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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
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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.
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.
ISBN: 0374214913
9780374214913
Statement of Responsibility: Robin Sloan
Subject Headings: Bookstores California San Francisco Fiction. Bookstores Employees Fiction.
Genre/Form: Suspense fiction.
Adventure fiction.
Fantasy fiction.
Topical Term: Bookstores
Bookstores
LCCN: 2012012357
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Library Staff

Comment by: DesPlainesReaders Feb 27, 2013

There isn't a lot of character development, but the book is nevertheless a mostly engaging read. Should appeal to those interested in technology and books, as well as fans of Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. WeAreSpartacus/LauraADPPL

How could you not love a novel that appeals both to literary snobs and to twenty-something hackers? Mystery, book history, love story, cryptography, and up-to-the- minute Google-speak starring San Francisco's odd denizens, young and old, this tale follows Clay Jannon, a clerk in a book store that... Read More »

Comment by: HeatherIm Aug 04, 2012

At the intersection of sci-fi and antiquity! Hugely entertaining, off-beat and fun. Highly recommeded.


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Summary: Clay Jannon, an unemployed web designer takes a clerk position at a strange bookstore run by an old man. Not only does the store keep strange hours but few customers ever visit, and those who do are quite bizarre and “check-out” rather than buy books. Clay soon discovers that there is much more to the bookstore and its customers than meets the eye, and becomes caught up in a centuries-old puzzle that has yet to be solved.

This book presents an interesting exploration of the relationship between modern technology, such as computer programming and e-readers, and the place that physical books hold in our society. This is definitely a book for both book-lovers and computer enthusiasts! While not written in the most remarkable style, it is an entertaining read!

Jun 26, 2014
  • Drake_Fresh rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book is such an exiting mystery! With a clever, multilayered theme and a series of very interesting characters, this is a personal favorite.

NYPL Staff Pick
When a website designer on the night shift at a San Francisco bookstore begins to notice mysterious patterns, he uses technological wizardry to decode a secret message.
- Selection Team

Recommended by Karl @lynden library.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Apr 26, 2013
  • lbi316 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This is one of my favorite books ever. Not only are the characters vivid and realistic, but the plot deviates entirely from the stereotypical 'hero's adventure'. I would suggest this book to anyone!

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.

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Apr 26, 2013
  • lbi316 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

lbi316 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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Jun 30, 2014
  • SlotFather rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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
  • SlotFather rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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

"...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."

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.

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

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

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.

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