Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

4.1 249
by Robin Sloan

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A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer

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A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

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 has 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 "checking 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, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once 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 a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's 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.

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Editorial Reviews

I launched my column of recommendations for book clubs with Alan Bennett's charming novel about bibliophilia, The Uncommon Reader. Well, I've just been seduced by another book that shares my passion for the printed word — but let me assure you that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is no mere meta-book. Robin Sloan's beguiling first novel is a rousing quest narrative and technological adventure story about a chummy band of geeks who seek to crack a 500-year-old code that may hold the key to immortality. We're all used to the ubiquitous supermarket question, "Paper or plastic?" It's a binary choice: either/or. Sloan pits paper against screen and Old Knowledge (called "OK" by his tech-savvy characters) against new technology and — get this — has them all win.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore hits that literary sweet spot: a happy, life-affirming book that is at once fun and meaty, light but not insubstantial. In a yarn that encompasses Dungeons & Dragons–type role playing, it celebrates passionate engagement, quirky individuality, and resourcefulness. Sloan, a San Francisco–based, self-described "media inventor" with years of experience at digital-era companies Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter, has pulled off a delightful paean to paper, print, the Internet, and technology, including some innovations that are still just a glimmer in Googlers' eyes. For all you fontophiles out there, you'll be happy to know that a typeface plays a pivotal role in Sloan's story. So, too, does friendship.

Sloan's likable narrator, Clay Jannon, is a San Francisco–based RISD-trained designer who has lost his first and only marketing job during the Great Recession. He writes, "The whole economy suddenly felt like a game of musical chairs, and I was convinced I needed to grab a seat, any seat, as fast as I could." What he grabs is a job as night clerk at a strange, 24- hour bookshop next door to a strip joint in a dicey neighborhood. Wizardly, blue-eyed, old Mr. Penumbra's job interview consists of three penetrating questions: "What do you seek in these shelves?"; "Tell me about a book you love"; and, "But can you climb a ladder?" Clay aces this test with his impassioned description of a fantasy trilogy he fell in love with in sixth grade, Clark Moffat's The Dragon-Song Chronicles. This made-up classic is also vital to Sloan's narrative, and while I've never cottoned to fantasy fiction, Sloan not only convinces us that it's an actual book, but of its allure.

He works similar magic with a fictional fifteenth-century font he calls Gerritszoon, named after Griffo Gerritszoon, a colleague of the actual Venetian publisher and printer, Aldus Manutius, who in real life commissioned Francesco Griffo to cut the first slanted italic type. Clay maintains that Gerritszoon, the typeface featured in all the massive, leather- bound tomes shelved three storeys high in Mr. Penumbra's bookshop, is still widely used today, preloaded on various e-readers and computers. He calls Mr. Penumbra's lending library the "Waybacklist," and it is these beautiful volumes, written in indecipherable code, that his few customers, all regulars, come to borrow, in what he discovers is a set sequence. Convinced that the store must be a front for something dark, Clay enlists several friends to help him figure out what's going on.

We should all be lucky enough to have such tech support — and friends — on call. If Clay is the rogue in this quest to uncover the secrets behind what is in a way a consummately peculiar book club, his childhood best friend, nerdy Neel Shah, is his warrior. Neel, the soon-to-be-spectacularly-rich genius behind a software company called Anatomix, "the de facto tool for the digital representation of breasts in digital media," provides financial, emotional, and technological assistance for his old buddy's mission. Clay's wizard is brilliant Kat Potente, his sometime girlfriend, whose primary devotion, alas, is to her work at Google. Kat fervently believes that brain hardware is changing in response to new software and that "writers [like Shakespeare] had their turn, and now it's programmers who get to upgrade the human operating system." She also believes that immortality is a nut that technology can crack.

