Highlights: The Midnight Library

The most important highlights I made while reading this book and the ones I would keep going back to. Thoughts are a transition, they originate but go through metamorphosis over the time. For what you cry today, you will laugh about it some time later. Don’t give up and keep working hard to give your best. Highlights may serve as spoilers in case you plan to read the book.

Nora went through her social media. No messages, no comments, no new followers, no friend requests. She was antimatter, with added self-pity. She went on Instagram and saw everyone had worked out how to live, except her. She posted a rambling update on Facebook, which she didn’t even really use any more.

(Antimatter, Page 27).

She wasn’t made for this life. Every move had been a mistake, every decision a disaster, every day a retreat from who she’d imagined she’d be. Swimmer. Musician. Philosopher. Spouse. Traveller. Glaciologist . Happy. Loved. Nothing. She couldn’t even manage ‘cat owner’. Or ‘one-hour-a-week piano tutor’. Or ‘human capable of conversation’.

(Antimatter, Page 27).

‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’

(The Midnight Library, Page 32).

‘While the Midnight Library stands, Nora, you will be preserved from death. Now, you have to decide how you want to live.’

( The Midnight Library, Page 32).

‘You have as many lives as you have possibilities. There are lives where you make different choices. And those choices lead to different outcomes. If you had done just one thing differently, you would have a different life story. And they all exist in the Midnight Library. They are all as real as this life.’

(The Moving Shelves, Page 33).

‘Doing one thing differently is often the same as doing everything differently.

(The Moving Shelves, Page 33).

It is not life. It is not death. It is not the real world in a conventional sense. But nor is it a dream. It isn’t one thing or another. It is, in short, the Midnight Library.’

(The Moving Shelves, Page 34).

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.

(The Three Horseshoes, Page 44).

things had faded between them until their friendship became just a vapour trail of sporadic Facebook and Instagram likes and emoji-filled birthday messages.

(The Three Horseshoes, Page 46).

She had shrunk for him, but he still hadn’t found the space he needed. No more.

(The Three Horseshoes, Page 50).

Nora had no idea what success was. She had felt like a failure for so long.

(Fish Tank, Page 66).

‘Never underestimate the big importance of small things,’

(Fish Tank, Page 66).

‘Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves Henry David Thoreau.:

(Peppermint Tea, Page 78).

he believed that the more people were connected on social media, the lonelier society became. ‘That’s why everyone hates each other nowadays,’ he reckoned. ‘Because they are overloaded with non-friend friends.

(Walking in Circles, Page 92).

In the face of death, life seemed more attractive, and as life seemed more attractive, how could she get back to the Midnight Library?

(The Frustration of Not Finding a Library When You Really Need One, Page 95).

To be part of nature was to be part of the will to live. When you stay too long in a place, you forget just how big an expanse the world is. You get no sense of the length of those longitudes and latitudes. Just as, she supposed, it is hard to have a sense of the vastness inside any one person. But once you sense that vastness, once something reveals it, hope emerges, whether you want it to or not, and it clings to you as stubbornly as lichen clings to rock.

(Island, Page 97).

Maybe even the most seemingly perfectly intense or worthwhile lives ultimately felt the same. Acres of disappointment and monotony and hurts and rivalries but with flashes of wonder and beauty. Maybe that was the only meaning that mattered. To be the world, witnessing itself. Maybe it wasn’t the lack of achievements that had made her and her brother’s parents unhappy, maybe it was the expectation to achieve in the first place. She had no idea about any of it, really. But on that boat she realised something. She had loved her parents more than she ever knew, and right then, she forgave them completely.

(Permafrost, Page 99).

‘Science tells us that the “grey zone” between life and death is a mysterious place. There is a singular point at which we are not

(Life and Death and the Quantum Wave Function, Page 105).

It seems that you have spent all your life saying things that you aren’t really thinking. This is one of your barriers.’

(God and Other Librarians, Page 110).

She realised, in that moment, that she was capable of a lot more than she had known.

(Milky Way, Page 114).

It was like being slapped and kissed at the same time.

