The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

She imagined, now, what it would be like to accept herself completely. Every mistake she had ever made. Every mark on her body. Every dream she hadn't reached or pain she had felt. Every lust or longing she had suppressed. And in doing so, she imagined what it was like to be free.


In Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, the hours count down until a young woman named Nora Seed attempts to end her life.

The death of her cat, loss of a job, a brother she doesn’t see, and a neighbour who no longer needs her; the things that have tethered Nora to life are vanishing, and with them, her will to live.

‘She wanted to have a purpose,’ writes Haig, ‘something to give her a reason to exist.’ Nora Seed's attempt to die lands her in a place called The Midnight Library, where among shelves upon shelves of books, she comes across Mrs. Elm, her old school librarian. 

“Between life and death there is a library,” says Mrs. Elm, “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.”

Nora is given the opportunity to choose from an infinite number of books lining the shelves of the library, each one a chance to try on a life she could have lived. From settling with an old boyfriend, to moving to Australia, becoming an Olympic medallist, and even singing in a world-famous rock band. 

“It was different to how I imagined,” Nora says, returning to the library after a visit to one of the lives she choses. 

“It’s hard to predict, isn't it?” Mrs. Elm responds. “The things that will make us happy? Sometimes the only way to learn is to live.”

Two valuable lessons are learned along the way. Nora can select any life she wants, but never the outcome. She also realizes that she’s been living in the shadows of others, and in doing so, never fully realizing her own potential or following her own dreams.  

Haig, who has spoken openly about his mental health wrote this book as “a kind of self-therapy.” While being interviewed, he said, “a library is an entry point into different worlds. You’re surrounded by books, and books are portals.” I enjoyed the setting of a library and the use of books as metaphors for lives.

The Midnight Library is a well-written and adventurous journey of self-discovery, a character driven book that’s filled with wisdom.

Matt Haig by Kan Lailey

Matt Haig is the author of the internationally bestselling memoir Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet, along with six novels, including How To Stop Time, and several award-winning children’s books. His work has been translated into thirty languages.

The Midnight Library is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook format. Check IndieBound for an independent bookstore near you.