Book 185: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

Sloan, Robin - Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreYes! Yes! Yes! If I were ever going to work in/own a bookstore I would want it to be like this!

This is like The Da Vinci Code or some other better written mystery/thriller for book readers and bibliophiles! I definitely need to purchase a copy to add to my permanent shelf. I’m not sure where I came across this book or why I decided to read it, but I’m glad I did and I’m glad I requested it from the library.

There’s so much to talk about I don’t really know where to begin. I want to talk about the secret society, the awesome pop culture and technology references, the hilariously quirky minor characters, the ending, and the bookstore itself among other things. Not to mention that it was a fast and entertaining read. I loved Clay, the protagonist, and all of his friends and people he interacted with made the story that much richer. Throw in the art and culture, museums and games (D&D spin off) and fantasy novels and classics and it’s like a nerd-gasm.

What I think I appreciated most was that this book is current and relevant. It sparks a conversation about books and their future and how we can use the technology that is here and how we can use developing technology to keep producing books and sharing the stories they tell. And what makes this book even more fun to read is that he takes them to the extremes and really exaggerates the arguments which is what I loved. On one hand you’ve got this old school secret society, the Unbroken Spine, and on the other hand you’ve got the crazy hip technology youth of Silicon Valley and needless to say it’s a great mix!

The only negative I have, which isn’t actually a negative, is that the book was too short! I wanted to keep reading; I wanted it drawn out a bit more; and I wanted to get to know other characters! I mean it’s a major bonus the book wasn’t filled with too much description or too much dialogue, but at the same time I wanted to know more about the various characters!

I can definitely see this book being a great book-group book because of the awesome conversations it would spark about the merging of technologies (old and new) and secret societies and generational gaps and differences. There is so much to talk about and this book is just under 250 pages, plus it’s a light fun read.

Recommendation: DEFINITELY read this! I feel most everyone could enjoy this book. It’s quick, it’s witty and it’s approachable. Even though there are quite a few dense topics touched upon I feel like they’re touched upon in such a way that you don’t have to know everything about them to even appreciate their use in this novel.

Opening Line: “Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.”

Closing Line: “A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at the right time.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
“Penumbra sells used books, and they are in such uniformly excellent condition that they might as well be new. He buys them during the day—you can only sell to the man with his name on the windows—and he must be a tough customer. He doesn’t seem to pay much attention to the bestseller lists. His inventory is eclectic; there’s no evidence of pattern or purpose other than, I suppose, his own personal taste. That’s a shame, because this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.” (12)

“I don’t believe the immortality part, but I do know the feeling that Penumbra is talking about. Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines—it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits. That’s just a feeling, not a fact, but remember (I repeat): people believe weirder things than this.” (147)

“I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say, it’s a totally different experience. 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…” (235-6)

“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. It takes forty-one seconds to climb a ladder three stories tall. It is not easy to imagine the year 3012, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We have new capabilities now—strange powers we’re still getting used to. The mountains are a message from Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.” (288)


16 thoughts on “Book 185: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan”

      1. No you did a great job of avoiding spoilers. I just finished it and I’m so glad I was able to read it. I saw it on a table in this fabulous bookstore that just opened in Tampa a month or two back and it called out to me from the table. I had a vague understanding of the plot but couldn’t get it out of my mind. What a great adventure 🙂 I already want to read it again.


  1. I added this to my goodreads to read shelf back in December. Glad to hear you give it such a glowing recommendation…I may have to move it up and read it sooner rather than later!


  2. I’ve had this on my TBR list for awhile and I’m glad all the initial hype surrounding the book wasn’t misplaced! I hate it when books that sound really good let me down. Luckily this doesn’t sound like one of those cases! 🙂


    1. Somehow I hadn’t heard much about it, but I still knew I needed to read it. It was a quick read and although it wasn’t as awesome as it could have been, for a first novel it was pretty damn good!


  3. There seem to be very mixed reactions to this book. Some readers like yiu loved it, others thought I was too slight. I haven’t read it so can’t judge but am leaning to it just because its about my favourite kind of shop.


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