One of the many pleasures of Sloan's novel is its mix of good, old-fashioned storytelling brio and accessible techno-speak, frequently softened by humor. When Clay describes a programming language called Ruby, which powers the 3-D graphics engine he uses to make a digital model of the bookshop, he comments good-humoredly, "If this sounds impressive to you, you're over thirty." Mr. Penumbra, the Obi-Wan of Clay's Rebel Alliance, reacts to the news that Clay and his friends have used Google to solve a puzzle that has mystified and challenged members of his Unbroken Spine fellowship for centuries, with "the strangest expression on his face — the emotional equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND." Sloan ribs fusty bibliophiles and a local bookstore's "sprawling Food Politics section," but he has particular fun taking jabs at techies. "Books: boring. Codes: awesome. These are the people who are running the internet," he writes. At the end of a description of products that Google is working on — a list that includes a sushi search engine and a time machine! — Clay adds, "They are developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris. (Okay, I made that one up.)"

Clay's quest to solve the riddle of the bookstore takes him to numerous vividly described — and eminently filmable — locations. These include Google headquarters; an underground library in New York City; a museum of "Knitting Arts and Embroidery Sciences" whose mission is "almost as weird as Penumbra's"; and a vast, Home Depot–like warehouse in Enterprise, Nevada, where museum artifacts are stored, a sort of "Bloomberg terminal of antiquity." Sloan's affable, enterprising Everyman comments, "You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules."

Among the questions Sloan's novel poses are why people love books, and what they seek in them. Answers range from their smell to the pursuit of knowledge. Anyone reading Mr. Penumbra is likely to add that people also seek distraction and entertainment, and love books like this for the considerable rush of pleasure they bring.

Two minor gripes: Sloan's Epilogue is so tidy, it's as if he's run a defrag program on his novel. And not fully trusting readers to have caught his message, he spells out his moral, as reductively oversimplified as a Wikipedia entry: "There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight?. It's not easy to imagine the year 3012, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. We have new capabilities now — strange powers we're still getting used to?. Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in." It's as if Sloan decided to tack on his own prefab "Readers' Guide for Discussion." Still, if you are looking for entry points for discussion ? voilà.

Sloan also provides hints for further reading by stocking Mr. Penumbra's shelves with fiction by Haruki Murakami, Neal Stephenson, and Dashiell Hammett. Murakami's wonderfully surreal novel Kafka on the Shore, which John Updike described as an "insistently metaphysical mind-bender," also features a private library setting as well as an intellectual cocktail of fantasy and adventure. On another tact, if you're fond of fonts and interested in the detail-obsessed designers who create them, Simon Garfield's Just My Type is eye candy for typomaniacs. All of these books make a robust case for the future of literature, in whatever format you choose to read them.

Heller McAlpin is a New York–based critic who reviews books for, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

Reviewer: Heller McAlpin

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Product Details

Center Point Large Print
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

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LOST IN THE SHADOWS of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder. I am exactly halfway up. The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it’s dark up there—the books are packed in close, and they don’t let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat.

I am holding on for dear life, one hand on the ladder, the other on the lip of a shelf, fingers pressed white. My eyes trace a line above my knuckles, searching the spines—and there, I spot it. The book I’m looking for.

But let me back up.

*   *   *

My name is Clay Jannon and those were the days when I rarely touched paper.

I’d sit at my kitchen table and start scanning help-wanted ads on my laptop, but then a browser tab would blink and I’d get distracted and follow a link to a long magazine article about genetically modified wine grapes. Too long, actually, so I’d add it to my reading list. Then I’d follow another link to a book review. I’d add the review to my reading list, too, then download the first chapter of the book—third in a series about vampire police. Then, help-wanted ads forgotten, I’d retreat to the living room, put my laptop on my belly, and read all day. I had a lot of free time.

I was unemployed, a result of the great food-chain contraction that swept through America in the early twenty-first century, leaving bankrupt burger chains and shuttered sushi empires in its wake.

The job I lost was at the corporate headquarters of NewBagel, which was based not in New York or anywhere else with a tradition of bagel-making but instead here in San Francisco. The company was very small and very new. It was founded by a pair of ex-Googlers who wrote software to design and bake the platonic bagel: smooth crunchy skin, soft doughy interior, all in a perfect circle. It was my first job out of art school, and I started as a designer, making marketing materials to explain and promote this tasty toroid: menus, coupons, diagrams, posters for store windows, and, once, an entire booth experience for a baked-goods trade show.

