Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.”
― Robin Sloan,
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Book Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Publication Date: 2012
Genres: Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Secret Societies, Techy Books
How I Found It: Book Club Book of the Month
Goodreads Rating: 3.77 Stars 
My Rating: 3 Stars

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

This book is the third book I read in a week. What that means is school is definitely out and my brain wants to do nothing but devour books. Yesterday (or maybe two days ago?) I wrote a review on Little Bee. This book is the exact opposite of that book.

This book is not heavy and it is not introspective. Rather, it is plot driven and captivating enough to read in 24 hours (even if I wasn’t on a Book Club time crunch!). It is definitely a light book, and really, really nerdy. I’m not talking about liking Star Wars nerdy; I’m talking computer nerdy. This book also involves a secret society that is formed around the most ancient of published books, and it is the plot of the story that really carries this book forward. After reading Little Bee, I was ready for something action driven without a lot of thinking, and this book fit that description.

My favorite thing about this novel was the way that Clay surrounded himself with really intelligent, really resourceful people. The relationships he has in the books do not take center focus, but I think that his friendships and connections are really an important feature. His friends would literally do anything for him, including write large checks to help get things funded or travel across the country with him simply because he asks. In the end, Clay draws on his friends strengths to discover his own and makes things happen with his friends by his side. His friendships are not the main focus in the book, but they could be. Really, they should be. They are the best part of the book.

Is it something I want to have on my shelves forever? Probably not. (Although, it does have a glow in the dark cover!) But if you are looking for something fun and light and featuring really smart people, this is a good book to check out.

“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”
 “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.”
 “Let me give you some advice: make friends with a millionaire when he’s a friendless sixth-grader.”

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