(The Podcast of Revelations, Page 127).

‘I think it is easy to imagine there are easier paths,’ she said, realising something for the first time. ‘But maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths. In one life, I might be married. In another, I might be working in a shop. I might have said yes to this cute guy who asked me out for a coffee. In another I might be researching glaciers in the Arctic Circle. In another, I might be an Olympic swimming champion. Who knows? Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.’

(The Podcast of Revelations, Page 127).

‘There are patterns to life . . . Rhythms. It is so easy, while trapped in just the one life, to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure or fear are a result of that particular existence. That it is a by-product of living a certain way, rather than simply living . I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, they come in different degrees and quantities. But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.’

(The Podcast of Revelations, Page 128).

The bad times are here The bad times have come But life can’t be over When it hasn’t begun The lake shines and the water’s cold All that glitters can turn to gold Silence the music to improve the tune Stop the fake smiles and howl at the moon

(HOWL, Page 131).

It seems impossible to live without hurting people.

(Love and Pain, Page 132).

I am saying that the thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory. You have to keep going.

(Love and Pain, Page 134).

‘You might need to stop worrying about other people’s approval, Nora,’ Mrs Elm said in a whisper, for added power and intimacy. ‘You don’t need a permission slip to be your—’

(Someone Else’s Dream, Page 137).

‘At the beginning of a game, there are no variations. There is only one way to set up a board. There are nine million variations after the first six moves. And after eight moves there are two hundred and eighty-eight billion different positions. And those possibilities keep growing. There are more possible ways to play a game of chess than the amount of atoms in the observable universe. So it gets very messy. And there is no right way to play; there are many ways. In chess, as in life, possibility is the basis of everything. Every hope, every dream, every regret, every moment of living.’

(Someone Else’s Dream, Page 138).

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see .

(A New Way of Seeing, Page 177).

‘Things will get better, Nora. It’s going to be all right.’

(Nowhere to Land, Page 182).

What sometimes feels like a trap is actually just a trick of the mind. She didn’t need a vineyard or a Californian sunset to be happy. She didn’t even need a large house and the perfect family. She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential. She wondered why she had never seen it before.

(Don’t you dare give up, Nora Seed, Page 184).

Three simple words containing the power and potential of a multiverse. I AM ALIVE.

(Don’t you dare give up, Nora Seed, Page 186).

(Awakening, Page 188).

It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga. It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do and the people we didn’t marry and the children we didn’t have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out. But it is not the 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. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on. 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. We just have to close our eyes and savour the taste of the drink in front of us and listen to the song as it plays. We are as completely and utterly alive as we are in any other life and have access to the same emotional spectrum. 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. So let’s be kind to the people in our own existence. Let’s occasionally look up from the spot in which we are because, wherever we happen to be standing, the sky above goes on for ever. Yesterday I knew I had no future, and that it was impossible for me to accept my life as it is now. And yet today, that same messy life seems full of hope. Potential. The impossible, I suppose, happens via living. Will my life be miraculously free from pain, despair, grief, heartbreak, hardship, loneliness, depression? No. But do I want to live? Yes. Yes . A thousand times, yes.

(A Thing I Have Learned, Page 190).

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. And the most peculiar discovery Nora made was that, of all the extremely divergent variations of herself she had experienced, the most radical sense of change happened within the exact same life. The one she began and ended with.

(The Volcano, Page 194).

she no longer felt she was there simply to serve the dreams of other people. She no longer felt like she had to find sole fulfilment as some imaginary perfect daughter or sister or partner or wife or mother or employee or anything other than a human being, orbiting her own purpose, and answerable to herself.

(The Volcano, Page 194).

The paradox of volcanoes was that they were symbols of destruction but also life. Once the lava slows and cools, it solidifies and then breaks down over time to become soil – rich, fertile soil. She wasn’t a black hole, she decided. She was a volcano. And like a volcano she couldn’t run away from herself. She’d have to stay there and tend to that wasteland. She could plant a forest inside herself.

(The Volcano, Page 195).

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