There was lots to do. First, one of the ex-Googlers asked me to take a crack at redesigning the company’s logo. It had been big bouncy rainbow letters inside a pale brown circle; it looked pretty MS Paint. I redesigned if using a newish typeface with sharp black serifs that I thought sort of evoked the boxes and daggers of Hebrew letters. It gave NewBagel some gravitas and it won me an award from San Francisco’s AIGA chapter. Then, when I mentioned to the other ex-Googler that I knew how to code (sort of), she put me in charge of the website. So I redesigned that, too, and then managed a small marketing budget keyed to search terms like “bagel” and “breakfast” and “topology.” I was also the voice of @NewBagel on Twitter and attracted a few hundred followers with a mix of breakfast trivia and digital coupons.

None of this represented the glorious next stage of human evolution, but I was learning things. I was moving up. But then the economy took a dip, and it turns out that in a recession, people want good old-fashioned bubbly oblong bagels, not smooth alien-spaceship bagels, not even if they’re sprinkled with precision-milled rock salt.

The ex-Googlers were accustomed to success and they would not go quietly. They quickly rebranded to become the Old Jerusalem Bagel Company and abandoned the algorithm entirely so the bagels started coming out blackened and irregular. They instructed me to make the website look old-timey, a task that burdened my soul and earned me zero AIGA awards. The marketing budget dwindled, then disappeared. There was less and less to do. I wasn’t learning anything and I wasn’t moving anywhere.

Finally, the ex-Googlers threw in the towel and moved to Costa Rica. The ovens went cold and the website went dark. There was no money for severance, but I got to keep my company-issued MacBook and the Twitter account.

So then, after less than a year of employment, I was jobless. It turned out it was more than just the food chains that had contracted. People were living in motels and tent cities. The whole economy suddenly felt like a game of musical chairs, and I was convinced I needed to grab a seat, any seat, as fast as I could.

That was a depressing scenario when I considered the competition. I had friends who were designers like me, but they had already designed world-famous websites or advanced touch-screen interfaces, not just the logo for an upstart bagel shop. I had friends who worked at Apple. My best friend, Neel, ran his own company. Another year at NewBagel and I would have been in good shape, but I hadn’t lasted long enough to build my portfolio, or even get particularly good at anything. I had an art-school thesis on Swiss typography (1957–1983) and I had a three-page website.

But I kept at it with the help-wanted ads. My standards were sliding swiftly. At first I had insisted I would only work at a company with a mission I believed in. Then I thought maybe it would be fine as long as I was learning something new. After that I decided it just couldn’t be evil. Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil.

It was paper that saved me. It turned out that I could stay focused on job hunting if I got myself away from the internet, so I would print out a ream of help-wanted ads, drop my phone in a drawer, and go for a walk. I’d crumple up the ads that required too much experience and deposit them in dented green trash cans along the way, and so by the time I’d exhausted myself and hopped on a bus back home, I’d have two or three promising prospectuses folded in my back pocket, ready for follow-up.

This routine did lead me to a job, though not in the way I’d expected.

San Francisco is a good place for walks if your legs are strong. The city is a tiny square punctuated by steep hills and bounded on three sides by water, and as a result, there are surprise vistas everywhere. You’ll be walking along, minding your own business with a fistful of printouts, and suddenly the ground will fall away and you’ll see straight down to the bay, with the buildings lit up orange and pink along the way. San Francisco’s architectural style didn’t really make inroads anywhere else in the country, and even when you live here and you’re used to it, it lends the vistas a strangeness: all the tall narrow houses, the windows like eyes and teeth, the wedding-cake filigree. And looming behind it all, if you’re facing the right direction, you’ll see the rusty ghost of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I had followed one strange vista down a line of steep stairstepped sidewalks, then walked along the water, taking the very long way home. I had followed the line of old piers—carefully skirting the raucous chowder of Fisherman’s Wharf—and watched seafood restaurants fade into nautical engineering firms and then social media startups. Finally, when my stomach rumbled, signaling its readiness for lunch, I had turned back in toward the city.

Whenever I walked the streets of San Francisco, I’d watch for HELP WANTED signs in windows—which is not something you really do, right? I should probably be more suspicious of those. Legitimate employers use Craigslist.

