Mr.Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore, Robin Sloan

The bookstore in the title is a strange bookstore. There are customers, only they come to lend books, not buy them. There are more strange things going on, there is a group of weird people, like the bookstore owner, an unemployed web designer, a girl that works for google, a special effects designer and an internet millionaire. There is also a secret society that uses books to solve a certain puzzle, that will give access to ancient knowledge and perhaps even eternal life.

Clay is the unemployed wed designer and he gets a job at the bookstore. His boss, Mr. Penumbra is friendly, but a bit secretive. During the long nightly hours Clay discovers that the visitors (you cannot really call them customers) lend books in a certain pattern. With a little help from his friends and a ton of technical stuff and computers, he solves the puzzle.

Mr. Penumbra is enthusiastic about it, he sees the possibilities to combine this new knowledge with the old form of knowledge, but unfortunately the secret society is less enthusiastic. Especially the leader sees nothing in this new fancy stuff and even threatens to throw Penumbra out of the society.

Clay calls in the help of his friends and the clients from the bookstore and unites them to work together, in the hope they can solve the final problem in the puzzle to know the secret it contains.  

Some combinations are so weird you do not think they can possibly end up as a good story. But when all these strange elements do become a successful mix, the result can really surprise you.

I was not sure what to expect from this book, and I was afraid it would be a bit Dan Brownish (with the secret society and the ancient knowledge etc). I was glad to find out this book has nothing to do with Dan Brown.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore is a joy to read, written in a very easy and often funny way. Despite all the weird things it never becomes too unbelievable and the final solution of the puzzle is also a bit different the society expected.

I really liked Clay, because you can relate to him. He has no special skills, is not very bright, does not have a good job and would be the first to admit he never managed to do anything and therefore he is a bit of a loser. At the same time he is also persistent en creative and he knows how to unite people and make them work together.

I would have liked to know more about the secret society and the people who came into the bookstore, but that is the only little point of criticism.
I found Mr. Penumbr√° 24-hour bookstore light and entertaining and a great read. It may not be great literature, but that is not necessary. I thought it was a really fun and good books and I thoroughly enjoyed myself with it!

Published in 2012


  1. I really liked the bookstore in this book, and Clay is a great character. I thought the secret they were trying to solve was a little strange and I wish it had been developed a little more, but like you, I thought this was a fun read. And it was different and unique; not formulaic and predictable. I liked that about it, too. Great post.

    1. I agree completely with you, the secret is a little weird, but all in all I really enjoyed myself with this book. Good to hear you enjoyed it as well.

      Kind regards,


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