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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by…

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

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,4093071,584 (3.88)3 / 430
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Personal, ebook, Read Out Loud
Tags:fiction, power of books, books about books, cults, cryptography, technology, Google, incunabula

Work details

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

  1. 183
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (derelicious)
    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.
  2. 70
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (bucketyell, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 30
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  6. 10
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  7. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  8. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  9. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  10. 00
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  11. 00
    Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  12. 00
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  13. 00
    Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (Runa)
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 016
    Voice from the Planet by Charles Degelman (simonew)
    simonew: FREE till April 1 'Book of the Month' globetrotting anthology VOICE FROM THE PLANET read excerpt http://ow.ly/juCFD

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English (299)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (306)
Showing 1-5 of 299 (next | show all)
I finished thinking this is how you tell a story. I enjoyed *every page and was very excited to see where Sloan would take the story. It left me guessing- is this going to end with some sort of magic or will there be a murder mystery? I was constantly changing my thoughts about where this book was going.

Clay Jannon was possibly the closest you could get to my personality- his internal monologue and wittiness was amazing. I haven't snorted from so much humor... ever... while reading. I found myself very intrigued the whole time. Maybe it wasn't the best book ever. I've seen some good reviews telling otherwise. But it was just so spot on with what I want in a mystery that nothing bothered me.

Anyway, to get back to Clay. He went to college for graphic design. Then he worked at a bagel shop-won an award for the logo design he created, and then lost his job. So on his search for a new job while walking around downtown San Francisco, he stumbles across Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. He asks Penumbra for a job. Penumbra asks what his favorite book is. Clay answers: The Dragon-Song Chronicles. I thought: Oh a nerd, awesome.

Other than the fact that we know there are extremely tall shelves of unique books in the store that lead to some sort of mysterious society; the rest of the story is meant to uncover each piece slowly. Until Clay starts uncovering Penumbra's secrets, the characters start to become a bigger part of the story. Each one has a unique personality. I loved them all.

The romance was sweet, awkward, and realistic. It mostly revolves around Google- it's location, what they do there, and why. It was pretty awesome to think about because they are known for their unique and revolutionary work experience. It definitely kept the book exciting until the end.

*If you are upset with the end like I was, be sure to read the epilogue. It blew my mind. I was so disappointed when it came to the final few pages, but... oh, you'll see. I thought it was great. ( )
  theindigoshelf | Mar 22, 2015 |
Clay Jannon is a 26 year old who finds himself looking for a new job thanks to the economic meltdown. He finds it at Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, working the late shift. But Clay soon finds out that there is more to this bookstore than the question of how it is possible it remains in business. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore will take you on a literary adventure of complex codes and a global conspiracy.

This will be a hard book to review without giving away any spoilers but I will try my best. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore starts off as an exciting mystery when Clay begins his new job and is faced with a lot of unanswered questions. But I soon found myself being bored with what was happening and almost quit. It did change its gears when Clay has found out what is going on and the adventure begins. Though I think it was a little too late to fully revive this novel for me.

I do like the way Robin Sloan blended mystery and literature together but honestly he really lacks the skills to turn this into something as good as The Shadow of the Wind. I will say that the novel does display a glimpse at a possibly great career. I found myself thinking the adventure elements of this book were too generic and predictable but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it.

There is a love story in the novel but it wasn’t a romance between Clay and Kat. Sure that was there, but that was just a predictable boy meets girl and nothing ever goes wrong with their relationship. That isn’t worth mentioning, the love story I’m talking about is the love that author Robin Sloan has with Google; the whole book reads like a love letter to Google. The characters didn’t have to try and solve anything; they just need Google to solve all the mysteries of this book.

I haven’t mentioned the characters in the book because they felt very one dimensional; there was nothing complex about them and everything felt too neat. Sloan might have a career in thriller adventure novels but I think he really needs to learn how to make the characters flawed and realistic. I’m sure if another book of Sloan’s catches my attention I will read it but Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore failed to excite me the way it should have. I like books about books but maybe my expectations were a little too high.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/01/16/book-review-mr-penumbras-24-hour-book... ( )
1 vote knowledge_lost | Mar 16, 2015 |
A quick and fun read that delves into a ton of topics: antique books, book digitization, code-breaking, weird cults, crowd-sourcing, and typography/font history to name a few. The characters are likeable and the action moves right along, even if the stakes in the story are never actually very high.

( )
  captnkurt | Mar 10, 2015 |
Did I just make up a new genre to describe this book? Maybe. No terms I can think of right now are enough to describe the style of Sloan's novel. Clay is a fusion of love for the past and the future, a happy medium between Corvina's determined Ludditery and Kat's voracious appetite for the future, and his voice and adventures kept me turning pages frantically. (Also, there's an expert on "boob physics." C'mon. That's literary gold.) ( )
  jwarbler | Mar 3, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book of books both new and old. I especially liked how Clay and his friends use their skills and interests to solve problems big and small. ( )
  krin5292 | Mar 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 299 (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

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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:12 -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 7 descriptions

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Average: (3.88)
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