Sure enough, the 24-hour bookstore did not have the look of a legitimate employer:


Late Shift

Specific Requirements

Good Benefits

Now: I was pretty sure “24-hour bookstore” was a euphemism for something. It was on Broadway, in a euphemistic part of town. My help-wanted hike had taken me far from home; the place next door was called Booty’s and it had a sign with neon legs that crossed and uncrossed.

I pushed the bookstore’s glass door. It made a bell tinkle brightly up above, and I stepped slowly through. I did not realize at the time what an important threshold I had just crossed.

Inside: imagine the shape and volume of a normal bookstore turned up on its side. This place was absurdly narrow and dizzyingly tall, and the shelves went all the way up—three stories of books, maybe more. I craned my neck back (why do bookstores always make you do uncomfortable things with your neck?) and the shelves faded smoothly into the shadows in a way that suggested they might just go on forever.

The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest—not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach. There were ladders that clung to the shelves and rolled side to side. Usually those seem charming, but here, stretching up into the gloom, they were ominous. They whispered rumors of accidents in the dark.

So I stuck to the front half of the store, where bright midday light pressed in and presumably kept the wolves at bay. The wall around and above the door was glass, thick square panes set into a grid of black iron, and arched across them, in tall golden letters, it said (in reverse):

Below that, set in the hollow of the arch, there was a symbol—two hands, perfectly flat, rising out of an open book.

So who was Mr. Penumbra?

“Hello, there,” a quiet voice called from the stacks. A figure emerged—a man, tall and skinny like one of the ladders, draped in a light gray button-down and a blue cardigan. He tottered as he walked, running a long hand along the shelves for support. When he came out of the shadows, I saw that his sweater matched his eyes, which were also blue, riding low in nests of wrinkles. He was very old.

He nodded at me and gave a weak wave. “What do you seek in these shelves?”

That was a good line, and for some reason, it made me feel comfortable. I asked, “Am I speaking to Mr. Penumbra?”

“I am Penumbra”—he nodded—“and I am the custodian of this place.”

I didn’t quite realize I was going to say it until I did: “I’m looking for a job.”

Penumbra blinked once, then nodded and tottered over to the desk set beside the front door. It was a massive block of dark-whorled wood, a solid fortress on the forest’s edge. You could probably defend it for days in the event of a siege from the shelves.

“Employment.” Penumbra nodded again. He slid up onto the chair behind the desk and regarded me across its bulk. “Have you ever worked at a bookstore before?”

“Well,” I said, “when I was in school I waited tables at a seafood restaurant, and the owner sold his own cookbook.” It was called The Secret Cod and it detailed thirty-one different ways to— You get it. “That probably doesn’t count.”

“No, it does not, but no matter,” Penumbra said. “Prior experience in the book trade is of little use to you here.”

Wait—maybe this place really was all erotica. I glanced down and around, but glimpsed no bodices, ripped or otherwise. In fact, just next to me there was a stack of dusty Dashiell Hammetts on a low table. That was a good sign.

“Tell me,” Penumbra said, “about a book you love.”

I knew my answer immediately. No competition. I told him, “Mr. Penumbra, it’s not one book, but a series. It’s not the best writing and it’s probably too long and the ending is terrible, but I’ve read it three times, and I met my best friend because we were both obsessed with it back in sixth grade.” I took a breath. “I love The Dragon-Song Chronicles.”

Penumbra cocked an eyebrow, then smiled. “That is good, very good,” he said, and his smile grew, showing jostling white teeth. Then he squinted at me, and his gaze went up and down. “But can you climb a ladder?”

*   *   *

And that is how I find myself on this ladder, up on the third floor, minus the floor, of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. The book I’ve been sent up to retrieve is called AL-ASMARI and it’s about 150 percent of one arm-length to my left. Obviously, I need to return to the floor and scoot the ladder over. But down below, Penumbra is shouting, “Lean, my boy! Lean!”

And wow, do I ever want this job.


