Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux October 2012
From the library
I have committed the most terrible sin of book bloggers. I finished this book back in October, according to my handy dandy Goodreads account. I took some notes and then I thought I would sit and ruminate. Well, it's four months later and I don't remember this book quite as well as one might hope. That being said, I'm just going to throw out a few things I do remember because you've probably read the book by now anyway!
Clay Jannon has lost his job as a designer and media guru for a bagel company. He wanders the streets of San Francisco looking for work when he spots an ad in a window. He enters the store and has his first meeting with Mr. Penumbra, proprietor of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. Clay is hired as the night clerk and settles in for some long, quiet nights. But he quickly realizes that there are only a few popular books and most of the books are unheard of titles borrowed by mysterious regular patrons. What is the real story at this bookstore?
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore might best be described as a zany romp. It begins in a place that is familiar to many of us – a dark, dusty, second-hand bookstore. “The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest – not a friendly California forest either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach. There were ladders that clung to the shelves and rolled side to side. Usually those seem charming, but here, stretching up into the gloom, they were ominous. They whispered rumors of accidents in the dark.” Just when you might start to feel comfortable, Mr. Sloan whisks you off to the inner sanctum of Google and an underground meeting place for a secretive group of bibliophiles.
This book is fun – a lot of fun – and it doesn't take itself too seriously. In spite of that, it manages to bring up some important questions about our seemingly polarized book culture. How does a book lover appreciate both a Kindle and an antique hardcover? Is there a place for the old and the new?
Sloan writes characters who are smart and recognize their own intelligence. This book feels like a smart author writing intelligently about smart people and relevant issues. His characters are young entrepreneurs, computer programmers, and artists. They learn quickly and always banter with wit. Kat Potente, Clay’s lady love, says, “This is going to sound strange, especially because we just met. But I know I’m smart.”
“That’s definitely true –“
“And I think you’re smart too. So why does that have to end? We could accomplish so much if we just had more time.”
So, to bring some sort of conclusion to my four month old ramblings...If you love books about books and a fun story and you somehow haven't read this one yet, get thee to the library and give it a whirl!