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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore #1)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  126,292 Ratings  ·  20,026 Reviews
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Sheila It just occurred to me that Clay's leap was, in actuality, a flash of "intuition" - a purely human trait, something that a computer doesn't have. He…moreIt just occurred to me that Clay's leap was, in actuality, a flash of "intuition" - a purely human trait, something that a computer doesn't have. He took a bunch of loose associations and, in a moment of inspiration, was able to bring them together in his head.

I'm not saying it's logical, but it seems to tie in with the point Sloan is trying to make. (less)

Community Reviews

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of those books that appears to have the perfect blend of ingredients for something brilliant. It's a mystery/adventure set in San Francisco, revolving around an out-of-work marketeer and web designer who takes a job as a clerk at the odd little bookshop of the title. He soon realises that there is more to Mr. Penumbra's than meets the eye, and together with a group of his friends, he embarks on a mission to get to the bottom of the shop's real purpose. Wha ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Libby rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2012
Meh - 1.5 stars because the plot was interesting enough that I finished the book and there were some funny moments. While Mr. Sloan is imaginative and quick witted it does not make up for poor writing and boring characters. The book is just bad first person narrative. This would be an acceptable as a Syfy Saturday movie but not for a novel.For example "It's early in the morning. We came straight from the airport. Neel visits Manhattan all the time for business and I used to take the train down f ...more
suuuuper fun!

this book is going to sell like gangbusters when it comes out in october. mostly because each and every one of you reading this review are going out and getting yourselves a copy. this is a command.

you like books, right? yes, you do, because you are a member of goodreads. and this book is about books! and puzzles! and adventure! there's not a whole lot that's better than is shades of Salamander and The Grand Complication: A Novel and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler and T
Jun 09, 2012 Greg rated it it was amazing
I am so happy that we happened to be walking past the booth were Robin Sloan was signing, and someone was holding up a copy of the attractive ARC trying to lure people onto the line (which I now see the cover has been added to the book on goodreads, the book looks better than the picture suggests). This is good and I'm thinking if the world has any fairness at all this will be a fairly good selling book this fall.

In a perfect world this would go blasting up the sales charts and topple the Fifty
Forgive me, people, this review will be all gushing!

This book charmed me from the very beginning -- with fresh internal monologues, from Clay Jannon, a recent unemployed young man, who just lost his first job out of art school... Then he walks into a bookstore (OMG BOOKSTORE!!) and he climbs the ladder, and I'm in love.

How could I not?

This book is a love letter for books, bibliophiles, but also for technology. We know that the world of books, publishings, and reading have changed in the recen
Jun 13, 2013 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
HOLY MOLY, BATMAN, EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS. I am actually so excited to write this review... I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO SAY!

Because I have so many thoughts, let's do this bullet-point style.

- This story was so positive and mood-uplifting! Geez. I never felt that horrible dread you feel sometimes when you're reading: that loss of faith with the author where you ask the horrible question "Is the author going to screw this all up?" All throughout reading the book there were moments where I felt the
Jun 17, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mark by: Richard Derus
I have just lost the will to live. Have spent two hours writing a review of this brilliant book and then saved it but somehow Goodreads managed to lose it . Will probably kill someone if i sit here any longer so am off to the gym to do something sweaty, noisy and pointless and maybe will try again later. Very f***ing annoyed. Bye for now....................its a brilliant book by the way. I hate the 21st Century sometimes

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

'All t
Authors are magicians. I was in the early pages of Mr. Penumbra when I realized that Sloan was sneaking in a major chain of events in only a few short paragraphs with the intention of moving the story to where he needed it. It was the authorial equivalent of "look, nothing up my sleeve" in preparation of a hat trick. Rather than irritation from this momentary flap of curtain or glimpse of rabbit ear, I was rather captivated.

Thinking back on books I've loved or hated, it occurs to me that in that
May 23, 2013 Felicia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Well, I can't say I've been charmed by a book more in a while, and jealous I didn't write it. This is a totally hipster book that rings all my bells, I feel like it sort of summarizes the zeitgeist of our internet generation, the gap between old and new.

Basically the main character, Clay, is unemployed tech guy, gets a job in a run-down bookstore that has a mysterious agenda that he can't help but get roped into. I'm a sucker for secret societies, and there's a touch of Amelie whimsey that is ri
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is the debut novel by Robin Sloan, and a publishing sensation - it was Amazon's Best Book of the Month in October 2012, and received a lot of attention and praise from reviewers, authors and readers. No wonder - who wouldn't want a 24-hour book store?

