Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Oh, you guys, this is the best book. If all the Atlas Shrugged has been crushing your faith in books and humanity, I recommend that you read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan as a palate cleanser.

The main character, Clay, is  San Francisco Web designer who gets downsized out of his job after the economy tanks and ends up working at a bookstore. As if the idea of a store selling actual paper books isn’t weird enough these days, this store is open 24 hours a day and seems to have a very odd clientele. Clay starts investigating and, with the help of his friends, figures out that there is quite a bit more going on in this bookstore. I don’t want to give much more away, but the story involves Google, and hipsters, and medieval mysteries, and is just completely charming.

I’ve raved on this site about The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and in a lot of ways this book feels similar–it’s very much of the present-day, with lots of pop culture references and discussions of Gen X issues about the meaning of life and career and purpose and such. But The Magicians, and a lot of books like it, are so dark. I loved The Magicians, but reading it was a wrenching experience. This book manages to address of a lot of the same issues without being heavy or depressing. It’s a quick read that will leave you feeling good about people and books and the world in general. Who doesn’t need that occasionally?

Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Fun, modern mystery.

You might also like: PopCo, or Neverwhere, or even So You Want to Be a Wizard, although Mr. Penumbra is lighter than any of those.

10 comments on “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

  1. Rebecca says:

    This sounds awesome. I want a light-hearted mystery around a 24-hour bookstore. I also want a 24-hour bookstore, of course, but I’ll settle for the mystery set in one. It is going on my to-read list as soon as I finish Atlas Shrugged.

  2. Anna says:

    Oh, man, I need this book right now! I feel like I can really relate to a laid-off gen-x-er who is trying to make sense of career paths.

  3. I’m so glad to hear you loved this! I’ve been on the holds list at the library forEVER and was worrying it might not live up to the hype…

  4. Anna says:

    I just finished it! So, I want to revise my above comment a little bit: this book is perhaps a bit more stressful to read if you are in fact currently unemployed and job hunting, so I found the beginning not quite as feel-good as I’d hoped. I wasn’t totally sold on the book until I got to about the last 100 pages, and then all the set-up started to really pay out and I was completely immersed. The end was so rewarding that it made up for all earlier stress and I can totally understand the raving reviews it is getting!

    • Kinsey says:

      Ooh, yeah. I can see how that would be an issue. But I”m glad you liked it eventually! And it wasn’t Atlas Shrugged.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I just finished it! I really liked it. It was a slow start, but the end was worth it.

    It also reminded me of The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman, another modern mystery about books, authors and the importance of stories.

  6. […] reminded me a bit of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore but better. It’s unclear for a significant portion of the book whether or not there’s a […]

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