To acquire wisdom, one must observe

BookTok worth it or not: ‘The Midnight Library’

Another week, another book. We are now up to reviewing my most current reads which is very exciting—no more back logging books. Here is my deal: I go on Instagram Reels to avoid work. While on Reels I take note of book recommendations from Bookstagram. I then try and find a copy of said book, whether it be through the library, a friend or purchasing the book. Then I come here and review it. 

Now before we get into this week’s review, I feel a public service announcement is in order. You see, I recently came across PangoBooks on Instagram—a secondhand book shop for people to buy and sell old books. I thought, “why the heck not, let me check this out.” I found this very nice woman’s shop where she was selling some old books including this week’s victim, “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. Not only was she selling “The Midnight Library” but also “Pride and Premeditation” by Tirzah Price, “This Time Next Year” by Sophie Cousens, “Things You Save in a Fire” by Katherine Center and “The Maidens” by Alex Michaelides. The books were $7 each and I honestly didn’t care about their condition because $7 is $7 for a book that typically goes for $26. But oh my goodness, these books showed up not just in perfect condition but they are hardcovers with their original jackets. Wow, this is such a geeky thing for me to write but I stand by this. I cannot recommend Pango Books enough, the books arrived so quickly and it’s a great way to purchase secondhand books.  

Now on to the actual point of this article. I have been wanting to read this book for forever. It was very popular on BookTok and I’m not going to lie, I loved the cover—because yes I do judge a book by its cover. I mean come on, there’s a cat on the cover, how am I not supposed to be intrigued by that? So when I saw it for $7 I had to buy it and then to get free shipping I got the other aforementioned books. 

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig

“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?” – Matt Haig

I don’t exactly know what I thought this book would be about but it was definitely not what I read. And I don’t mean this in a bad way. I think I had a more “Magic Treehouse” vibe in mind, and let’s just say this book is a tad bit darker. “The Midnight Library” centers around what happens between life and death. Now, I personally love a good story that involves the concept of death because I think each author infuses their own beliefs about what happens when things end. Like “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom or “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, the authors put their own spin on death and make an unfamiliar concept familiar. I love a good story about death because none of us really know what is going to happen but it’s interesting to theorize what might come next. 

In “The Midnight Library” the reader is essentially in purgatory with our main character, Nora Seed. Nora’s purgatory however is a library, and she is guided by her childhood librarian Mrs. Elm. While in this limbo between life and death, Nora gets to go through all the lives she did not live and try to find a life where she could be happy. Now, there are physics behind how this works that Haig does explain. Something about quantum theory and parallel lives that was a little lost on me because I don’t do physics. But the concept itself is still cool.

We follow Nora through all these lives she didn’t lead but versions of herself led. It is a bit existential because it shows you how little choices can make huge differences not just on your life but on those around you. The book is beautiful not just in concept but through the narrative too. Haig takes a broken character who has reached her wit’s end in her life and takes you on a journey to her unraveling regrets in her life. 

“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”

Now for my spoilers section. So don’t read this if you want to read the book. 

Remember when I was like, “there’s a cat on the front cover?” Okay, the cat is freaking important to this plot and it needs to be discussed. It’s worth noting here that our main character died in the first, like, 21 pages, and a big part that causes this spiral is the death of her cat—Voltaire, aka Volts, because he’s not pretentious. Nora believes that she can’t do anything right, not even looking after a cat, after a neighbor finds Volts dead in the street. However, when Nora gets to the Midnight Library, she finds that she wasn’t a bad cat owner. Volts was not run over in the road as Nora assumed, but rather he died of a heart condition that he has in every life that Nora lives.

Nora finds out that the life she had with Volts was actually one of his happiest and when he knew he was getting close to dying he left the apartment so she wouldn’t have to see it happen. 

I mean I cried, like, I sobbed like a baby. Animals are too good and Volts was such a good cat and oh my goodness I am going on a whole tangent for a character that does not even speak. 

Then there is Alex. I like to think that at the end of the book Nora ends up with Alex, that she does decide to give him a call. I like to think that she can have that happiness with him in this life that she saw in other lives.

I do, however, find it interesting that Nora goes through these countless lives and in most of them there is a part of her that is miserable. Even in lives where she has fame or recognition or adoration from the public, she is unhappy. There is a point in the middle where you start to believe that when things are rotten there is truly no hope for them. But Nora pushes through all these lives and regrets that she has to work toward creating a life where she can live and be happy. 

I’m leaving this review with one final quote because I think it is beautiful and these are words everyone should read: “We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.” 

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