If your book club is looking for a novel that lends itself to a great discussion, look no further than The Midnight Library. This novel explores the infinite possibilities in life every person can live depending on the choices they make along the way. The main character, Nora, is given the opportunity to step into the various alternate lives she could have lived. Ultimately, Nora has to reconcile her feelings of regret and choose the life she wants most.
If you haven’t yet read the book, skip down to the Summary & Review sections at the bottom to read a synopsis of The Midnight Library. We’ve also included our review, as well as reviews from our readers, to help you decide if it’s right for your book club. Other sections of this post do contain spoilers, as it is intended for those who have already finished reading the book.
What’s Included in This Book Club Discussion Guide
The post below includes everything you need to host or participate in a successful book club for The Midnight Library. From a character list and discussion questions to food and cocktail ideas, we’ll help you host a wonderful gathering.
We also have an optional printable The Midnight Library book club kit to take your meeting to the next level. The fully customized version of the book club guide is designed for printing includes the following pages:
- A Character List
- Book Club Discussion Questions
- Quotes from the Book
- Icebreaker Ideas & Games Themed to the Book (with printable game cards)
- Printable Bookmarks for All Your Members
- 2 Pages of Bonus Contextual Information providing a primer on the various philosophers and philosophies referenced in the book
- Themed Food & Drink Menu Ideas
- Various Book Covers from Around the World
- Custom Designed Journal Page to Record Book Club Meeting Details
- Themed Notes Page
- A List of Additional Book Club Resources
Etsy purchases do help The Book Girls to keep doing what we do. However, there is no pressure to purchase, you’re always welcome to use any of the resources below for free!
The Midnight Library Characters
These are the key characters that bring The Midnight Library to life. Keep this list handy as a quick reference during your discussions—it’ll help keep track of who’s who as you delve into conversations. Our printable guide includes a two-page character list if you find it easier to have a printed reference.
- Nora Seed – A 35-year-old British woman who lives in Bedford, England. In a moment of darkness, she decides to end her life, but instead finds herself in the Midnight Library.
- Mrs. Elm – Nora’s high-school librarian and the librarian of the Midnight Library, where she serves the role of guide and mentor.
- Joe Seed – Nora’s brother and a talented musician who battles with addiction. He is gay and struggles with his dad disapproving of his sexual orientation. Joe and Nora were once in a band together in her root life, but ended up estranged. In alternate versions of Nora’s life, their relationship takes many different forms, which is one of Nora’s primary concerns as she visits different realities.
- Voltaire – Nora’s cat who died in her root life and in her alternate life where she kept him inside.
- Neil – Nora’s boss who fires her from the music shop, String Theory, in her root life.
- Dan Lord – Nora’s ex-fiancé in her root life. Nora often wonders what would have happened if they hadn’t broken up. In an alternate version of her life, she stays with Dan and ends up very unhappy.
- Isabel (Izzy) Hirsh – Nora’s former best friend who is a whale-watching tour guide in Australia. In her root life, Nora regrets not moving to Australia with Izzy, but when she visits an alternate life in which she did join Izzy, Izzy dies in a car crash.
- Ravi – Joe’s best friend and the drummer in Joe’s band, The Labyrinths.
- Mr. Banerjee – Nora’s kind elderly neighbor whom she helps in her root life by bringing him his medicine. In an alternate life where they are not neighbors, Mr. Banerjee ends up living in a residential treatment home.
- Donna – Nora’s mom whom Nora has a strained relationship with in her root life because her mom makes her feel like everything she does is wrong. In alternate lives, Nora becomes more aware of her mom’s own unhappiness with her choices.
- Geoff – Nora’s dad who, in her root life, died when she was a teenager. He wanted her to pursue her swimming career, and in her root life when she stopped swimming he quit paying attention to her. In an alternate life where she becomes an Olympic Swimmer, her father is still only interested in her success.
- Ash – Nora’s neighbor, a surgeon, and the person who tells her that her cat died. He once asked Nora on a date, and in her root life she turned him down but wondered if there could have been something romantic between them. In an alternate life, Nora is happily married to Ash and together they have a daughter named Molly.
- Molly – Nora and Ash’s daughter in an alternate version of Nora’s life.
- Hugo – A man who, like Nora, is a “slider” traveling through his alternate lives.
- Joanna – Nora’s manager in the alternate life in which she becomes a rock star.
- Ryan Bailey – A fictional American movie star that Nora has a celebrity crush on in her root life. In an alternate life in which Nora becomes a rock star, she dates Ryan, but ultimately breaks up with him because he turns out not to be everything she imagined.
