The Book That Embodies the ‘Blue Dress/Gold Dress’ Debate: ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig

The internet of books is having an argument. ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig is a book that generates polarizing reactions. Naturally, this has lead to its popularity. As of this writing the book has spent 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list and is currently in the top 10 for fiction. This book is being read by a lot of people, and you’ve probably read it, plan to read it, or have heard about it from someone else. In a way that inevitably feels like life imitating art, the conversation around this book is much like the experience of reading the book: it is the blue dress/gold dress debate all over again.

In the debate over the dress, the difference of opinion ultimately rose from differences in perception, and the opinions of this book likely arise from the same place, and coincidentally, perception is the major theme the book’s protagonist grapples with. It’s all perception. Which, everything is, but this is especially.

So, whether you’ll appreciate this book for its commentary on mental health among other things, or feel like you were expecting a chocolate chip cookie but bit into a raison one, as a reviewer named ’emma’ says on Goodreads, you may want to plan to read this book more than once.

This book is less about what mood it will put you in and more about the story transmuting to fit the mood you’re already in.

Which makes me think about how difficult it is to decide on what to eat when you don’t know what you’re in the mood for. Or, if you’re planning food for a party and you don’t know what the guests like to eat. I think this is what lead to the invention of charcuterie boards (it’s not). Reading ‘The Midnight Library’ is a bit like ordering a charcuterie board.

You might fancy the cheese bits, or crave the salty cured meat, but I’ll bet you don’t sample every item on the plate. You probably stick to two or three favorites. This tendency for favoritism shows up in ‘The Midnight Library’ too. With a structure that almost feels like a collection of short stories, it’s likely that some chapters will stick out more to you than others.

And while the book might feel like you’re being taken through many books, the thread that weaves the story together is a tone that gradually moves from despair to, well, I don’t want to spoil anything.

There’s a bittersweet feeling to this book that I think you’ll hear in the song “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot (and you might find a few literal allusions in the lyrics, too).

This Book Might Be Your Next Read If:

  • You like to see what everyone else is talking about when it comes to popular books
  • You can’t get enough of stories about the multiverse
  • You like stories that feel especially ‘of the times’
  • You’re feeling lost and looking for a story that reflects your experience (or at least is in the ballpark of your experience)

Purchase ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig (Viking/Penguin Random House LLC)