Don’t we all sometimes find ourselves plagued by the “what if”? What if we had (or hadn’t) married that person, what if we had studied something different in school…or turned left instead of right. What if…?
The Midnight’s Library’s exploration of the “what if” makes it a particularly good choice for discussion. The Midnight Library book club questions will help your group explore the book’s themes and ideas. Maybe you can even ask one another about your own “what ifs”.
If you are new here, our format works as follows:
We provide a synopsis of the book, as a reminder of the basics. This is usually directly from the publisher, so the group can discuss whether or not the synopsis is an accurate description of the book. In my opinion, The Midnight Library synopsis is fairly accurate.
We then suggest 10 Midnight Library discussion guide prompts, followed by some thought provoking review quotes. You can use any of the questions or the quotes to stimulate conversation.
And if you liked The Midnight Library keep scrolling, because at the bottom, we suggest some read-a-likes for your TBR list.
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The Midnight Library Synopsis
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
(This book was featured in the Good Morning America book club.)
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 blockbuster 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.
The Midnight Library Book Club Questions
These questions have been tailored to this book’s specific reading experience, but if you want more ideas, we also have an article with 101 generic book club questions.
- Mrs. Elm’s influence on Nora’s formative years meant that Nora’s opportunity for her second chance was framed in a construct of the library and a librarian. What would your place be and who would be your guide?
- Nora’s first glance at the Book of Regrets is overwhelming, almost a nightmare. As she tries out her many alternative lives, the book shrinks, such that the regret become more manageable. But how does one accomplish that in real life, rather than in a metaphysical library?
- “The only way to learn is to live.” And yet Nora is stuck. She isn’t proactively learning and she doesn’t want to live. She certainly suffers from depression, but what are some of the other factors that are contributing to her being stuck? Or is the depression the primary driver?
- “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.” Part of Nora’s problem is not only her regret for her own life, but the regret that friends and family members (like her brother), foist upon her. How does this double layer of regret make Nora shrivel and wither.
- Nora is given the choice to stay in any of her alternative lives. And yet, she kept finding herself back at the library. Had you been given the choice of living an alternative, do you think you could do it? Would you want to do it?
- Nora has many alternative careers as an athlete, a glaciologist, a rock star, a wife and mother. What alternative careers might you have had?
- “Never underestimate the big importance of small things.” This truth certainly plays out in the story. Have you also had some small things in life end up becoming really important?
- What are some of the key takeaways from Nora’s journey? What’s in store for her?
- Did you know where the book was going? Or was Nora’s ultimate choice a surprise for you?
- Even though the destruction of the library was the catalyst enabling Nora to rejoin her “original” life, did it pain you to see the library burn?
Selected Reviews of The Midnight Library
“I love the way this book talks about regrets and how most of the time our regrets are a load of b***s**t of things that are out of our control and they are causing a major burden on our life…I cried a lot at the end. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time”
“I went into this expecting to read about a girl who somehow gets a chance to live multiple lives in several parallel universes. What I got was a lot more than that. I did not expect to be reflecting on some major life lessons and just basically on the way I look at life.”
“Overall, I think Nora didn’t really grow, she just scrambled to live only choosing her own life when she was forced to. She was a very privileged character who danced on the sidelines of grittier storylines, never diving in.”
“I loved the originality and I often wondered where the author found the inspiration for this book.”
3 More Books like The Midnight Library
If you like the meta nature of books set in libraries, check out our book club guides for The Library of Lost and Found and The Cartographers. We’ve also got a WHOLE article that focuses on books about librarians and also books about books (and manuscripts and ancient texts).
If you are keen for more of the “what if” aspect, we’ve also good a discussion guide for Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab
Addie is trying to escape the confines of an unwanted arranged marriage. She does a deal with the actual devil in order to avoid the marriage. But her deal comes with the unexpected consequence of an immortal life. She meets and falls in love with a New York bookseller who made a different deal with the same devil.
The book gives you Addie’s backstory and her path to finding love and mortality once again. It keys on The Midnight Library’s themes of regret and a bookish setting.
Read it for book club and use our Addie LaRue book club guide.
The Library Book, Susan Orlean
If you’re simply crackers for libraries (and who isn’t), then read about the disastrous 1989 fire that occurred at the Los Angeles Public Library. Orleans chases down the mystery of how and why the library caught fire and along the way, she illuminates the nature of libraries and the librarians who staff them.
If you read it for book club, we have a discussion guide for the The Library Book.
How to Stop Time, Matt Haig
If you liked The Midnight Library, then you should consider exploring Haig’s backlist. How to Stop Time was published in 2018. It explores the exact opposite problem as The Midnight Library. Where in Library, Nora’s life is short and she has regrets about her choices, in Time, Tom ages abnormally slowly and has all the time in the world to explore his options.
But his life is constricted by a shadowy organization and his own desire to explore elusive love.
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