- Dylan – Nora’s boyfriend in her “gentle” alternate life. Dylan has lots of dogs and is perfectly nice, but Nora’s feelings for him are not that strong.
- Leo – A teenager who takes piano lessons from Nora in her root life. In alternate versions of her life, she sees how his life is also different without the piano lessons.
- Eduardo – Nora’s husband in an alternate life in which they run a vineyard.
- Alejandro – Nora’s son in her alternate life married to Eduardo.
- Henry – Nora’s son in a different alternate life. Nora never really meets him because he keeps slamming doors in her face.
- Nadia – The mom of a Ukrainian swimmer with whom Nora’s father has an affair in the alternate life in which Nora becomes an Olympic swimmer.
- Kerry-Anne – A high school classmate of Nora.
- Ingrid – Nora’s bunkmate in the alternate life in which she works as a glaciologist.
We hope this character list is a helpful reference as you prepare to discuss the book.
The Midnight Libary Book Club Questions
In addition to The Midnight Library discussion questions below, we have a resource of 50 book club questions that work for any book. That post also provides tips for creating your own book club questions.
Read through the questions before your meeting and select your favorites so you can prioritize them. Most clubs won’t have time for every question, so start with those that you are most excited to discuss.
- The Midnight Library contains a thick, gray book filled with all of Nora’s regrets. Prior to visiting her alternate lives, what do you think was Nora’s biggest regret? Does visiting these lives provide closure for any of her regrets?
- Discuss the concept of regrets. Do you think it is possible to go through life with no regrets? Share any regrets you feel comfortable discussing.
- Of all of the people who could have served as Nora’s mentor and guide in the Midnight Library, why do you think Mrs. Elm was the one Nora sees there? Compare the relationship between Nora and Mrs. Elm in Nora’s root life and in the Midnight Library.
- Which of Nora’s alternate lives did you find most interesting? Was there one where the outcome surprised you the most? Was there another life you would have liked to see her visit?
- Nora seemed most content in the life where she married Ash. Why did you think this life made her so happy, and why did she decide not to stay there forever?
- This book deals with the very difficult topic of suicide. Do you think the author handled it well? Did this novel provide you with any new insights? (Note that author Matt Haig also wrote a 2015 memoir about his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts).
- In addition to seeing other lives she could have lived, how does the Midnight Library change Nora’s perception of her root life and her relationships there?
- How did Nora’s relationship with her parents affect the decisions she made in her root life and in her alternate lives?
- Nora’s brother, Joe, plays an important role throughout most versions of her life. Discuss the ways in which their lives are intertwined and how they affect one another.
- How do you imagine Nora’s life playing out after the end of the book?
- In the world of the Midnight Libary, each book is a portal to a different reality for Nora. Discuss the role that books and libraries play in your own life.
- The author suggests that each person would experience the Midnight Library differently. Nora experienced a library because of her relationship with Mrs. Elm, whereas Hugo experienced a video store. What do you think it would look like for you, and would you want to see the different ways your life could have played out?
- In The Midnight Library, Nora is very interested in philosophy and quotes numerous philosophers, such as Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Hobbes, and Albert Camus. What do you think is the relevance of these philosophers? How do their philosophies relate to Nora’s life?
- We all know the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest – many of us do. What was your first impression of this book based on the cover? Take a look at the alternate covers from different countries (below) and discuss how your first impression might have been different and which cover you think best represents the book.
The Midnight Library Book Club Food Ideas
As Nora slides in and out of her alternate lives, her food choices reflect her different lifestyles. We recommend a menu that draws from various books that Nora opens in The Midnight Library.
It is mentioned multiple times throughout the book that Nora is a vegan. If you want to serve an entirely vegan meal, you can certainly do so. But if not, a vegan appetizer is a perfect way to acknowledge this aspect of the book. You could make this as simple as a fresh and colorful veggie tray served with hummus, or choose something from this list of the 35 best vegan appetizers.
A vegan appetizer option that caught our eye is a dip called Cowboy Caviar, which includes black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, and avocado. This dip feels reminiscent of the black bean tacos that Nora eats at La Cantina on her date with Dylan.
Main Course Options
Nora’s relationship with her brother, Joe, plays an important role throughout her various lives. In one life, Nora has dinner at Joe’s house and he cooks Puglian garlic pasta with broccoli.
