Reading Chronicles #1 | The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Thoughts on books, manga, essays and anything else that I'm reading.
My friend Vaishnavi suggested that I start a series documenting the stuff that I’m reading - books, manga, comics, essays etc. I am not sure if she was being serious or sarcastic, because over the last few months my ability to pay attention was significantly low. It was a struggle, to flip a single page.
Nonetheless it seemed like a nice idea. I have never written about the stuff I’m reading before and I don’t think there’s anything to lose by giving this experiment a shot. An additional benefit, I think is I would be able to access some great suggestions from you and this community of readers.
That’s why, I’m here with a new post about my thoughts on The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
I purchased this book while I was at the Blossoms Bookstore. The title caught by eye immediately (I’m a simple person, if I see a book which has the word “Library” in its title, my curiosity is immediately activated). Took me months, but I’ve been able to finish reading this book and I quite enjoyed it.
Often times, I've always wondered what the other me in a parallel universe would be doing. Did he make better decisions? Did he take a worse path? What would the future me think about the choices I'm making right now? Is he happier?
Of course, at some point I stop thinking about this. I mean, it's not possible to know the answer. There isn't any mechanism where I can suddenly observe the lives I might've lived, to be able to check whether there's a different version of me in a different universe, to be able to compare different choices with my parallel self. In the Midnight Library, the protagonist Nora Seed is able to do just that.
In her present life, she has lost her job. Her cat has passed away. She’s feeling miserable, suffocated and has absolutely no clue about what to do.
“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?”
At the stroke of midnight as she's taking a life ending decision, she gets transported to a library. Each volume in the library consists of a different version of herself. The moment she picks up the book, she gets to live a different life. She gets to see what other paths she could've taken. She gets to fulfil her regrets. She's able to witness the many possibilities of her life, all the various choices and outcomes of those decisions.
In case Nora wants to stay in that different world, she can and she is on a quest to find the best possible world for her to live in.
The premise of this book is something all of us have wondered about. The author does a great job of conveying the story simply. The book isn’t an exploration of the world of parallel universes, rather it’s about the internal dialogue we have about different lives. The underlying message isn't something new. Almost a cliché - to believe in the capacity and potential that your present life offers to you.
“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.”
Even if it is simple, I quite liked the way the author explores delicate matters of anxiety, insecurity and a complete lack of faith in life. He offers a really nice narrative about the multiple paths of living.
Nora is able to live different lives. A pop star, researcher, olympic level swimmer, a writer, a pub owner, a philosopher and many other variations. Depending on the life, she maybe happy, sad, fulfilled, content, miserable, indifferent, apathetic or confused. An entire spectrum of possibilities is covered in the story.
While reading, the confusion about these lives is palpable. Is this the best possible life? Is there a better one out there? What if there isn't? What if all lives lead to being miserable? Who do I want to be? What kind of life should I avoid?
With each passing chapter, the simple message of believing in life's potential is being accepted by Nora as she's experiencing all of her possibilities. It is touching and comforting. She's learning by living.
“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”
In the last year, I’ve thought about a lot of What Ifs. Spent a lot of time thinking and overthinking different hypothetical situations of what my life would be in a different 2020. The overthinking was often to my detriment as it only added a sense of helplessness and had narrowed my perspective about the things I can do.
While I was finishing the book, I was reminded again of paying attention - to the world around me and within me, to the possibilities that continue to remain and my ability to actually pursue them.
I would definitely recommend reading this book, if only to remember that all over again.
Let me know what you’ve been reading these days and if you end up reading this book, would love to hear your thoughts !
Happy reading !