Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Book - 2012
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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.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374214913
Characteristics: 288 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Discussing on Monday, July 22nd at 11:30 AM

What's better than a 24-hour coffee shop (something we don't have in Central Oregon)? How about a 24-hour bookstore that's full of mystery and cults!

From the critics

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JCLJENNYT Mar 30, 2020

The amount of times Sloan decided to put the word "Googlers" in this book was upsetting and cringy. Clay the main character is very dry and doesn't really add much and while the whole book sounds interesting in theory but it just didn't meet that in execution. The use of technology in this book reads like someone who joined facebook and now thinks that they are a technology expert. Seriously the only technology related people in this book are either "Googlers" or "Ex- Googlers". Additionally for some reason on this romantic quest he suddenly has a girl friend this girl he just met and suddenly they are an item like what? Also they have this really weird unnecessary scene with his friend Neel who if you hadn't picked up at this point isn't white but Sloan has this whole weird scene where face id can't recognize him and he blames it on him not being white. I felt like it was Sloan being like see I added a minority characters give me a pat on the back but in reality it just felt like tokenism.

Overall this book was way overhyped and doesn't really focus on the books just people in a bookstore in an indian jones style adventure which to be honest I felt a bit baited with the bookstore bit.

Feb 17, 2020

I'm of two minds as I reflect on the book. On one hand, I finished it and enjoyed it. I enjoyed the characters and while the finish wasn't what I expected, it was a great finish.

Robin Sloan's writing is tight and descriptive. I could feel myself enter the bookstore and I can imagine enjoying working through the store looking at volumes and loving the experience. I want to find a tall thin bookstore and climb the ladders as I inspect it's collections.

I found many of the characters believable, but not all of them and this is where my other side comes out. On the whole I found Kay (the leading guy's love interest) believable, but then we entered Google where she works to with other Googlers decrypt the book and that whole section felt force. Maybe force is wrong, but it certainly felt rushed and out of place in an otherwise good book.

When it came to The Unbroken Spine, I enjoy the idea, but the execution feels a bit thin to me. There should be a bit more gravitas to an organization that's been working on decoding a book for hundreds of years. While The Unbroken Spine had some depth, there wasn't much. I would have liked a bit more from that organization.

## Should You Read Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore?

Overall while I was questioning the book during the whole Google decoding chunk, I finished it and felt satisfied. It's a fairly short read and it's now on my list to purchase. Further, I want to hear another story of Penumbra and Clay in their consulting agency and some mystery they solve. If that's not a vote in favour of the book, I'm not sure what is.

If you're up for a bit of a mystery set in current times that delves into some programming and a stodgy secrete society, this book may be up your alley.

Jan 04, 2020

Such a quirky story. Loved it!

Dec 25, 2019

Listened to this on CD during a long drive. The basic premise was interesting, but the execution was lacking. Bad selection.

Nov 03, 2019

rb Simon Carless

Aug 01, 2019

A fun read, first and foremost. This is for you if are looking for something based on a mystery, with adventure, a lot of shadowy characters and sinister overtones that actually isn't full of tragedy, human cruelty and suffering. There is so much fiction that centres around pain and suffering. Isn't there enough of that in the non-fiction section? Reminded me of Ready Player One. And I could smell the wood and old books in the bookstore, the libraries and the museums you explore. And the copy of the book I read had an Easter Egg that came with it, which added to the fun.

Jul 21, 2019

It was a fun idea, but it was hard for me to read. There were too many subplots and unimportant characters and the whole thing was a little far fetched. The ending was disappointing too. But it did show how wacko Google and its employees are, so that was interesting. I totally agree with WYENOTGO's comments below.

ArapahoeAnnaL May 30, 2019

"Light-hearted magic" - NPR. A likable young man narrates this account of an obsessive search for the secret to immortality.

Jett_Reads Apr 24, 2019

This book just glows! (No, really, check out the physical copy and it will glow!). A fun and quick read that involves adventure, books, bookstores, libraries, a secret organization, and some tech! We read this book for our book club and everyone enjoyed it.

Mar 18, 2019

A fun story with a bit of mystery, adventure, and maybe a creepy cult. The story straddles the worlds of a centuries-old book club and the Silicon Valley tech scene to unravel the encoded secrets of a mysterious secret society. The scenes from San Francisco, clever and likable characters, and fantastic audiobook narrator made this one of my favorite recent reads.

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Add a Quote
Jan 16, 2020

"What are you seeking in these shelves"

Aug 25, 2017

" Let me give you some friendly advice: make friends with a millionaire when he's a friendless sixth-grader."
pg. 115

Aug 25, 2017

“So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."
pg. 34

Aug 25, 2017

"I intend to carry out a clandestine scan ASAP, and the target is one of the most important books in the history of printing, In other words: this might by bigger than Potter."
pg. 162

Mar 16, 2015

But hey, nothing lasts long. We all come to life and gather allies and build empires and die, all in a single moment—maybe a single pulse.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

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.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

Maybe his big build isn't a linebacker's after all; maybe it's a librarian's.

Jun 30, 2014

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.

Jun 30, 2014

Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.

Mar 01, 2014

" many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."

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Add Age Suitability
Aug 25, 2017

Sierrachick07 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

lbi316 Apr 26, 2013

lbi316 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Apr 19, 2013

MistyBlue22 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary
May 01, 2013

The protagonist, Clay Jannon, is hired by San Francisco independent bookstore owner -- Mr Penumbra -- to retrieve books from 10 pm to 6 am, at the request of long time bookstore customers holding an unusual interest in highly obscure volumes. Clay has never heard of any of these book titles, which are never purchased, only loaned.

When Clay examines one of these books, he sees page after page of unreadable encrypted characters, no spaces, no punctuation. Yet the customers return night after night, returning one book, and taking another.

The question is: Why?

DanniOcean Dec 13, 2012

Clay Jannon is a graphic and web designer who finds himself unemployed in the new economy. While wandering the streets of San Francisco he accidentally finds Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and after a very brief interview based on his favourite book, finds himself the store’s new night 10pm-to-6am clerk. There are three rules to working there – he must be on time and cannot leave early, he may not look inside any of the ancient-looking books that are reserved for members, and third, he must keep precise notes about all transactions (including how they smell, what they wear, what they say and how they appear mentally). Mr. Penumbra’s unique approach to store-keeping is matched by his odd clientele who appear in the oddest hours of the night, but they are few and far between so to occupy his time Clay starts developing a web-presence for the store. He creates a 3-D map of the transactions and… a face appears in the results. What follows is a literary adventure of the highest order – a cult of readers bent on discovering but keeping secret the immortality locked in ancient texts of an early typographer, versus Clay and his band of quest seekers, albeit their modern-day equivalents of rogue, wizard and hero. And although the modern-day wizard uses all the power of Google to help them, the printed texts do not give up their secrets easily. It is not until Clay uses all the tools in his magic bag – from the ultimate hacker site to his ultimate favourite novel to the ancient texts themselves - that the code is broken, and the answers are not at all what everyone involved thought they would be. Digital vs. print, Google vs. books, technology vs. old knowledge, piracy vs. privacy, these are the battles of our times and all themes in the book, but the overall story is an adventure, a quest simply reimagined in the techno-age. Given that the author was once an employee at Twitter and has released the book in both print and e-formats, Sloan may be hedging his bets - but his first novel has all the feel of a love-letter to books.


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