Diane's Reviews > Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
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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 years.

Besides the secret society, the novel also features a book-within-a-book plot involving a beloved fantasy series, a mythical font designer, Clay's flirtation with a quirky girl named Kat, and some colorful friends, including guys who create props and special effects for movie studios. The writing was cute and fast-paced, and overall this was a light, entertaining novel that made for a good vacation read. Readers who like bookish mysteries will probably enjoy Mr. Penumbra's.

Sidenote: I took this book on a recent trip to San Francisco, and because I had a hardcover copy, I had removed the jacket to protect it from wear and tear. I hadn't looked at the author's photograph, so when I started reading the book, I saw the author's first name, Robin, and mistakenly assumed it was a woman. It wasn't until I got home and looked at the jacket that I noticed Robin was a man. As I reflected on my reading, I realized there were a few story points that I thought had been odd for a woman to write. (For example, one of Clay's friends designed computer software to depict women's breasts, and there were several boob jokes in the novel.) It made me wonder how often readers make assumptions about an author based on gender without even realizing we're doing it.

Favorite Quotes
"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."

"This girl has the spark of life. This is my primary filter for new friends (girl- and otherwise) and the highest compliment I can pay."

"The buzz about Google these days is that it's like America itself: still the biggest game in town, but inevitably and irrevocably on the decline. Both are superpowers with unmatched resources, but both are faced with fast-growing rivals, and both will eventually be eclipsed. For America, that rival is China. For Google, it's Facebook."

"Old books are a big problem for us. Old knowledge in general. We call it OK. Old Knowledge, OK. Did you know that ninety-five percent of the internet was only created in the last five years? But we know that when it comes to all human knowledge, the ratio is just the opposite — in fact, OK accounts for most things that most people know, and have ever known."

"This is one of the things you learn at Google. Stuff that used to be hard ... just isn't hard anymore."

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

September 10, 2012 – Shelved
March 13, 2017 – Started Reading
March 17, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Eryn We're listening to this right now as we drive to Denver for a quick trip!


Diane Hi Eryn, that sounds like a fun audiobook for a road trip. I look forward to hearing what you think!


Morgannah I loved this book. Mr. Sloan has a short story set in the same world that was really good too. I can't remember the title and am too lazy to look it up!


Diane Hi Morgannah, I'll look it up. Thanks for the rec!


Margitte Enjoyed the book and love your thoughts on it, Diane. It was something different.


message 6: by DeB (new) - rated it 3 stars

DeB MaRtEnS The young techie book bunch loved this novel - definitely a "just right" fun book for them! I love your review!


Diane Thanks, Margitte!


Diane Thanks, DeB!


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