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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A…

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,5674471,051 (3.86)3 / 494
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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

  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. 100
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 51
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 40
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  6. 10
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  7. 10
    Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn (Runa)
  8. 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.
  9. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  10. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  11. 10
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  12. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  13. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  14. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  15. 10
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  16. 10
    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.
  17. 00
    Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  18. 00
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  19. 00
    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.
  20. 01
    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.

(see all 21 recommendations)


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English (437)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (447)
Showing 1-5 of 437 (next | show all)
I am not a fantasy fan so I read this as a stretch.. A young man gets a job on the night shift at a 244 hour library, book store. He investigates and finds out what is behind the eccentric place, its owner, and patrons. This may be a young adult novel. Maybe I am too old to follow. Very strange. ( )
  LivelyLady | Oct 8, 2016 |
Clay is seeking a job and finds one as night clerk at a strange bookstore owned by Mr. Penumbra. Even stranger is the selection of books which seemingly has no rhyme or reason. However, members of the Unbroken Spine are able to check out a set of special books written in code. A fictitious font invented by Aldus Manutius in the 15th century figures prominently in the plot. Clay, Mr. Penumbra, and Clay's friends use their resources (including all the resources of Google) to solve a mystery. The book is an interesting mixture of genres, but it is a perfect book to keep one's attention while driving. I suspect this book would be especially well-received by teenage readers. I listened to the audio version of this book available through Overdrive. ( )
  thornton37814 | Oct 3, 2016 |
Think of this as a Hardy Boys book for adults, updated for the 21st century. Except that instead of Frank and Joe, Fenton, Chet and Aunt Gertrude, this outing features resourceful 20s-something Clay and an all-new cohort of likable chums - all of whom possess conveniently useful specialties (data visualization, special effects, search engines, venture capital) - combining forces to solve The Case of Mr. Penumbra's Mysterious Bookshop.

Never fear! The 21st century update doesn't interfere with Sloan's ability to deliver all our favorite , reliable "teen detective" tropes: a sympathetic client willing to entrust his troubles to a bunch of unproven youngsters, a secret society, an unbreakable code, a mysterious underground lair, and - of course - an evil mastermind. Sloan cleverly creates a world in which both modern technology and nostalgia comfortably coexist, giving us Google but also a nerdy narrator who's still in love with the fantasy novels he read as a boy; yuppy, kale-drinking blondes but also boob-obsessed computer nerds; Kindles, computer hackers, and CGI, but also an aged bookstore filled to the brim with lovely, delicious old texts that you just know smell like slightly musty vanilla.

Yes, the plot is goofy and preposterous, but then, isn't that exactly what we're looking for in a Hardy Boys adventure? If we wanted reality, we would have picked up something nominated for a Booker Prize, not this delicious little bit of froth, right?

Simple, servicable prose, action, suspense, a bit of a puzzle, plenty of cliffhangers, and a satisfyingly moral (if somewhat unconvincing and pat) ending in which the good guys triumph and evil-doers get their just deserts ... isn't that why we all raced our way through the entire Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew series that one memorable summer when we were 9 or 10? If a bit of nostalgia is what you're in the mood for, then let your guard down and enjoy as Mr. Penumbra's 24hr Bookstore delivers the goods. ( )
1 vote Dorritt | Sep 24, 2016 |
A perfect book for book lovers. But not much else.

Of course I like reading books about books. Who doesn't? I decided to give Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore a listen, and found myself especially engaged. I loved the book references, the bookstore descriptions, and simply all the good feels that it gave me. Likewise, the premise was shaping up to be something of importance. Like, National Treasure 3 style importance.

The plot did get a little weird there as it progressed, and it felt that certain plot threads were left hanging. Great set up. Just not so great conclusion. However, it is what it is. It's a book for book lovers, and that's what you'll get in Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore. ( )
  jms001 | Sep 10, 2016 |
The idea of a 24-hour bookstore probably sounds very intriguing to all bibliophiles. Of course you can order books online at any time of the day, but browsing the shelves of a real brick-and-mortar bookstore is certainly a different experience. That is why the title of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore caught my eye almost instantly. But what is it about? Ajax Penumbra owns a bookstore in San Francisco and with the help of two clerks he is able to keep it open around the clock. But Penumbra's bookstore is not your usual bookstore. It is actually almost the complete opposite. Here, you will not find bestsellers, popular fiction or literary classics. Penumbra's bookstore rather serves as a lending library for members of a peculiar book club. When protagonist Clay Jannon loses his job as a web-designer as a result of the recession, he stumbles upon an advert that offers a clerk job in a 24-hour bookstore. Instantly curious, he sees Mr. Penumbra and finds himself working the nightshift in a bookstore - something he had not even thought existed - from then on. Clay Jannon soon starts to wonder why no one ever buys a book and why he is supposed to write down the appearance of all customers in a ledger. When Clay starts to analyze the customer's behavior and reading habits, he discovers a secret about a mysterious book club. Of course he sets out to find out more about the strange fellowship of readers and the hidden truths about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

Clay Jannon sets out on a quest to reveal hidden secrets of a strange club of readers that tries to decrypt the main work of a fictionalized Aldus Manutius. The real Aldus Manutius lived in 15th-century Italy and was a printer and publisher who invented italic type. The Aldus Manutius in Sloan's novel additionally functions as the writer of a 'codex vitae' which has to be decoded in order to bring Manutius back to life. To be fair, the protagonist does not believe that a person can be brought back to life by decoding a secret codex. However, revealing the secret behind the code is a good enough incentive for Clay Jannon to approach the task. In his quest, Jannon is supported by various friends and his short-time girlfriend who works for Google. I liked the idea of involving a big tech company that is said to have answers to all - or at least - most of your questions and have it try to decode a book that was written 500 years ago. Add to that the mysterious and somewhat anachronistic character of Ajax Penumbra and you end up with a story that is really worth reading. After finishing the novel I found myself wanting more, especially about the background of Ajax Penumbra. That is why I will read the sequel Ajax Penumbra 1969.
All in all, 4 stars. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Sep 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 437 (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 (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Sloanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solow, NannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.


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.
Every time Google
pauses, I shall think fondly
of men in black cowls.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374214913, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012 (Debut Spotlight): Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an old school mystery set firmly in tech-loving, modern day San Francisco. Clay Jannon (former web designer) lands a job at a bookstore with very few patrons and even fewer purchases. His curiosity leads him to the discovery of a larger conspiracy at play, one exciting enough to rope in his best friend (CEO at a startup) and love interest (works at Google). As Clay and company unravel the puzzles of Mr. Penumbra's book shop, the story turns into a sort of nerdy heist, with real-life gadgets, secret societies, and a lot of things to say about the past, present, and future of reading. Sloan originally self-published Mr. Penumbra as a short story through Kindle Direct Publishing, before expanding it to its current form with a traditional print publisher--a fitting trajectory for a fast, fun story that has so wholly and enthusiastically embraced the tension between the digital and analog books. --Kevin Nguyen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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