Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Book - 2012
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Clay Jannon, the new night clerk at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, notices the strange behavior of the customers and is determined to find out what is really going on. The plot contains profanity.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781250037756
Call Number: F SLOAN RO
Characteristics: 288 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Clay Jannon, the new night clerk at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, notices the strange behavior of the customers and is determined to find out what is really going on.

Combines elements of fantasy, mystery, friendship and adventure as a way of looking at the modern conflict and transition between new technology (electronic) and old (print books).

A former On the Same Page selection, this adventure puzzler takes place in an independent bookstore in San Francisco.

From the critics

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Jan 04, 2020

Such a quirky story. Loved it!

Dec 25, 2019

Listened to this on CD during a long drive. The basic premise was interesting, but the execution was lacking. Bad selection.

Nov 03, 2019

rb Simon Carless

Aug 01, 2019

A fun read, first and foremost. This is for you if are looking for something based on a mystery, with adventure, a lot of shadowy characters and sinister overtones that actually isn't full of tragedy, human cruelty and suffering. There is so much fiction that centres around pain and suffering. Isn't there enough of that in the non-fiction section? Reminded me of Ready Player One. And I could smell the wood and old books in the bookstore, the libraries and the museums you explore. And the copy of the book I read had an Easter Egg that came with it, which added to the fun.

Jul 21, 2019

It was a fun idea, but it was hard for me to read. There were too many subplots and unimportant characters and the whole thing was a little far fetched. The ending was disappointing too. But it did show how wacko Google and its employees are, so that was interesting. I totally agree with WYENOTGO's comments below.

ArapahoeAnnaL May 30, 2019

"Light-hearted magic" - NPR. A likable young man narrates this account of an obsessive search for the secret to immortality.

Jett_Reads Apr 24, 2019

This book just glows! (No, really, check out the physical copy and it will glow!). A fun and quick read that involves adventure, books, bookstores, libraries, a secret organization, and some tech! We read this book for our book club and everyone enjoyed it.

Mar 18, 2019

A fun story with a bit of mystery, adventure, and maybe a creepy cult. The story straddles the worlds of a centuries-old book club and the Silicon Valley tech scene to unravel the encoded secrets of a mysterious secret society. The scenes from San Francisco, clever and likable characters, and fantastic audiobook narrator made this one of my favorite recent reads.

IndyPL_SteveB Mar 04, 2019

Fun, fun, fun. A mysterious novel that feels like science fiction or fantasy, but is not exactly either. Clay Jannon is out of a job until he sees the “Help Wanted” in a strange used bookstore. The elderly owner takes him on, but the store only appears to have a handful of customers – and most of them only borrow books instead of buying them. Not regular books – strange books written in a mysterious code. Eventually his attempts to figure all of this out draw in his roommate, (a talented artist for Industrial Light and Magic), his best friend (a wealthy software designer), and a hotshot Google employee Clay hopes might become his girlfriend. Part of the fun is watching the cultural disconnects between the old book buyers/borrowers and the wired-in generation. But also there are mysteries to be solved: mysteries of codes, computers, women, secret societies, the history of printing, and – just maybe – the secret of immortality.

Clever, interesting characters and sharp observations about life that made you go back and read them again. Really good.

Mer15113 Feb 21, 2019

Disoriented, roaming everywhere, boring plot

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Add a Quote
Jan 16, 2020

"What are you seeking in these shelves"

Aug 25, 2017

" Let me give you some friendly advice: make friends with a millionaire when he's a friendless sixth-grader."
pg. 115

Aug 25, 2017

“So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."
pg. 34

Aug 25, 2017

"I intend to carry out a clandestine scan ASAP, and the target is one of the most important books in the history of printing, In other words: this might by bigger than Potter."
pg. 162

Mar 16, 2015

But hey, nothing lasts long. We all come to life and gather allies and build empires and die, all in a single moment—maybe a single pulse.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

Maybe his big build isn't a linebacker's after all; maybe it's a librarian's.

Jun 30, 2014

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.

Jun 30, 2014

Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.

Mar 01, 2014

" many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."

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Add Age Suitability
Aug 25, 2017

Sierrachick07 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

lbi316 Apr 26, 2013

lbi316 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Apr 19, 2013

MistyBlue22 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary
May 01, 2013

The protagonist, Clay Jannon, is hired by San Francisco independent bookstore owner -- Mr Penumbra -- to retrieve books from 10 pm to 6 am, at the request of long time bookstore customers holding an unusual interest in highly obscure volumes. Clay has never heard of any of these book titles, which are never purchased, only loaned.

When Clay examines one of these books, he sees page after page of unreadable encrypted characters, no spaces, no punctuation. Yet the customers return night after night, returning one book, and taking another.

The question is: Why?

DanniOcean Dec 13, 2012

Clay Jannon is a graphic and web designer who finds himself unemployed in the new economy. While wandering the streets of San Francisco he accidentally finds Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and after a very brief interview based on his favourite book, finds himself the store’s new night 10pm-to-6am clerk. There are three rules to working there – he must be on time and cannot leave early, he may not look inside any of the ancient-looking books that are reserved for members, and third, he must keep precise notes about all transactions (including how they smell, what they wear, what they say and how they appear mentally). Mr. Penumbra’s unique approach to store-keeping is matched by his odd clientele who appear in the oddest hours of the night, but they are few and far between so to occupy his time Clay starts developing a web-presence for the store. He creates a 3-D map of the transactions and… a face appears in the results. What follows is a literary adventure of the highest order – a cult of readers bent on discovering but keeping secret the immortality locked in ancient texts of an early typographer, versus Clay and his band of quest seekers, albeit their modern-day equivalents of rogue, wizard and hero. And although the modern-day wizard uses all the power of Google to help them, the printed texts do not give up their secrets easily. It is not until Clay uses all the tools in his magic bag – from the ultimate hacker site to his ultimate favourite novel to the ancient texts themselves - that the code is broken, and the answers are not at all what everyone involved thought they would be. Digital vs. print, Google vs. books, technology vs. old knowledge, piracy vs. privacy, these are the battles of our times and all themes in the book, but the overall story is an adventure, a quest simply reimagined in the techno-age. Given that the author was once an employee at Twitter and has released the book in both print and e-formats, Sloan may be hedging his bets - but his first novel has all the feel of a love-letter to books.


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