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

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

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,1642831,769 (3.89)3 / 406
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Center Point Pub (2012), Edition: Lrg, Library Binding, 383 pages
Collections:current and upcoming reads

Work details

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

  1. 163
    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. 60
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (bucketyell, bookworm12)
  3. 40
    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. 00
    The Seance Society: A Mystery (O'Nelligan and Plunkett) 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 (274)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (281)
Showing 1-5 of 274 (next | show all)
A young man named Clay is out-of-work in San Francisco and ends up taking a job at a bizarre book store with an eccentric owner. It turns out to be a front of a shadowy organization and Clay's favorite fantasy book series is a key to its mysteries.. With the help of a girlfriend who works at Google, and a nerdy childhood friend who's become wealthy as a game developer, Clay is able to advance well into the organization. I found this book moderately interesting, with a bit of mystery, some book lore, and a lot of product placement for Google.

Favorite Passages:
"The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk." ( )
  Othemts | Dec 5, 2014 |
Weird and wonderful. I didn't even notice, until I was most of the way through the book, that it was in present tense - that usually strikes me as odd, but it fit here. And then there's the part that's in future tense... The fact that I live in the Bay Area and a lot of the references here are (at least vaguely) familiar makes it extra amusing. I like the bookstore (I'd like to see that place!), and the cast of characters are interestingly odd. However, there's one huge hole in...not exactly the plot, but the explanation of the plot. He never solved any of the puzzle. He only showed that someone else had solved it. Which may be why the Big Box failed; that is, there never was a way a computer could solve any of the puzzle. And then the solution comes by an entirely different route. There are many high points to the story, but even the climax is a little stretched and weird - the detective offers his solution...in a Powerpoint presentation? I dunno. I did enjoy it, I might read it again to see what/if I missed. But it's not a favorite - just a little too weird for me, in a direction I don't usually go. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Dec 4, 2014 |
It is not often that I finish a book, and want to start it all over again. Actually, I really want to be friends with these people, visit the bookstore, the google campus, the knit museum. I want to have coffee with Penumbra and Clay, talk codes with the black robes, work my way up and write my own codex vitae!

This is the book for deep thinkers, who want to laugh along the way. ( )
  jkgrage | Nov 24, 2014 |
This was a really fabulous book. I loved how the characters were so very real- they could be living down the hall from you. They were also very smart and very good at what they did.

I loved Clays determination to make his bookstore ob more than meets the eye, as well as to find out what was going on with all the coded books. ( )
  sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
This book has been on my list for a while, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it: it's pretty close to my perfect book, with elements of mystery, fantasy, and sci-fi, all grounded in the present, and centered around books, bookstores, and libraries.

Reminded me of:
The Mysterious Benedict Society (puzzles and codes)
Little Brother (San Francisco, technology)
The Circle (Google)
The Magicians (magic, fantasy, books)
Just My Type (fonts and typography)

Clay Jannon loses his job when San Francisco startup NewBagel folds, and he finds a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore to keep from going under. The front of the bookstore is normal, but the back is full of old tomes in code, a lending library for a queer cast of characters. Clay becomes interested, and once he tells Googler Kat Potente about the code, she convinces him to sneak out an old logbook to see if they can find a pattern; Clay's roommate Mat, who works at Industrial Light and Magic, makes a replica to replace the original. Thus begins a quest that involves these three, plus Penumbra himself, and Clay's best friend from sixth grade, Neel Shah (the two of them bonded over fantasy novels The Dragon-Song Chronicles). From San Francisco to New York, from Google to a secret underground library, from the bleeding edge of technology to early 1500s Venice, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is mystery, adventure, and fantasy all blended into one. Clarke's third law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") could serve as an epigraph.


This is Mat's secret weapon, his passport, his get-out-of-jail-free card: Mat makes things that are beautiful. (27)

"It's the surface that matters. People want things to be real. If you give them an excuse, they'll believe you." (Mat to Clay, 66)

He has the strangest expression on his face - the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND. (96)

I've never felt that way about a job (or a cult). You could stop me at the train station and talk me into anything. (114)

When I was a kid reading fantasy novels, I daydreamed about hot girl wizards. I never thought I'd actually meet one, but that's only because I didn't realize wizards were going to walk among us and we'd just call them Googlers. (118)

Kat bought a New York Times but couldn't figure out how to operate it, so now she's fiddling with her phone. (126)

Of course we'll accept it. That's what you do on a quest. You listen to the old wizard's problem and then you promise to help him. (134)

A messiah, a first disciple, and a rapture. Check, check, and double-check. (136)

Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf. (143)

Her eyes are shining. I have to hand it to her: she has a real imagination for immortality. (Kat, 209)

"...and if somebody stole it, that's a good sign. Getting stolen is one of the best things that can happen to an object. Stolen stuff recirculates. Stays out of the ground." (Oliver Grone to Clay, 243)

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. (253)

Penumbra's eyes go wide. "Disappointed? Impossible. It is not what I expected, but what did I expect? What did any of us expect? I will tell you that I did not expect to know the truth in my lifetime. It is a gift beyond measure, and I am grateful..." (279)

There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight....Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in. (288)

[Last line] A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time. (288) ( )
  JennyArch | Nov 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 274 (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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