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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
3,0622731,852 (3.89)3 / 388
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:English, Library, Books, Secret Society, San Francisco, New York, Friendship, Love, Internet, Science Fiction

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 (265)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (272)
Showing 1-5 of 265 (next | show all)
Definitely a 5 star listen! A fun book that doesn't come around all that often. I thoroughly enjoyed it! ( )
  JillNYC | Oct 26, 2014 |
I was skeptical until the very end, when Robin Sloan's book finally won me over. This is a very "modern" book, in the truest sense of the word. Had it been written pre-Internet and pre-Google, it would be science fiction but of a very poor sort because it wouldn't make much sense. Readers who aren't the slightest bit tech saavy will still encounter it as a science fiction of sorts, but that may also bear true for First World millennials who have little or no experience with OK - Old knowledge*, like actual books, not e-readers. This is what makes Sloan's book an achievement: it's a perfect reflection of our zeitgeist. It's fun (if silly), a page-turner (less because of plot and more because it's such a breeze to read), and ultimately, as a mystery, it has a great ending. Plus the nerd in me was more than a little excited when I put it down one night, turned off the light, and discovered the cover glows in the dark! Super cool! Breezy good satirical fun that reflects a fact I've been saying for years now: It's Google's world; we just live in it.

*"Ah, books. You know, old books are a big problem for us. Old knowledge in general. We call it OK. Old knowledge, OK. Did you know that ninety-five percent of the internet was only created in the last five years? But we know that when it comes to all human knowledge, the ratio is just the opposite - in fact, OK accounts for most things that people know and have ever known." - Raj ( )
  mpho3 | Oct 25, 2014 |
This book was a interesting enough read to be a page turner, but has too many pop culture references scattered throughout that it will be entirely unpalatable in 10 years. Also, the big mystery hook turns out to be disappointing and bland. There were also a lot of unexplained logic holes that left me slightly unsatisfied. Google fans and residents of San Francisco might get a kick out of it though. I did enjoy the fact that the historical figure, Aldus the Printer, was the center of the mystery. ( )
  BenjaminHahn | Oct 14, 2014 |
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a mystery/adventure tale of a young man in San Francisco who is recently laid off from work. He finds employment with Mr. Penumbra, working the night shift at the bookstore. What he soon discovers is that the bookstore is more than it seems. There is a secret society that comes in, using the books to break codes and solve the clues of a grand mystery.

More at: http://thenovelworld.com/2014/10/06/book-review-mr-penumbras-24-hour-bookstore-b... ( )
  TheNovelWorld | Oct 6, 2014 |
This book has a great title.
The cover also glowed, which was cool.
The plot seemed like an interesting one, all breakneck pace and secret societies and books. I had seen this book and its title for so long and thought, "Oh man, this is going to be right up my alley."
But it wasn't. It really wasn't.
The narrator, a dopey web designer in his early thirties? Late twenties? I can't remember, if it was mentioned at all. Anyway, he's a smarmy, fairly thick character. He, himself, does little, and exists largely to spit out little bon mots with very little bon in the mot. I feel like his sarcasm is unearned -- I never saw anything spectacular in this laid-off web designer to make his ironic descriptions of "the mustachioed master of the secret library"** seem like he'd earned the right.
The conversations he has with his girlfriend from Google (and her slavish, freakish dedication to making the Top 100* who decide Google's future direction) are painfully dull and make out the geeks to be some sort of uber-cult, capable of finding the hidden structure, the hidden meaning to Life, itself. That the plot revolves around Google and Amazon and their magical devices and computing power unraveling this great mystery doesn't help make it any more exciting. When the narrative devolves into a parallel of a Dungeons & Dragons session I very nearly put the book down and just gave up. But I kept hope that his great reveal at the end would make it all worth it... but, at the same time, felt that it was going to be really tough to re-lift the Hindenburg of a novel.
This is the second-ish book of this sort I've read (Austin Grossman's awful "You" was another and Rolf Potts, the author of the travelogue "Marco Polo Didn't Go There" is a similar sort of character) where I've just found the narrator insufferable. I'm trying to put my finger on it, but it's slippery. They seem to be entitled, fatuous, but they think, and perhaps their authors think, that they're actually quite clever. But you know what? I don't want to figure it out any more, because I don't want to waste any more time thinking or reading about these characters.

* Special Note: I'm getting a few facts wrong, here. They're nearly right. I could have gone back and looked them up again, but I really can't, the thought of re-entering this book frankly bores me and I don't want to annoy myself again by slogging through it to find the facts.
** Oh God, see? I went back and looked up that passage, had it earmarked, and the book's annoyed me all over again. Ugh. ( )
  mhanlon | Sep 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 265 (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
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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 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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