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Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore (2012)

by Robin Sloan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mr. Penumbra (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,012630990 (3.81)3 / 627
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.
  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. 121
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 61
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 50
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 20
    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.
  6. 20
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  7. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  8. 20
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (sturlington)
  9. 20
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  10. 20
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  11. 20
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  12. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  13. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  14. 10
    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. 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.
  16. 10
    Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  17. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  18. 10
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  19. 11
    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.
  20. 00
    The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (Othemts)

(see all 23 recommendations)

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» See also 627 mentions

English (614)  German (6)  Dutch (4)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (629)
Showing 1-5 of 614 (next | show all)
I thoroughly enjoyed this very imaginative, inventive book! Also, the glow in the dark cover is so very cool. ( )
  emrsalgado | Jul 23, 2021 |
"Well, that’s just great. My salary is paid by font licensing fees and copyright infringement cases." ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Jul 21, 2021 |
A secret society seeking to decrypt arcane knowledge from an ancient text... sounds like the plot of Foucault's Pendulum. But this is Eco Lite--a sunnier, more upbeat version. What it lacks in intellectual gravitas it makes up in humor and goodwill. And though I say it lacks gravitas, it has intelligence and cleverness to spare. Once I recognized the parallels to Foucault, I was prepared to despise it (Foucault's Pendulum is, after all, one of my favorite books), but it won me over completely with its charm. I listened to the audio book (not as incongruous as I thought it might be for a book about books, as it turns out), and the narrator, Ari Fliakos, did a fabulous job--just perfect in tone and timbre for Clay Jannon. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
Former web designer Clay Jannon takes the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but finds there are few customers and many only borrow books. His boyhood friend, now a dot.com millionaire, special effects roommate from IL&M, and a new girlfriend, a rising star at Google, help him uncover a secret society trying to do the impossible. Weird, with some interesting techie stuff. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
4 stars: Very good

From the back cover:
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

----------

I liked this book quite well. A light hearted story with a slightly fantastic mystery, in some ways reminiscent to Ready Player One. It was very charming, particularly for those of us who love books but also see where technology can be helpful. I particularly appreciated that while there was an "ancient mystery" and "secret society" of people trying to figure out the secret to eternal life, the big reveal was much more grounded than that. [without a spoiler]. A fast, charming book that made me want more. There is a prequel about Mr. Penumbra which I'll pick up on ebook at some point.

Quotes I liked:

"This girl has the spark of life. This is my primary filter for new friends (girl and otherwise) and the highest compliment I can pay.

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. Penumbra hoists himself up and we follow him forward.

There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care.

The book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this: A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time. ( )
  PokPok | Jul 3, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 614 (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 (8 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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People/Characters
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Important events
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Epigraph
Dedication
FOR BETTY ANN AND JIM
First words
Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.
Quotations
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.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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.

TEXT EDITION:

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.
(legallypuzzled)
Every time Google
pauses, I shall think fondly
of men in black cowls.
(legallypuzzled)

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