The novel aspires to be classified as a "literary mystery", or an "intelligent thriller" - both labels are somewhat insulting by suggesting that mysteries and thrillers are by default a lower tier of literature, and
Richard Derus
Oct 24, 2012 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.9* of five

The Book Description: 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 a
Nov 25, 2012 Ben rated it did not like it
Ugh, not recommended. I considered stopping reading several times, but it was such a quick read that I just sped on through.

The novel made a dramatization of numerous topics that I do feel like I have a bit of expertise around - San Francisco, Googlers, data visualization, encryption - and the book's representation came off as a shallow, borderline painful overt dramatization. It seemed ridiculous. I know little of the author's background, but the novel itself gave the impression of too strong a
Jan 17, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it
Should probably be two stars, but I feel mean and petty today. Sorry, Mr. Sloan.

It all just seemed so...amateur. I feel kind of pretentious saying that, which makes me sad, because there's nothing I hate more than pretentious book reviews. It's just a mess of worn-out tropes and utterly unoriginal characters. Mysterious dusty bookshops and peculiar old men. I think Sloan tried to revamp that old line with some "hip" new technology stuff, but he just failed miserably. He almost made me hate Goog
Nov 25, 2013 Ginny rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, library-book
A mysterious old bookstore with some kind of secret society to be infiltrated and unraveled? Cool! Except, alas, here we have a fun premise ruined by bullshit nerdbro execution.

1. An everyman nerd protagonist with no personality beyond a degree in design and deep knowledge of the internet whose main development is his realization he has talented friends who are more interesting than he is. Congrats?

2. A best friend whose company does boob physics for video games and whose major contribution to d
Darth J
Apr 11, 2014 Darth J rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars

Oh, so much of this book is exactly what I wanted.

There was first an old and dusty bookstore.

With an old and whimsical caretaker.

And a prophecy surrounding a secret cult of black robe wearing bibliophiles, written in code form.

Did I mention that this secret cult meets in an underground library? The entrance is a fricken' swiveling bookcase!

Hell, even the characters have interesting names such as Kat Potente, Corvina, and Ajax Penumbra.

There's even a bit about google and coding which re
Jun 16, 2012 Janet rated it it was amazing
This is not a review, it's a love letter.

I adored this book. Why? It had a likeable narrator in Clay Jannon, a mysterious bookshop, romance, puzzles, secret societies, a San Francisco locale (with side trips to New York), and a sly sense of humor. The theme of Old Knowledge (books) vs. Internet knowledge gave the author the chance to slip in scenes at Google, a museum dedicated to knitting overrun by first graders, information about fonts, a character who made his fortune creating realistic 3-D
Mar 06, 2013 Priscilla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Initial thoughts:

1. Loved Clay. He is wonderfully funny, and geeky. His journey throughout the story was fantastic.
2. Loved the combination of new and traditional, young and old. Seeing ideas, and characters that are different and opposite come together.
3. Lot's of wonderfully geeky elements. Design, typography, technology, books, and other very nerdy things. It was AMAZING.
4. I really liked and appreciated how the characters and the story was grounded in reality. There are a lot of elements tha
Nov 15, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it
This review originally appeared on my blog, Shoulda, Coulda Woulda Books.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour-Bookstore is a book with a perfectly charming premise and a number of flaws. The premise, is, of course, what landed it on my to-read list nearly two years ago, and, I’d imagine, the list of many another bibliophile. The book centers on the new night-shift employee at a 24-Hour-Bookstore in San Francisco, who has taken the job after being laid off from his tech-start up in the Great Recession of the l
Mar 17, 2017 Diane rated it liked it
This was a fun techno-bookish-mystery. It follows a web designer named Clay who loses his job due to the Great Recession, but he finds work as the overnight clerk in a 24-hour bookstore in San Francisco called Mr. Penumbra's. Clay notices some odd patrons at the store, and he's intrigued by the strange old books that are stocked there. Soon he's trying to solve the bookish mystery with the help of a friend who works at Google, and they get entangled in a secret society that goes back hundreds of ...more

I didn't read any reviews or even the synopsis for this - I bought it on a whim because I liked the cover and title. That'll teach me to be wild and spontaneous. No more bonkers book buying for me, I've learnt my lesson.

