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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
4,806471964 (3.85)3 / 517
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Tags:Read, borrowed, fiction

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 (459)  German (5)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  All (1)  All (471)
Showing 1-5 of 459 (next | show all)
This would be a nice vacation read. The plot is a little simple and convenient, but the prose is smooth and the book flows along pretty well. It's a little like popcorn, not very nutritious or substantive but once you start you just munch away, enjoying yourself, until it's all gone. ( )
  ZephyrusW | Apr 23, 2017 |
Everything a person could want in a story about books: Google, secret societies, typography, ladders, a glow-in-the-dark cover ... I can even forgive it for being set in San Francisco because some of the action takes place in New York City, and I enjoyed it so much! ( )
  Deborahrs | Apr 15, 2017 |
Synopsis: As an economic effect of the recession, Clay Jannon, previously working in the corporate headquarters of NewBagel, finds himself unemployed and hunting for work when he stumbles upon a job opportunity in a 24 hour bookstore.

The bookstore is run by Mr. Penumbra, who Clay rarely sees as the store essentially runs on a pass-the-baton system where Clay hands over to Mr. Penumbra who hands over to Oliver, and then.

There is one section of the bookstore that Clay soon starts to notice a strange trend of people borrow books from - the 'Waybacklist'. We quickly learn that the bookstore is part of a secret society and a puzzle remains within, of which these people are trying to decode.

My Opinion: Robin Sloan has a very natural writing style making it easy for readers to become part of the story. I became absorbed, and curious, trying to decode the puzzle myself.

Towards the end there was a slight anti-climax which made it a little bit confusing. Maybe a second reading might clarify some of the more confusing aspects. ( )
  Moniica | Apr 5, 2017 |

A New York Times bestseller, Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore is an entirely charming and lovable first novel of mysterious books and dusty bookshops; it is a witty and delightful love-letter to both the old book world and the new.

Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, 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 simply borrow 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, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behaviour and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore...

'The pages swell with Mr Sloan's nerdy affection and youthful enthusiasm for both tangible books and new media... [but] the ties that bind the story are friendship and vitality for life. This is a clever and whimsical tale with a big heart' The Economist

Shortlisted for the LA Times Book Award for First Fiction.
My take......

My first read in 2017 and hopefully better books lie ahead of me. The book itself was a bit of a departure from my normal type of crime fiction reading and while I was mostly engaged by the story ultimately it was all a bit flat come the conclusion.

Clay gets a job at a bookstore just to tide him over until something better comes along. The bookstore and its mysterious owner, Mr Penumbra harbour some strange secrets, customers who come and go at all hours without actually buying anything and a journal which is kept by the staff – one which plots the items each customer has borrowed(? – two months on and I can’t actually remember whether they take the books, buy the books, or just peruse them in their natural habitat.) Our night shift clerk’s curiosity has been awakened and so breaking all the rules of employment he digs a bit deeper.

Apparently we have a mysterious society of authors and readers, who’s books have been written and accepted and then “coded” and which become part of the society’s secret library. Only one copy of the book exists, and if you piss off the society, your book gets burned. Our historic founder of our society has his own coded magnum opus, which itself houses the mystery of eternal life, or was it the secrets of the universe – I forget (and to be honest can’t be bothered to re-check the book to decide which). The society members are striving to unlock this secret code by virtue of studying other journals held within the society’s library.

Somewhat bizarrely I quite liked the premise of this, though a month or two on it comes across as complete and utter nonsense. The author does kind of ramp up the tension as Clay and his friends – a rich entrepreneur and a super-savvy (and Clay’s love-interest) high-flying Google executive harness their resources; namely cash for a trip to the New York branch of the secret society run by Mr Penumbra’s boss - a card-carrying Luddite, and a Google super computer to apply algorithms and logarithms and loads of other nerdy isms to reveal the secret code. Inevitably when you’ve been waiting for the secrets of the universe to be revealed, the eventual reveal is a bit of a damp squib.

Interesting characters, enjoyable friendships, a great setting in an old bookshop, housing tons of mysterious books from floor to vast ceilings, a bit of a mystery-cum-fantasy tale if you like.

Enjoyable up to a point, but a bit disappointing in the end.

3 from 5

Robin Sloan has also penned a short prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, entitled Ajax Penumbra: 1969. One of my yardstick's for measuring a book's enjoyment is whether I would be interested in reading more from the author in the future, in this case it's a negative.

Robin Sloan has his website here.

Read in January, 2017
Published - 2012
Page count - 304
Source - owned digital copy
Format - Kindle

http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03... ( )
1 vote col2910 | Mar 15, 2017 |
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a tongue in cheek ode to musty bookstores filled to the brim with paper books versus today's modern digitization. Clay is a young man who loves his technology but takes a job as a night clerk in a strange bookstore when the internet implodes and he loses his high-tech job. Where he was previously creating web pages and writing slogans on Twitter, he now spends his nights surrounded by rare encrypted books that seem to appeal to a secret club of strange customers who check these books in and out like a library.

This book is very much a satire, but written with a warmth and regard for both the old and the new. There are many references to “The Lord of the Rings”, called in this book “The Dragon Song Chronicles” a book trilogy that deeply influenced Clay as a young boy. Eventually Clay, his techie friends and a female programmer set out to unravel the bookstore mystery and find themselves pitted against the Fellowship of the Unbroken Spine.

Although I was not totally spellbound by this book, perhaps finding it a little too clever, I nevertheless enjoyed the read and it brought some familiar thoughts to my bookish emotions such as the feel of crisp pages and the smell of paper books, the immediate sense of gratification when downloading a book and the slight feeling of guilt one feels when clicking onto Amazon. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore describes the culture clash between the paper and ink world and the new internet version of reading and it’s obvious the author loves both these elements. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 459 (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 (9 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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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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