Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Book - 2012 | 1st ed.
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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: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780374214913
0374214913
Branch Call Number: FICTION
Characteristics: 288 p. ;,22 cm.

Opinion

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List - Best Reads 2013
robertafsmith Feb 11, 2013

When you've done a lot of reading, it is a real joy to get stuck into a book that is just that bit different but remains accessible. I thoroughly enjoyed this story with its fluorescent cover. It is about books, it is about secret societies and it is about very very bright young things. Give it a... Read More »

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ChristchurchLib Dec 17, 2012

"After he's laid off from his marketing job at a bagel company, Clay Jannon walks the streets of San Francisco, looking for jobs. He finds one at a narrow but incredibly tall bookstore (ability to climb a ladder is one of the prerequisites) that's open around the clock; as the new kid, Clay ... Read More »


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n
nita22
Oct 03, 2017

I found the beginning very promising but lost interest when they entered the secret part of the book store. I wasn't expecting a fantasy book. Oh well...

j
jkilling
Oct 02, 2017

I was going to write a review, but I agree with Issachar 100%. Ending was a bit ...ATALHEA (and they all lived happily etc) but came away from it with a genuinely good feeling. I enjoyed the characters and the premise and I look forward to reading more from this authour.

i
isaachar
Sep 11, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour book store was a fun little story about a guy named Jannon. He's an out of work techie who gets a graveyard shift job in a mysterious San Francisco book store during the onset of the great recession. A strange place with hardly any new books for sale but with group of patrons who borrow older books kept in the 'wayback' area. With help from his more successful techie and artist friends, Jannon slowly realizes he has fallen in with a book cult. Not the 'creepy sacrificial' -type, but more of an 'eccentric and introverted' kind of cult. Even stranger, they're trying to solve a centuries old mystery which his modern eyes may be able to piece together. This is probably the most 'fun' book I've recently read that didn't have any sort of serious drama or violence or impending doom. The big reveal at the end was a bit disappointing, but the overall ending was really enjoyable. I could easily see this getting made into a family-friendly PG movie.

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lettheheelingbegin
Sep 06, 2017

I wanted to like this book and did at first. It's clever and a little flashy and original. The main drawback for me, however, was that I never came to care about any of the characters. They marched capably through the plot's ins and outs as undeveloped beings which, after 130 pages or so, no longer interested me. Interesting to see the other very positive reviews.

s
Sierrachick07
Aug 25, 2017

I absolutely loved this book! The experience also definitely made me smarter and expanded my vocabulary. But, more importantly, the book was incredibly engaging and interesting. I found it hard to put down. I originally picked it up as a book off a suggested reading list. The book exceeded my expectations by a mile. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good laugh, as well as those looking for an extraordinary adventure.

TSCPL_LissaS Aug 17, 2017

THIS: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.

“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.”
― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

“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.”
― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

“After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:
A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”
― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

SCL_Justin Jul 25, 2017

There are a great many things to love about Robin Sloan’s novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. A great many things. What I love best about it is how perfectly of its time it feels. It’s a book I can use to say “this was 2012.”

The narrator of the tale is a designer who can’t get work because of the economy, and takes a job as the night clerk in a 24-hour bookstore. It’s a weird bookstore though, with three storeys of tomes (and to the delight of library-nerds rolling ladders for access) in the back which are arranged in no clear order and have eccentric people coming to trade for them. And these eccentric folk must be kept track of and observed, written about in the log for each shift. So yes, there is the old and odd to this story.

And then a woman who works at Google walks in (the bookstore is in San Francisco) and the story becomes this beautiful melding of all that old weird stuff with data-visualization schemes and parallel processing power to break codes and dreams of the Singularity. Plus of course the digitization of books.

Put it together with a fantasy novel overlay, that has our narrator using the D&D character name of his best friend since they were 12 when he needs him to really do something and I’m in heaven.

It’s about the intersection of these worlds of tradition and innovation, design and shortcuts that make it amazing. If you liked Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, there are echoes here, but it’s mostly in the shared nerd culture aspects. It’s a much less heavy tale. The narrator doesn’t take all the robes and mumbo-jumbo or the Googlarchy so seriously as anyone in The Magicians would. It’s more like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

It was a quick read. It didn’t change the way I thought about the deep mysteries of life. But it was so enjoyable.

g
GLNovak
Jun 23, 2017

This was a fun read for me. I just loved the narrator who seemed to be just going along through the story for the ride as much as anything (even though he did carry out some key missions). The concept of books full of code that members of a secret group must decode one by one and in sequence to finally get to the ultimate volume in which lies the secret of immortality appeals to those who like the fantasy puzzle. I usually don't but because the narrator was so engaging for me, and the concept of books versus computers has always intrigued, I carried on reading. Quick and easy to read, with an ending that you might be able to guess before the finale.

romance_nerd Jun 23, 2017

Such a great book with tons of literary references. This book was a bit of an oddball, but in all the best ways. Recommended for anyone who loves books about books and doesn't mind going along for the ride.

MelifluousView May 02, 2017

I enjoyed the voice of the narrator, but I felt like the pace was too slow in the beginning. Once the story picked up, I was engaged and had fun.

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Quotes

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s
Sierrachick07
Aug 25, 2017

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

s
Sierrachick07
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

s
Sierrachick07
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

k
kn1226
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.

s
SlotFather
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.

s
SlotFather
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.

s
sdcarter
Mar 01, 2014

"...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."

s
sammier
Jan 23, 2014

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

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Age Suitability

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s
Sierrachick07
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

b
BlueBee1560
Apr 19, 2013

BlueBee1560 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Summary

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l
LibraryUser53
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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