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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin…
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mr. Penumbra (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,5165951,014 (3.83)3 / 601
After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.
Recently added byprivate library, cgfaulknerog, wyndlek, jwkennedy, Serrana, msto, tvbona, JamesClune, rena40
  1. 215
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (derelicious, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    derelicious: Both are books about books, with secret societies and mysteries to untangle. The Shadow of the Wind is more gothic and takes place during the Spanish Civil War, and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is lighter and takes place in modern times.
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although they have very different settings (1950s Spain in Shadow of the Wind and modern San Francisco in Mr. Penumbra's), these adventure stories, with underpinnings of romance, offer unique perspectives on the role of books and reading in our lives.… (more)
  2. 120
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  4. 61
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  5. 20
    The Martian by Andy Weir (sturlington)
    sturlington: Mr. Penumbra's reminded me in tone and its reverence for tech, geeks, and pop culture of both The Martian and Ready Player One.
  6. 20
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  7. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  8. 20
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  9. 20
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  10. 20
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  11. 20
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (sturlington)
  12. 10
    The Magicians by Lev Grossman (aethercowboy)
    aethercowboy: Both books deal with a fictional fantasy series that holds a lot of significance to the story.
  13. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  14. 10
    Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  15. 10
    The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: This is the real deal: a thoroughly researched, non-fiction treatment, with particular emphasis on the influence of printing on European culture.
  16. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  17. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  18. 10
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  19. 11
    The Seance Society by Michael Nethercott (4leschats)
    4leschats: The older/younger man relationship is similar along with the quirky cast of characters, light tone, and humor throughout.
  20. 11
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)

(see all 22 recommendations)

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English (580)  German (6)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (594)
Showing 1-5 of 580 (next | show all)
I have strong mixed feelings about this book.

On one hand, this was a fantastic story. I feel like if this book was released in the early 20th century (perhaps with a different book title), it would have been a classic. It reminds me (in some places) to Fahrenheit 451 with some of the allegory. In the end, it was a beautiful book.

On the other hand, seriously? Parts of this book I felt was an advertisement for Google. Perhaps that was the point (as there were many instances of Google completing human tasks in mere minutes compared to centuries) but it felt like it didn't finish that thought.

Despite other holes in the plot, I still felt (overall), this was a great book. ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
p.170: I’ve got the direction this is headed. I’m bored. If someone dear to me had not given this to me, I would have ditched it.
It does feed into a discussion about standards of honesty which I’m having with ma son, so I’ll finish.
I finished. A lovely ending, with a different rhythm, but not worth the slough through the narrative to get there.
It’s a nice enough book, just a matter of taste and it’s not to mine.
( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 18, 2020 |
This is one of those books that suddenly seemed to be everywhere I looked. The title appealed and what's not to like about a mystery in a bookstore, so I downloaded it from audible.co.uk

It is a unique book: a quirky, slightly dizzying, overlaying of Google-led West Coast Techie culture; a centuries old, secretive bibliophile sect with a mission and a real-life analog of a traditional Dungeons and Dragons questing party.

It is told with a light touch, lots of pop culture references, and a self-deprecating charm that make it an easy read.

This is a only a "thriller" if you don't get out much. No body-count. No supernatural beings. Not even car chases and gun fights. The height of excitement is a trip to an old New York basement and a visit to a massive automated warehouse and yet I was happy to keep reading.

This is a book with a message. A fairly anodyne message but one that is passionately told. I won't tell you what it is because that is about the only real surprise in the book.

Whether you enjoy this book may depend on whether you find the central character endearing and resourceful or just naive and lost. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" made me smile but it was so gentle and so slight that it didn't make a lasting impression. I assume that the ubiquity of the book is attributable to the fact that it has a clever title, is easy to read and envisions a MacBook-wielding, nerdy, website designer as heroic.

Reading "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was a fine way to pass a couple of idle afternoons but if I'd bought a physical copy rather than an audiobook, it would be on its way to the second-hand bookstore by now. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Fun read at the edges of literary thriller and nerd porn. It's like a cross between a much-less pretentious The Rule of Four and Ready Player One. Google, fantasy/role-playing, bookstores, and typesetting all play important roles. ( )
  ChristopherSwann | May 15, 2020 |
Damn. Damn good. Damn. Just damn.