Puglia is a region in the southeastern part of Italy that encompasses “the heel of the boot” between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. This region is particularly well known for its orecchiette pasta. Meaning “little ears” in Italian, the shape of orecchiette is achieved by pressing your finger into a flattened disc of pasta to create a dome shape. Of course, for your book club dinner, you most likely want to purchase dried orecchiette that is ready to cook.
One of the most famous dishes in Puglia is Orecchiette con Cima di Rape (orecchiette with broccoli rabe). Here’s a simple and quick garlic and broccoli orecchiette recipe that you can try.
We also particularly enjoy this dish with the addition of Italian sausage (assuming, of course, that you aren’t vegan like Nora).
In her rockstar life, Nora enjoys a sweet treat from a silvery tray of Brazilian honey cakes. Honey cakes (Pão de Mel) are often compared to European gingerbread, but these spice cakes are much more decadent because they have a dulce de leche filling and a rich chocolate coating.
If you’re up for it, try your hand at making Pão de Mel using the instructions on this Brazilian recipe blog, or you can buy them ready to enjoy. A local bakery is your best option for the freshest and most delicious honey cakes, but if you can’t find them in your area, consider buying them online.
The Midnight Library Book Club Beverage Ideas
In Nora’s life as an Olympic swimmer, she doesn’t consume caffeine and only drinks peppermint tea. As she is preparing to give a speech on inspiring success, her brother Joe – her manager in this life – brings her tea.
Peppermint tea pairs especially well with chocolate, so this could be a great option to serve with dessert.
Syrah is mentioned as the wine Nora drinks in the book, so if your club enjoys red wine, pick up a tasty Syrah or Shiraz, which comes from the same grape. As an alternative, you can go with champagne over ice like Nora enjoyed in her rockstar life.
As a nod to Nora’s love of mint tea, mix up a pitcher of mint mojitas. For a touch of the midnight sky, drop fresh blackberries into each glass.
The Midnight Library Book Club Decor Ideas
Some books lend themselves to themed decor better than others, and you could go in several different directions with The Midnight Library. If you’ve already used our Personal Librarian book club guide and picked up some of the book-themed decor pieces, this is a great opportunity to reuse them. You could also lean into Nora’s time as a rock star or glaciologist as your decor theme.
We found a couple of cute night sky items on Amazon that could help you dress your table with a subtle nod to the book in just a few clicks.
You can use green tableware as a reference to all the green books in The Midnight Library, or pick up a cute set of night sky plates and napkins.
Consider hanging these moon and star decorations in the doorway to your gathering space to help set the mood.
If you know anyone with an indoor star projector, dim the room lights and have your discussion under the stars. And if you have a large book collection, check it for books with green spines. They would be the perfect centerpiece for your table!
Quotes from The Midnight Library
The following are some of the best quotes from The Midnight Library. All would make great talking points as part of a book club discussion. Be sure to bring any quotes you highlighted along the way as well.
“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.”
“Librarians have knowledge. They guide you to the right books. The right worlds. They find the best places. Like soul-enhanced search engines.”
“You see, doing one thing differently is very often the same as doing everything differently.”
“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”
“Of course, we can’t visit every place or meet every person or do every job, yet most of what we’d feel in any life is still available. We don’t have to play every game to know what winning feels like. We don’t have to hear every piece of music in the world to understand music. We don’t have to have tried every variety of grape from every vineyard to know the pleasure of wine. Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies.”
“You can choose choices but not outcomes.”
“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 worthwhile.”
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living.”
“It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from. That the prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective.”
“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”
“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.”
“So long as there are still books on the shelves, you are never trapped. Every book is a potential escape.”
Matt Haig Biography
Matt Haig was born in Sheffield, England in 1975, and grew up in the historic market town of Newark, Nottingham in east-central England. He studied English and History at Hull University before earning an MA at Leeds University.
After college, he ran his own internet marketing company and worked for a nightclub in Spain before ultimately becoming a full-time writer. In addition to his many best-selling novels, he also writes for various English newspapers, including The Guardian and The Independent.
Although Matt has enjoyed a very successful writing career over the last couple of decades, he has struggled personally with depression and anxiety, a journey he discussed openly in his 2015 memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive.
While Haig says that none of his fictional characters have ever been based on himself or his own experiences, he often writes about people who “look like they should fit in but somehow don’t.”
Not long after the 2020 publication of The Midnight Libary, Haig was diagnosed with ADHD and autism at the age of 46. While this came as surprising news to the author, he told the New York Times that it did explain some of his enthusiasm for routine and the mechanics of his fiction.
Can I get a printable version of the book club guide?
