The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I’ve already mentioned that I have been reading a lot this trip. A little over two months and twelve books so far. There’s one book I have to tell you a little bit more about, because it somehow clicked with me more than anything recently. I’ll try not to spoil it too much and concentrate more on the thoughts it raised in me.

What made it so special to me

It was difficult to put this book down, but at least two others on this trip had the same effect. So that alone does not justify telling you about this. The plot itself wasn’t what held my attention either, I would even call it a little obvious. There’s just something really beautiful about this book that is a little hard to put into words.

In a way this book fits the genre of bildungsroman. It is about the growth and development of the protagonist and how she ended up seeing life and the world differently in the end. It was Nora’s, the main character’s realizations that really kept me going. And also the fact that I’ve had some of the same realizations myself. Some of them recently and others earlier in life.

How much do you “what if”?

We all have regrets in life and I’m pretty sure everyone has thought about what would have happened if things had gone differently. I don’t have that many big ones myself, but I sometimes still do catch myself wondering what if I had chosen another path?

This book is about these other paths and possible lives. Nora gets a chance to reflect about her regrets and then try how things would have turned out if she had chosen differently. I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to say that grass doesn’t turn out to be perfectly green on the other sides of the fence either.

The grass is greener syndrome

This is something we all are familiar with. When you’re single, you long for a partner. Sometimes when you’re in a relationship you long for the freedom of being single. You may think that there’s something better just outside of your current life that you cannot have here and now. This book made me think about this topic a lot again. And also about how much healthier it would be to take care and tend to the grass on your side of the fence instead of looking at the illusion of perfection on the other side. Because that is what it really is in most cases, just an illusion.

I don’t mean that it’s wrong to make a big changes in life in order to make things better for you. There are plenty of good and solid reasons for a change too and it’s nothing inherently bad. But I guess what is important is to understand what is the motive or driving force behind the change. Is it just running after a shadow of an illusion or are there valid and reasonable grounds for the change? I only wish that was easier to see that sometimes…

Appreciation of the mundane

The following perhaps wasn’t the main point in the book, but this idea got mentioned in it a few times. Since it’s something I’ve got experience with and I feel like sharing today I’ll go into this a bit too.

There’s magic and beauty everywhere. Most of the time in our lives we’re just too busy or preoccupied to stop and wonder at it. If you pause and appreciate your surroundings for a minute or two every now and then, I’m convinced it will make you happier in life.

I’ve been practicing this some myself. A few times while doing it, it has moved something inside me and more than once tears have welled up in my eyes. I realize that right now my life makes this wondering easy. I have plenty of new stuff and places to appreciate and look at. But I did this back home already and it’s very much doable in your everyday environment too. The feeling I get when I do this is a mixture of two things. First there’s the awe for the beauty, complexity, history, craftsmanship or some other characteristic of what I’m concentrating at. And what follows is a feeling of thankfulness for being able to experience it.

I know this sounds corny and a little bit like some new age crap, but just try it out. People who read this mainly know that I’m really anything but spiritual. It is not something I see this being about at all. I see this as something practical and as a kind of cognitive exercise that keeps your head healthier. It’s not going to revolutionize everything in your life, but it might do to you some good like it has to me.

Final thoughts

I have read other interesting books during this trip already that I can easily recommend. But this one has been very special and from my heart I recommend reading it if you ever get the chance. I’m sure it won’t be as meaningful to everyone as it has been to me, but I’m still sure it will be worth the read.

Just now while writing this I had a thought that may not be something that others see, but I’d like to share it anyway. In some ways I think this book has a resemblance to some of the Paulo Coelho’s books I’ve read. While reading those it also seemed to me that the plot was not as important as the development of the main character. But also the settings and the atmosphere in this book felt similarly magical and dreamlike. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.