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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
4,3334231,142 (3.86)3 / 473
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Very different book; well written. A clerk solves the mystery of an unusual book store.

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)
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    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
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    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
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  6. 10
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  7. 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.
  8. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  9. 10
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  10. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  11. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  12. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  13. 10
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  14. 10
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  15. 10
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  16. 00
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    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.
  19. 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.
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(see all 20 recommendations)


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English (412)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (422)
Showing 1-5 of 412 (next | show all)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
4 stars

It’s difficult to classify this one. It’s contemporary fiction, taking place in San Francisco and New York with a cast of characters who are mostly of my niece’s generation; late 20’s, early 30’s, they are dealing with the realities of an economic recession. But the bookstore, that 24 hour book store; it’s from another era. It holds secrets and obsessions. It’s a mystery with just a suggestion of fantasy. This is a book that bridges a number of gaps in genre, technology and generations. I enjoyed every page. It was fast and fun to read.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
3 Stars

Unemployed web-designer, Clay Jannon, stumbles across a help-wanted sign at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and soon finds himself immersed in a curious mystery involving peculiar patrons who borrow rather than buy obscure books from the back of the store, a secret society dedicated to decoding an age old cipher, and a slew of computer nerds intent on solving the problem themselves.

A very thought provoking read, but a little too heavy on the techno-babble.

The underlying premise is the conflict between tradition and progress in the digital age in general, and the book world in particular. The characters cover a broad spectrum ranging from old school traditionalists who fear change to overeager technology buffs who are too quick to embrace new advances without appreciating the journey toward attaining them.

The book is not all about philosophy and technology though as the characters are quirky, the mystery is intriguing and humor abounds throughout. Ari Fliakos's narration is lovely and he mangages to capture the eccentric personality traits of each and every character.

All in all, an interesting read and lovers of libraries, codes and secret societies with have a blast with it. ( )
  Lauren2013 | May 8, 2016 |
oh, Oh, OH!! Okay, I know I tend to give (many of) the books I've read high ratings but I rate them honestly - as I see it - and, in some cases, after a great deal of thought! On the other hand, I love to read. I've rarely, in sixty-three years on the planet, read a book that was totally devoid of redeeming social value of one sort or another - that tells you that I've NOT read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy! *chortle*

That having been said, a five-star rating for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was a no-brainer .. I *LOVED* this book! It's FUNNY, it's GEEKY, it's a page-turner AND it's BOOKISH! What's not to love! You'll get no spoilers from me . . if geekiness, humor, mystery, suspense and a terrific story line is your cup of tea - or whatever - read it --> JUST READ IT!! ( )
  idajo | May 8, 2016 |
The author combines perfectly the tradition with the modern technology. A book for the books. Books and accumulate knowledge through centuries. A travel through knowledge to understand the secret of immortality, the eternal dream of humanity. At the end of the journey the heroe discovers the simple truth that immortality is achieved only in the memory of people, who will remember you as friendship, as solidarity, as integrity of character and as an offer to those you love ( )
  dimi777 | Apr 24, 2016 |
I enjoyed this book about a young man, Clay, who takes job, in economic desperation, in a bookstore. He works the graveyard shift and discovers that the store is very rarely visited, and that there are two kinds of patrons -- those who want the usual big selling books and those who want the books from the store's list of ancient books (the "wayback" list). Those seeking the latter know exactly what they want and are generally very excited to have it. Those patrons have a lenders card and the books are recorded on the lending list before being carefully wrapped and turned over to the requestor. And so the mystery begins -- who are these people and what do these books hold which have only the names of the author imprinted on them and no title?

In actuality there wasn't much of a mystery, but it was fun seeing Clay and his friends, Kat, Matt, and Neel, with Mr. Penumbra, reveal the answer. I was sorry the author included an Epilogue to give us a complete wrap up of the book. It was unnecessary and added nothing to the book. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Apr 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 412 (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)
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)
This winning literary adventure, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, has all the elements of geek hipsterdom: fantasy novels, role-playing games, computer coding, and classic typography.

» 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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

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Wikipedia in English


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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