Copyright © 2012 by Robin Sloan

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 249 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the intersection of book & tech, type & typing, Dan Brown & Borges, a book-lover's dream novel. Get it. Read it. Love it. Now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love books, the old fashioned paper ones and the new e-books, you will love this read. What do you hope to find in all of the books you read? Why do you read so much? A book not only about people that love books, but about how our friends are called upon, about our own curiosity about things we don't understand, and what we do to satisfy our curiosity. All who were involved or know someone who is/was a Dungeons and Dragons fan will see someone they know (or are). And the geeks shall inherit the earth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's perfect. Such a treat to read. Has everything you could want. It almost feels like it was written just for me, designed and thought out for me. Sort of a relief to know there's more of me, if you love this book, you're a friend of mine <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book fantastically fun, fast moving and holds your interest! Immediately wanted to find more to read by this author to find out this is his first book, will be watching for more!
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
Tongue in cheek humor pervades this book. The story centers around the eccentric owner of a strange and wonderful bookstore, where books are revered, and also the clerk he hires, Clay Jannon. Clay is out of work, driven into an aimless state of being by a failing economy. One day, while walking, he discovers a job opportunity as the night clerk for Ajax Penumbra&rsquo;s 24-hour bookstore. The shop seems to exist for a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is a bookstore, albeit not one that sells many popular books, or many books at all, for that matter, and on the other hand, it caters to a group of unusual people who are studying odd books in order to discover a very well-kept, hidden secret. The bookstore is reminiscent of a library or a museum. Shelves are filled with ancient manuscripts from floor to ceiling, a ceiling only reached with the aid of a ladder. It is a temple for books. The secret, that this unusual group of people, seem to be searching for, is a missing code. They must decipher it when they find it. What is this mysterious code? It is the key to eternal life, the key to immortality. In this brief novel, the reader is led on an abstract journey to find the answer. It is often outside reality, and it is often very confusing. This creative little book combines the wisdom of the ages with the creativity of technology to search for the answer. The merry chase is sometimes convoluted and, truth be told, in several places I was completely lost, but soon, the thread is picked up again and the search goes on. In the end, for me, the message of the book was that eternal life, immortality, is the written word, it is what we leave behind as our accomplishments, as well. Time marches on for everyone and so does progress. As the book proudly proclaims: &ldquo;There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. &hellip;all secrets worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.&rdquo;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A serious book which doesn't take itself too seriously. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore concerns an unusual San Francisco book store, and the eccentric cast of characters associated with it. The narrator, Clay, is a smart but down-on-his-luck relatively recent college graduate who stumbles into working at the title book store where he soon discovers a literary mystery. Naturally, he sets about trying to solve it. Clay is clever (so there are numerous funny lines), as are most of those in his orbit, but he and his friends are also kind which makes all of them likable characters for whom it is easy to care, and easy to cheer. The novel is an homage to quest novels, and a celebration of the friendship (or fellowship as it always is in a quest novel) that sustains when in the midst of such journeys. Really, really fun read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to live next door to this book store. Really i want to work there, read there, maybe even get locked in there every once in awhile. I mean if it weren't a 24hour book store.
LordVader More than 1 year ago
Once it's out in paperback it will make an excellent present. I would explain just exactly what I liked about the storyline and how it progressed, plus the character development, but that would be a spoiler not unlike finding out about the end of the Sixth Sense before seeing the movie.
BlackieKP More than 1 year ago
This was a fun book to read for a book lover such as myself. Also a good light read for someone into technology. It is fun to see the two worlds at odds and then come together to solve the mystery. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Watertrine More than 1 year ago
Having worked in printing and publishing when it was "hot press" and then "cold press" this book was especially interesting to me. I remember trays and trays of little letters being set by hand in our print shop. And loving computers and technology in general, the book has "feet" in both worlds/both times. While parts seemed pure fiction, I was surprised to find, after research, that many of those parts are fact. It's a fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good read... and at the ending the epilogue wrapped everything up nicely, which I think should be in every book. I'm not spoiling anything, so I'm telling you right now: read this, you won't be disappointed. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was fun, unusual, with a good mystery to solve and interesting local SF Bay Area characters. A fast fun read.
