Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


If there was one thing I would like to do when I retire is to have my own bookstore. Ever since I watched You’ve Got Mail in the 90’s and got awestruck I knew that if I didn’t become a teacher I would much rather be a bookseller. Since then I go back to that dream every now and then and try to imagine what it would be like managing one. I am pretty sure the day-to-day operations would be boring but I also believe that inside my bookstore there would be adventures akin to any high-fantasy and mystery thriller book that would adorn my imaginary bookstore.
Of course that dream would have to wait but reading about bookstores is even more fun. A few weeks ago I was glad to have stumbled upon Fullybooked’s entry on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, the title alone was enough to catch my attention.

The story of Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore takes place at the height of the US depression and how down-on-his-luck Clay Jannon inadvertently applies as a midnight clerk in Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. Though the bookstore seems like any ordinary bookstore, it’s the customers and their mysterious requests for quirky and unknown authors who actually bring life and an air of suspense and mystery to Clay Jannon’s otherwise mundane nightly shift. Like any human being, all of these activities piques his interests, which of course sets him on the path to understanding the mystery of books, its universality and the secrets of immortality.

Though not exactly high-brow fiction (sic: deep, provocative, and profound), Robin Sloan’s debut novel is enough for a quick pick me up after having read novels that takes the mind for a spin. It’s also refreshing since there are so few books that actually talk about books, bookstores and the love of reading.  The characters and the dialogue are easy to remember and to follow, no unexpected twists and turns along the way. In fact, it practically reads like a journal or a diary, with every mundane aspect of a person’s life crammed into a pile of literary adventure that begs to be read quickly. For a debut novel, Robin Sloan is off to a great start captivating his readers with the mysteries of the Unbroken Spine and the intricacies of book reading.


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