Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was written by Robin Sloan and published in 2012.


Set in San Francisco, unemployed twenty-something, Clay Jannon, finds work in a mysterious bookstore that rarely sells books and checks out encrypted texts to its members. With the help of friends at Google and in the startup community, Clay tries to unravel the mystery of the bookstore using data visualizations, natural language processing, and crowdsourcing.

Reasons to Read

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore crosses two communities. Techie people and startup hanger-ons will like this book for it’s name dropping and in jokes. Librarians, archivists, curators and bibliophiles will like this book for it’s grounding in that world. Digital humanists will be beside themselves.

Other reasons to read: You like mysteries. You’re a bit of geek. You read Tolkien before it was cool. You’re in the mood for something light and easily consumable. You’re into font. Secret societies make you tingle.

Reasons to Skip

You want to read something intellectually stimulating and challenging. Things like Twitter, Google, and startups annoy you. You dislike epilogues that neatly wrap up every character’s life.

You Might Also Like

Ready Player One, Apology for AutumnHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldHouse of Leaves, Gould’s Book of Fish.

What to Wear While Reading

Cotton gloves, American Apparel hoodie, ironic pop culture T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of Converse.

Food and Drink Pairing

Blue Screen of Death with flashing LED and Kale chips.

If Haruki Murakami Wrote This Book

It’d be set in Tokyo. There would be cats other than the love interest, Kat Potente, and she would have some small deformity that the narrator finds utterly charming, a mole shaped like the starship Enterprise, fingers that are shorter on one hand, or the ability to communicate telepathically with computers.

Tim Lepczyk

Writer, Technologist, and Librarian.

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