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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by…

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

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6693361,437 (3.87)3 / 443
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar Straus Giroux (2012), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

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

  1. 214
    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. 80
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (bucketyell, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 40
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 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.
  6. 10
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  7. 10
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  8. 10
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  9. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  10. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  11. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  12. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
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    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
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    Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn (Runa)
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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.
  17. 00
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  18. 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.
  19. 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 (326)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (335)
Showing 1-5 of 326 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book with its very clever weaving of ancient and modern ideas. Some of it was a bit outrageous but still a great read. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Aug 20, 2015 |
I didn't like the characters in this book, I thought the premise was really weird. I don't like really like science fiction, and while this book wasn't science fiction, it was about science fiction, and that turned me off to it. I also am not really too interested in all the amazing things that Google and technology can do, so I didn't like that part either. Most of all, I just didn't like the story.

Even though I knew otherwise, for some reason I thought this book was going to be about a nice old man named Mr. Penumbra who loved books and his bookstore and sat in an armchair in the corner drinking tea and commenting on the ills of modern society. The book is not at all about that. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Summary: During a recession, Clay Jannon finds himself let go from his web design position and looking for a new job. He happens upon a small but unique bookstore that happens to be looking for a night salesperson, and he gets the job. However, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is not like any other bookstore Clay's been to… there is a small selection of regular books near the front, but most of the tall, narrow store's shelves are taken up by strange books that all appear to be in some kind of code. Similarly, most of the regular customers never actually buy anything, but instead borrow one coded book at a time - which it is Clay's duty to record in the log book as it happens. As Clay becomes more curious about what's really going on, he starts to write programs to see if he can uncover any patterns in what these people are searching for… but as he (and his friends) will discover, the truth is much bigger than one little San Francisco bookstore.

Review: I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's a light, fast, engaging read that's clever and funny and has a good heart. It kept me absorbed and reading through several flights (I can be a nervous flier, so getting lost in a book on a plane is not always the easiest task). I loved that this book took a tension that's familiar to probably every bibliophile today - the tension between old and new, between paper and digital, between the past and the future, between tradition and technology - and built its plot around that basic idea. There is a place in this book for someone who would love nothing more than to climb the ladders in the multi-story back stock of a dusty old book store, and there is a place in this book for someone who dreams of having access to all of Google's computing power to solve some of the world's biggest mysteries. And there is a place in this book for someone - maybe especially for someone - who wants both of those things. I can see this book appealing to people who would never dream of giving up their paper books for an ereader, and I can also see this book appealing to early adopters of new tech. In some ways, this book reminded me of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother - partially the San Francisco setting, but also the way of talking about and explaining technology in a way that's accessible to non-technophiles. But it's also a got a feeling of dust and old brass and worn leather covers in candlelight too, with secret societies working by hand to solve a mystery that's hundreds of years old. The answer to the mystery itself (because: spoiler, of course they figure it out) wasn't entirely satisfying on its own, but it absolutely did fit with the clues we were given, and with the tone of the book itself, so on the whole it was a very satisfying reading experience. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This was a very fun book, perfect for book lovers and puzzlers and code-breakers and anyone who enjoys wandering around library stacks and old dusty bookstores. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Aug 9, 2015 |
I was predisposed to like this book. And really, it is a fun read in places. Think of it as a Saturday-morning cartoon kind of book. You read it as an agreeable way to pass the time, perhaps for nostalgia, but are never really pained to put it down. It reads like my Nanowrimo novels: hurried, full of in-jokes, lots of hand-waving, big setup, fizzles in the last act. Any tension is bolted on as an afterthought and the ending makes a point of taking threads you didn't even know were loose and tying them in pretty bows. Despite being full of references aimed at hackers, bloggers, programmers and amateur designers, it manages to fall short of even rough plausibility. Just as with cartoons, if you can suspend disbelief, you can enjoy the show, just don't expect to come away feeling thrilled or inspired. ( )
  joeld | Aug 7, 2015 |
Interesting puzzle novel - slightly science fictiony - older than YA fiction. There's quite a bit of techy stuff in here about Google and codes, etc. The characters are pretty pleasant personae. Not deep but still a good light read. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 326 (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
Fliacos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary 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 7 descriptions

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