Yes! We have a printable version in our shop that comes with bonus goodies, like a cute printable bookmark, which contains a quote from the book.
Is there a Midnight Library audiobook?
Yes! The audiobook of The Midnight Library is narrated by Carey Mulligan.
Audible listeners rate the audiobook performance 4.8 out of 5 stars. Of course, as with all audiobooks, some people enjoy the narration, and others don’t. We always recommend listening to a sample of the audiobook before committing to reading in this format.
Is there a Midnight Library movie?
While we are of the opinion that the book is always better, we do enjoy seeing film adaptations of our favorite novels. StudioCanal optioned The Midnight Library several years ago, and as of April of 2023, the movie was reported to be in active development.
StudioCanal, together with Benedict Cumberbatch’s label, SunnyMarch, is also making a six-part TV series based on Haig’s best-selling 2017 novel, How to Stop Time. This series is expected to shoot in London in 2024 with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead role.
Haig’s popular 2016 middle-grade novel, A Boy Called Christmas, was also adapted into a British Christmas fantasy film. After an initial StudioCanal release in the UK and several other countries, the film was released internationally by Netflix in November of 2021.
What are some other books like The Midnight Library?
The premise of The Midnight Library left us wanting to read more books that dive into what you’d do differently if you had the chance. We curated a full list of Books Like The Midnight Library that explore similar themes of alternate realities, second chances, and fate versus free will.
Like The Midnight Library, nearly all of the books on our read-alike list include a small dose of magical realism. The themes range from alternate lives to time looping, and from revisiting the past to glimpsing the future. Through the magical elements, the main characters learn about themselves and their place in the world.
Are there other books by Matt Haig?
Matt Haig’s first fiction book, The Labrador Pact (originally titled The Last Family In England), was published in 2004. Since that time, he has written numerous popular adult fiction novels, including How to Stop Time, The Humans, The Radleys, and The Possession of Mr. Cave.
He is also the author of a large number of middle-grade and young-adult novels, including the popular six-book illustrated Christmas series that began with A Boy Called Christmas and The Girl Who Saved Christmas.
Haig has also authored several works of non-fiction. His 2015 memoir titled Reasons to Stay Alive, in which he is very candid about his mental health struggles. He says that the memoir grew out of a depression so extreme that he almost made the choice to walk off a cliff. This memoir is his own inspiring account of how, one day at a time, he overcame the disease with the help of reading, writing, and the love and support of his family.
In 2018, Haig wrote a follow-up to his memoir, titled Notes on a Nervous Planet, that examines how modern life feeds our anxiety and includes his insights on how to live a better life. Most recently, Haig’s 2021 release, The Comfort Book, is an uplifting self-help book. It is a collection of notes, lists, and stories that he wrote over a span of years that originally served as gentle reminders to his future self that things are not always as dark as they may seem.
Matt Haig New Book in 2024
Matt Haig’s upcoming fiction titled The Life Impossible is available for pre-order and is expected to be released on August 29, 2024. It’s about a widow and retired math teacher named Grace Winters, whose life seems to be getting smaller and smaller. She keeps to herself and passes her doing crossword puzzles and bird watching in her garden. But her world is turned upside down when she learns that a long-lost friend has left her a house on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
The Midnight Library Summary
Nora has decided she is done. Done with the way her life is going. In a moment of darkness, she attempts suicide, but between life and death, she finds herself in the Midnight Library. The shelves go on and on. Inside each book is a life that she could have lived, had she made just one different choice somewhere along the way – from following dreams to pursuing different careers to undoing old breakups.
Each time she opens a book, she finds herself living that alternate life, and she is faced with the decision of whether she wants to permanently exchange her life for a new one. As she visits these alternate realities, she’ll have to decide not only which life she wants, but also what makes life worth living in the first place.
The Midnight Library Review
If you found this post searching for potential book club picks, we thought it would be helpful to share why we think it’s an ideal selection for discussion.
The Midnight Library was a five-star read for Angela, while Melissa rated it four stars. It was also extremely popular with our readers, who voted it one of their favorite reads of the year.
As of October 2023, The Midnight Library has an average rating of 4.01 on Goodreads, with more than 162,000 readers.
Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
90% Would Recommend to a Friend
We hope you found our book club guide helpful!
As a reminder, you can get the guide in a print-friendly format for your book club meeting in our Etsy shop! Each purchase helps us continue providing great book lists and book resources here.
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- How to Start a Book Club
- The Personal Librarian Discussion Questions & Book Club Guide
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- 50 Book Club Questions for Good Discussions About Any Novel