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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mr. Penumbra (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,5286031,025 (3.82)3 / 602
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. 120
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  4. 61
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  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
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  7. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  8. 20
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  9. 20
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  10. 20
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  11. 20
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (sturlington)
  12. 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.
  13. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  14. 10
    Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  15. 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.
  16. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  17. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  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. 11
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)

(see all 22 recommendations)

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English (586)  German (6)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (600)
Showing 1-5 of 586 (next | show all)
Dan Brown for 20-something graphic design nerds. ( )
  jimctierney | Jul 7, 2020 |
After Clay Jannon loses his job as a website designer, he passes a bookstore looking for an overnight clerk. It’s a very peculiar and dusty place where there are few customers, with the exception of a handful of rather eccentric people who borrow rather than buy the books. Behind the desk, the back and lining the walls are rows of old leather books that reach far up into the extremely tall space. Yet these books aren’t for sale. They are for members to check out and return. The books look like they are written in secret code. Ultimately Clay discovers the code is connected to some sort of bizarre cult. He goes on a mission to solve the mystery that has been tormenting its members for centuries. He enlists the help of an equally bizarre team, including his former best friend, a young woman who works for Google, and even the fascinating Mr. Penumbra himself.

This book has been on my shelf for quite a while but kept getting passed up. I'm so glad I finally picked it up. Something about this book reminded me of Ready Player One without the video games. There's also a lot of humor in the story, especially the dialog between the characters. I really enjoyed the way the author explored the idea that technology is changing the way people read books. He also did it in a way that wasn't accusatory or agenda driven. My only criticism is that the ending seemed a little rushed. There's a little bit of everything in this book: mystery, magical realism, adventure and fantasy. If you have an interest in any of those genres, I definitely recommend it. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jul 2, 2020 |
Well written with interesting ideas. A little pat, and the romance doesn't work for me, but overall a winner. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
Friendship, technology, books, bookstores, treasure hunting....

It was a very fun read. 3.5ish. ( )
  samnreader | Jun 27, 2020 |
I just enjoyed the heck out of this book. Mystery, books, technology, Google, it just had a bit of everything that fascinates me. When is a bookstore not really a bookstore but also not a drug den? This is a lovely tale told well and with humor. ( )
  susandennis | Jun 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 586 (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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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
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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