Jenn Reads: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Our mystery book club recently read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

A recently unemployed millennial, Clay, wonders into a curious San Francisco bookstore and leaves finding himself employed. It’s a strange bookstore- long with shelves that seem to reach towards the sky and some odd books. His boss, Mr. Penumbra, has just three rules for Clay, the most important of which is to never look inside the books on what Clay calls the “wayback shelves.”

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay works the midnight shift and encounters a few characters, all of whom want books from the “wayback shelves.” It does not take Clay long to peek into those books and open the proverbial can of worms. Along with the help of friends, Clay seeks to solve the puzzle of eternal life.

This is a book for anyone who loves to read, loves bookstores or libraries, or ponders what the future will bring. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a book for today, with its clash of technology and traditional ways and methods. We get asked a lot here at the library what we believe the future of print books will be with the advent of e-books. It is difficult to say for sure (no one has a crystal ball), but I would personally like to hope that print books will always be around. After all, people still use brooms even though they have vacuum cleaners!

This book also raises the question: How do will we solve problems – by using computers or our own brains? How reliant will we become on computers? Clay finds throughout the book that technology can be useful, but it also cannot do the critical and complex thinking our minds can accomplish.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is an easy to read, engaging, and quirky book. I enjoyed the adventure and the resolution of the puzzle (solved without the help of a computer!). There were times however, when problems were too easily solved with a ready answer or helping hand. So-and-so just happened to have that skill or know a person who could help them. It became a little too predictable. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is not at least familiar with some of the changes in technology – this book is full of 2012 popular jargon and pop culture references, which could be confusing for some.

Rating: 4 bookmarks out of 5

See you in the stacks,

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