy, but the other side of this book offers a lot of love, warmth, compassion, and healing. It was surprisingly heartwarming and uplifting. Nora’s story inspired me to turn off the channel of regrets that often fill my head and embrace the here and now.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,000 followers
February 9, 2021
This is the ultimate “what if I had done it differently?” story. I guarantee it will make you think and might give you some new perspective on life. Also, while it starts a bit dark, I think people who are looking for a way out of a dark place might find this story uplifting overall.

I have been sitting here thinking about how to review this book and I don’t want to say too much about it because after 10 pages or so, everything little thing would be a spoiler! That, in itself, should probably pique your interest; it is so packed with interconnected and surprising content I can barely even talk about it! So, just read it because all the stuff that happens is totally worth it . . . I’ll leave it at that.

I was hooked by this book from page one. It is not a long book and because it was written so well, it flew right by. If you are looking for a well written and unique story that I believe will appeal to people with a wide variety of interests, The Midnight Library is worth giving a try.
Profile Image for Danielle.
835 reviews452 followers
February 11, 2021
2021 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

It’s incredibly rare that I come across a book that ticks all my boxes. Good characters. Great setting. Wonderful story. This book really lived up to the hype! 🤗 Nora Seed has regrets. In a moment of absolute darkness she decides she’s done with life. Trigger warning: suicide attempt. 😬 She’s pushed into The Midnight Library, where her school librarian greets her and explains the books of regret. Nora opens a book and lives a life had she done things differently. Book after book, life after life, she discovers who she could have been. ❤️ This book was beautifully magical and inspiring. I’d recommend this to anyone and everyone!! It is AMAZING!! ❤️📚
Profile Image for Ali Goodwin.
172 reviews17.4k followers
July 21, 2023
3.75 stars. I love how unique this concept is, the conversation around mental health, and that it made me so introspective about my own life while reading it. I was so hooked when Nora went into the first few alternative lives but towards the end I started to get a little bored with lives 4+ (I felt like I already got the point in the first 3 lives). And I thought the ending was very predictable but I also can't imagine it ending any other way!
So overall a little slow in the last third but love love love the concept and the messaging on regrets, life, and kindness.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,107 reviews532 followers
December 19, 2021

Who hasn't had regrets - wished they'd taken a different path in life, loved more and hated less, studied a little harder, applied themselves a bit more, had more faith in themselves, wished they'd liked themselves for who they were instead of what others wanted them to be?

I'm certainly not immune, and I've actually fulfilled a couple of my life's ambitions, but life is not easy for any of us. As Nora was to discover, we all "fear life" to some degree - we learn pretty young that actions can have pretty painful consequences.

Some of us stare that fear in the face and do what frightens us anyway. Many more of us, however, will step back and opt to take the safer road. I loved the notion of Nora being able to insert herself in a parallel timeline and see how her life would have been like had she taken a chance on all of those potentially life changing events. The whole parallel universe notion was so tantalizing! Imagine if you, too, could examine and then finally burn your own Book of Regrets and just move on with living your best life now?

The first third of this novel is heavily mired in depression. If you've never felt stuck or depressed, you will certainly get a clue of what it feels like after you've read or listened to those first few chapters leading up to Nora's attempted suicide. There was a history of depression in Nora's mother's family. I was not surprised that Nora fell into depression after taking care of her mother during her long, protracted illness. Death has a way of stopping the clock for the survivors and making them examine the value of their own life. I suspect there will be many who will identify with most of what Nora thinks and says in this novel.

Nora's Midnight Library is guarded and managed by her beloved childhood mentor and high school librarian, Mrs. Elm. There are several chapters devoted to Mrs. Elm's struggle to get Nora to try to experience one of the parallel lives in her Midnight library. This reflects the very real battle that a person with depression must face to get to the point where they can finally admit that they need help to get "unstuck." Matt Haig has given a whole new meaning to the word "potential." I totally agreed with Nora's final decision at the end of the book. In fact, I saw it coming even before she had completed her first journey. We can't live someone else's life. The choice must truly be our own if we want any abiding sense of fulfillment.

This author - this book - has a lot to teach us. I am so very glad that I decided to check out what all the hype was about: turns out, all that hype was fully merited ! Loved every bit of it, including the sad parts. A full five out of five glowing stars for this heart-stirring, sanity-saving novel. We all need to burn our own book of regrets... and just get on with living our best life NOW!
Highly, highly recommended!
Note: I listened to the audiobook version, very ably narrated by the British film actress, Carey Mulligan.
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You can check out this and other reviews on my partnered blog: https://crossingthepond.reviews/
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
October 11, 2020
'if you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. aim to be you... the truest version of you.'

quietly profound and deeply meaningful.

very 'the five people you meet in heaven' with a magical, bookish feel. perfect for anyone who had ever wondered if their life is enough.

4 stars
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