Mikadoo More than 1 year ago
This was a totally fun read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I not only want to re-read this book, I want to live it. At the very least, I want to live in Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Techies on a romp, pretty fun, light reading, high tech combined with ancient text.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun to read. Not terribly engaging at first. Nice message at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Contemporary writing style that combines old world books and modern technology with puzzles and suspense. Hard to put down. My 13 yr old son is also really enjoying this book. Recommend you get this one!!
Rose_of_Turbansk More than 1 year ago
I like a good mystery as well as the next person, but does every single facet of it have to be solved with computers? Where is the creativity here? So disappointed in this book, I want to like it but it just wasn't happening for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An Excellent Read
Drewano 4 months ago
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore”. The story is interesting, it develops slowly but it’s a fun ride that keeps you guessing. At one point I thought I had figured it out, then right before the big reveal I thought I had it for sure, but I was wrong again. The best part about the story is the main character, Clay. He’s likable, interesting and has a unique sense of humor I found great. I think the fact that he and the author and I are close in age helps but his narration of the story really drew me in. I hope there’s another story with him!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
&quot;What do you seek in these shelves?&quot; Ajax Penumbra My first thoughts after finishing, &quot;I want Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore to be real.&quot; This book had been languishing on my shelves for awhile. We purchased it during a buy 2, get 1 free paperback deal at Barnes and Noble. We had two books, needed a third when my husband grabbed &quot;Mr. Penumbra&quot; off the table and said, &quot;This sounds like one you would read.&quot; I took the opportunity to listen to the audiobook (thanks to my library) and finish it by reading the physical copy I owned. On my Friday commute, I left the book at somewhat of a cliffhanger and just felt I couldn't wait until Monday to finish it. The book is about one recent college grad's quest for purpose and meaning in his life. He finds it in Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore in the most unconventional way. As a person who has often wondered what my purpose is in life, I enjoyed Clay's journey. The story was full of geek and bookish references that had me reading passages out loud to my husband and marking up my physical copy with post-it flags. &quot;Penumbra sells used books, and they are in such excellent condition that they might as well be new. He buys them during the day&mdash;you can only sell to the man with his name on the windows&mdash;and he must be a tough customer. He doesn't seem to pay much attention to the bestseller lists. His inventory is eclectic; there's no evidence of pattern or purpose, other than, I suppose, his own personal taste. So, no teenage wizards or vampire police here.&quot; Clay Jannon The narration of the audiobook was well done. Ari Fliakos had different voices for all the crazy characters Clay encounters. He captured Clay's internal monologues in a way that was reminiscent of J.D. from Scrubs . Ari's voice brought Sloan's words to life and made the Bookstore and its frequent visitors real for the few short weeks I was listening to the novel. &quot;I've never listened to an audiobook before, I have to say, it's a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes...&quot; Clay Jannon If you are a book lover, a seeker of the meaning of life or a fan of mysteries, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore should be on your to-read list. It's a lighthearted mystery about friendships and the quest of immortality. This review was originally posted on Second Run Reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PriPri More than 1 year ago
This was just lovely! I loved the characters, the pacing of the story. I was tempted to race through it, but I didn't feel like I HAD to just to get to the end.  I loved the mystery of the whole story; it was intriguing and kept me interested without being overdone. I enjoyed going on the adventure with Clay. It was fun meeting his new friends and allies and seeing him rely on allies from his past (and present). I was a bit disappointed in Kate and how quickly she changed once she got what she wanted.  And I hated how cold and sort of rigid--or disbelieving she was once the truth of the puzzle was revealed, even though it was right there in black in white for all to see. And it was almost as if she was jealous that Clay figured it out without her technology--without her!  I was hurt on Clay's behalf by her treatment of him. But what I loved most was Clay's loyalty to Penumbra and solving the puzzle. And that after all the help, the technology and gadgets, he was able to solve it without his huge group of helpers, all on his own and very simply. I've seen where some people were upset with the ending, or the revelation of the mystery was underwhelming. I thought the simplicity of it all was what made it so perfect, so wonderful.  After all that work, reading, scheming, programming, cumputing, etc., the answer was simple and immortality was achieved in a way.