Robin Sloans love song to books and book stores and all things nerdy and geekish and its just wonderful. Just wait till you get to the part with the UNDERGROUND BOOK SOCIETY. That is just one of the wonderfully epic details in the book.

Tight prose that reads like a dream with characters that jump off the page and you walk away just really caring for the characters within and hoping that Robin Sloan will return to these characters although that seems unlikely.

Set in San Francisco, Sloan does a pretty good caricature of the Bay Area startup scene, and even throws big tech players like Google into the mix—the latter actually plays a surprisingly key role here! I’ve only been living in the Bay Area for about three months now (at the time of this review), but even I had to appreciate the nods to the neighborhoods I’ve visited.

Clay Jannon is a semi-fresh college grad hoping to find some footing in a post-Recession jobscape. He’s likeable and relatable—the roommate we’ve all met or had in our early twenties. He’s self-depracting and also not particularly talented. This isn’t a harsh critique of his character, by the way. In fact, he makes this admission several times throughout the novel.

But what Clays is really good at is making friends with extremely gifted specialists—all of whom play a part in the larger story....and that leads me to my biggest critique.

Because for every obstacle Clay faces, he also “just so happens” to have a major resource at his disposal that can solve the problem. So even though I thought the story was adorably quirky, insightful, and tender, there were a lot of plot points that wrapped up a little too neatly for me.

Also, if you happen to be a professional codebreaker, this book will either pique your interest or frustrate you to no end. But who really cares because it is just do damn good and fun to read what Sloan writes. I am not a professional codebreaker, so I found this aspect of the book both entertaining and suspenseful.

My final verdict is that Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a whimsical read that’s sure to please book lovers of all backgrounds—but especially if they live in California. ( )
  modioperandi | May 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 580 (next | show all)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore flourishes in the nebulous terrain between super-powered digital information and the text warriors of yore. It rocks in terms of crazy imaginative leaps and is so optimistic about the longevity of books in print that it makes bibliophiles like me positively clap with glee. It does have its share of shortcomings though, but more on that later.
added by SimoneA | editThe Express Tribune, Anam Haq (Nov 10, 2013)
 
And if, in the end, the plot doesn’t entirely satisfy – the love story is a little weak, the 500-year old mystery rather too neatly solved – this novel’s ideas will linger long in the mind.
 
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence. Sloan balances a strong plot with philosophical questions about technology and books and the power both contain. The prose maintains an engaging pace as Clay, Mr. Penumbra and the quirky constellation of people around them try to determine what matters more — the solution to a problem or how that solution is achieved.
added by SimoneA | editNew York Times, Roxane Gay (Dec 14, 2012)
 
"In the end, though, the book works fine as an engrossing mystery — and as an intelligent meditation on technology’s trajectory and limits."https://www.librarything.com/work/12661675/book/132262683#
 
I loved diving into the world that Sloan created, both the high-tech fantasyland of Google and the ancient analog society. It’s packed full of geeky allusions and wonderful characters, and is a celebration of books, whether they’re made of dead trees or digits.
added by ablachly | editWired, Jonathan Liu (Oct 6, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Sloanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solow, NannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
FOR BETTY ANN AND JIM
First words
Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.
Quotations
Now I've resigned myself to sitting at the front desk, but I can't stop squirming. If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now, and translated it into five new languages.
You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.
He has the strangest expression on his face -- the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.
Now, for the first time in my life, I empathize 100 percent with Fluff McFly. My heart is beating at hamster-speed and I am throwing my eyes around the room, looking for some way out.
There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

No library descriptions found.

Book description
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone — and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything. Instead, they "check out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger. Soon Clay has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what is going on. And when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or the young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that is rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.

TEXT EDITION:

CLAY JANNON, twenty-six and unemployed, reads books about vampire policemen and teenage wizards. Familiar, predictable books that fit neatly into a section at the bookstore. But he is about to encounter a new species of book entirely: secret, strange and frantically sought after.

These books will introduce him to the strangest, smartest girl he's ever met. They will lead him across the country, through the shadowed spaces where old words hide. They will set him on a quest to unlock a secret held tight since the time of Gutenberg — a secret that touches us all.

But before that, these books will get him a job.
Haiku summary
Mystery Bookstore
needed better ending but
still amusing read.
(legallypuzzled)
Every time Google
pauses, I shall think fondly
of men in black cowls.
(legallypuzzled)

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