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Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Sloan, Robin (Book - 2012 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Item Details

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.
Authors: Sloan, Robin, 1979-
Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore
Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
Characteristics: 288 p. ;,22 cm
Summary: 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.
Awards & Distinctions: First Novels 2012
ISBN: 9780374214913
Branch Call Number: FICTION
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Report This Apr 05, 2014
  • Indigo_Cobra_8 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Things I liked about the book: fast-paced adventure, the main character's dry humor and witty narration, the character interactions, the incorporation of Google and technology. Things I didn't like: undeveloped villain character, blatant themes (that is to say, this book didn't make you THINK; it just stated things outright). Still, a fairly enjoyable book.

As a lover of books but also a 20-something who has embraced eBooks, the Internet, the iPhone, etc., this was pure delight. With a sometimes-unfortunate (but always affectionate) narrator and a cast of characters you'd love to meet (from a distance, please; they're a little odd), Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of the few books I recommend almost without reservation. Male, female, 20-something or 60-something, if you like to read or write or Google, there is something here for you. Laughter and eye-rolling aplenty.

Report This Nov 23, 2013
  • Michael Colford rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This delightful homage to the physical book is intriguing as it also celebrates the Google-age, digitization, typography, and code breaking. But nothing is more celebrated, and also a little mourned, than the independent bookstore. Mr. Penumbra's bookstore in San Francisco is, of course, not your average bookstore. There is the front part of the store, which is typically eclectic, where booksellers favorite books are featured randomly, and the occasional sale is made. But it is the rear part of the store, taller than it is wide, with ladders skyrocketing to great heights, and mysterious books filled with a bizarre, unreadable code lining the shelves. Young Clay Jannon finds himself working the night shift at this curious bookstore after losing his job to a poor economy. He also finds himself tossed into a fascinating mystery about history, books, and even immortality. He is surrounded by an assortment of colorful characters, from his girlfriend, Kat, who works at Google, his best friend Neel, with whom he once played Dungeons & Dragons, and of course, his quirky employer, Mr. Penumbra himself. A delightful read for book lovers, but also for computer geeks who think the age of print is over. Robin Sloan's prose skips along merrily making for a fast read. There are a lot of ideas in here, and if there is any flaw, perhaps it is that all are celebrated, and none shown to be more relevant than any other. It's rather even-handed in that way, which is nice, but perhaps a trifle less exciting.

Report This Oct 29, 2013
  • Bearwomyn rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A one sentence summary: "Seeking Eternal Life, on Google." HA! What a super fun book, very different, which is exciting for this bibliophile....something fresh, a new way to bend my thoughts. I sprinted through, laughing, wondering...curious. A co-mingling of primeval and modernity on a classic human desire, to live forever. Our story is seated in an unusual, mysterious and somewhat covert bookstore, long, thin and tall, tucked inconspicuously next to a strip joint, one might miss it if one weren't looking. Warm, inviting golden light spills out around the clock, with open arms for seekers - the logo, an open book with open hands. In the back bowels are tucked coded tomes, which rather eccentric members pour through trying to unlock the secrets. It is, as expected, owned and run by a lovely Mr. Penumbra, a kind and wizened elder, patient, all knowing. He hires a young computer programmer to take the night shift...unaware that with this decision, his world would change forever - one of the few things he did not foresee. Our young energetic hero takes centuries of information and tradition and elevates the seekers task by introducing the brains of computers. Add speed, 3d imaging, uncoding, sorting, finding, world wide user groups...and what the membership has been trying to see for 500 years starts to reveal itself in a matter of hours/days/weeks. Hearts pound with anticipation. The characters are an unlikely and somewhat motley crew of misfits, idiot-savants, programmers, minions, gardeners, billionaires and twitchy old men in black robes, many smothered in orthodoxy. This is a very computer driven story, so a ticklish joy for us 'users.' However, very readable and well written for the non-savvy computer folks. Don't be afraid, it is well worth it. Gerritszoon, encryptions, underground reading rooms, Googlerz, faith, hope, desire, epistles, bloggers and book burnings. Unbroken spines, video chat, interim museum loans and the wyrm-father. Pretty creative story. I cannot divine if all the technology sited is real, partially true or purely a gift to the story...my brain had a blast with this one.

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: This is a whimsical, optimistic story for people who love books. The main character, Clay, is a tech-savvy book lover who has lost his tech startup job in the recession. He goes to work as a clerk at Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, where it immediately becomes clear that something beyond simple book-selling is going on. The story that follows concerns cryptography, typography, data visualizations, e-book readers and of course books. This book is a lot of fun to read and is highly recommended for book-lovers AND technology-lovers.

Report This Jul 06, 2013
  • Sarah1984 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is about a bookstore and the slightly fantastical people who frequent it, for either work or pleasure. There's a secret society that funds it and keeps it going in the background, and to start with I thought there was going to be some actual magic worked into the secret society. While there were no wands or incantations, there was still magic in the story. There was magic in the way the 26-year-old star and narrator of the story believes that physical bookstores will carry on because people still like the way books smell, and you can't get that through your Kindle (I read an actual book edition). There was magic in Robin Sloane's final message, that being immortal isn't about living forever, it's about what you do with your life and your impact on the people around you. And I have to disagree with his assertion that this book, like all books before it and after, will fade to the back of my mind - I don't think it will fade at all, I think I'll remember the descriptions of Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore with it's three storey shelves and the waybacklist for many years to come.

Report This Apr 08, 2013
  • mombrarian rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Funny, thoughtful, engaging story with mystery elements that tackles how and where print books and all things electronic intersect.

Report This Feb 19, 2013
  • Suzanne_Library rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Delightful! Truly a medicine for melancholy. The NY Times critic thought the ending was a bit too pat, but a dark, ambiguous, postmodern ending would not fit this novel at all. It's a love letter to text in all its forms.


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"...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."

Report This Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

Report This Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"We need James Bond with a library science degree."

Report This Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"What do you seek in these shelves?"


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Author Talk with Robin Sloan via Google's Author Series

Author Robin Sloan talks about his charming book with folks at Google.

Find it at WCLS


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