I thought Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore would be a charming, quaint and lovely tale about an old bookshop that's open all night and visited by bookworms, lonely night-owls and other oddball characters. I thought a jobless-down-on-their-luck-underdog type character woul
Melissa Rochelle
Jun 12, 2012 Melissa Rochelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-2012
August 2012: (First, I never read the short story because by the time I discovered it I already knew it was a novel so I didn't want to ruin anything for know, just in case. Now that I've finished the book, I'll read the story.)

The book -- AMAZING. I loved it. Really. It's chock-full of bibliophile goodness. This is up there with Ready Player One geeky goodness.

Clay finds himself unemployed (like many these days) and one day stumbles into a quirky bookstore looking for a late-night
Jun 20, 2012 Nick rated it it was amazing
[I was sent an arc by FSG.]

I love this book. It's like sitting in the sunlight drinking cold white wine while a sexy person rubs your feet with cinnamon oil and another sexy person messes tunefully acoustic guitar. And while this is happening, you realise: damn, I look good.

Why do I love it? Well, it's a good-hearted, optimistic book about friendship and being alive and the lure of the mysterious. It's a book which shows you Google the way Google sees itself, and bookshops the way bookshops ough
Aug 29, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, humor
What an engaging mystery, set in a fantastical book store three stories high--with no stairs, just ladders! It is written in the first person, from the point of view of a young clerk, Clay Jannon, who was hired for the graveyard shift. He was ordered to stay in the store, to write in a logbook a description of each customer, and not to look in the books they bought!

There are no murders in the story; the mystery is what on earth is going on with these creepy customers and crazy bookstore? Is it a
Lois Bujold
Oct 15, 2013 Lois Bujold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pretty much anyone
Recommended to Lois by: various internet reviews

Good first-person voice, and through it, characterization. The narrator/protagonist has a head I enjoyed spending time in.

This is a book both from the 21st century, and that delights in the 21st century, an incredibly welcome change from all the grimdark political dystopias out there at present.

They sly explorations of the differences between a map and a territory, analog and digital, reality and its representations, (not to mention the past, the present, and the future, tho' I am reminded that
Oct 12, 2012 Rachel rated it did not like it
What started out as an engaging novel about a charismatic bookstore became a nearly 300-page ode to Google and Millenial entitlement. Google was really the main character here. The Google butt-kissing started early, and served to make it so that I never once found Kat appealing or endearing. In fact, I felt that she was just a big, whiny child playing with shiny toys and having a temper tantrum when the things around her didn't go exactly her way. She basically represents everything about my gen ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
A charming, quietly amusing book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is the literary equivalent of a congratulatory pat on the back in recognition of loving books. "Oh, you read? Well, good for you!" It's a book designed to make the bibliophile break out into a near terminal case of the warm fuzzies, overcome with a sudden desire to break out a blanket, brew a pot of tea or coffee, and settle into a comfortable chair for a day of hardcore reading until--oh, wait!--I'm already doing all of that! Si ...more
A bookstore filled with books nobody really reads; a clerk who lost his web design job due to the recession; ancient old codes hidden in a font; and modern geeky youngsters taking up the challenge to decipher it all. Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore is not what it looks like at all !

This is an escapist adventure with a reality component that is driving the adventure at an astonishing speed up and down history and 'futurisms'.

It's archaeology with a twist. It is the future with a big pinch of sa
Hailey (HaileyInBookland)
A really unique and cool book! I don't really know what to rate it to be honest because there were a lot of things I liked but also some things I didn't, and I just wasn't blown away!
Liz* Fashionably Late
Un-recommended by Lau & Marina.

"I have no idea. I’d probably just google it."
- this book, basically.

I won't make this too long because some friends really like this book and I think it was maybe the wrong time to read it (I just finished The Final Empire by Sanderson).

I'm not sure what happened. The first chapters were so good. The premise was okay and the spooky feeling I had in the first chapters, the mystery behind a bookstore, old people reading large books in order to break some code
Clay Jannon is a 26 year old who finds himself looking for a new job thanks to the economic meltdown. He finds it at Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, working the late shift. But Clay soon finds out that there is more to this bookstore than the question of how it is possible it remains in business. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore will take you on a literary adventure of complex codes and a global conspiracy.

This will be a hard book to review without giving away any spoilers but I will try my best
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Robin Sloan grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between San Francisco and the internet. He graduated from Michigan State with a degree in economics and, from 2002 to 2012, worked at Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is his first novel. You can learn more at and follow along at @robinsloan.
More about Robin Sloan...

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“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.” 508 likes
“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.”
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