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cover image from goodreads.com

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 bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

(Story synopsis from goodreads.com)

So I think at this point, it’s pretty safe to say that my reading list seems to be a couple of years behind the lists that keep coming out of what we should be currently reading. So I’m sure many of you have already read some of the books that I’ve recently been reviewing such as CatalystTwisted, and now Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan has been on my to read list for a while. (I’ve even had it pinned on my “Books Worth Reading” board on Pinterest.) To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I just thought that it sounded interesting, and I am very glad that I did end up reading this novel. (In fact, I read this novel on my Kindle, which I though was very appropriate for this book.)

I think the most interesting part of this novel was how Sloan was able to combine the love of reading and bookstores with the world of technology. As many of us might know, there has been an on-going debate over e-books and real books. To be honest, I fall somewhere in between…I enjoy having my real books, and I of course love the smell of new books, but I also like the convenience of the e-books. I tend to buy real books that are for my books club and the classes that I teach, but when I’m on the go and I don’t have another book to read, the accessibility and the ease with which I can buy an e-book.

But I digress…

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not my typical type of book, but I truly enjoyed reading it. Clay, one evening, finds himself happening upon Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after he has lost his job with a small start-up company. Clay didn’t really see himself working at the bookstore, but before he knows it…he is the overnight clerk for a bookstore that never closes. Clay soon realizes that the bookstore and Mr. Penumbra himself are not what they appear. From the quirky customers who don’t actually buy anything, to the indecipherable books in the “Wayback” area, Clay soon becomes involved in a mystery as old as the first printing company.

Sloan has created a fascinating mystery that looks at the progression of technology and some people’s hesitation to leave behind how things have always been. As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed how Sloan was able to meld the worlds of technology and book lovers. I do think the only thing I didn’t enjoy was the “relationship” between Clay and Kat, a higher-level Google employee. The relationship to me wasn’t believable and seemed almost as an afterthought even though Kat was an essential part to moving the story, and the solving of the mystery. I think that would be the only reason that for me, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore did not receive a 5-star rating.

What I also discovered after reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, is that Robin Sloan has written a short story, Ajax Penumbra 1969, which shows how Mr. Penumbra became initially involved in the mystery. (Thanks Amazon for your post-reading recommendations.)