Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fun, Quirky Bookworm’s Delight!

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Rating: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Star

Category: Mystery/Adventure

Synopsis: Clay Jannon has just lost his marketing position after the company went bust. Unemployed and increasingly desperate, he takes a job as the night clerk at Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. His eccentric employer has only 2 requirements:

  1. A detailed record of every single customer must be made in the ancient logbook at the front desk.
  2. Clay must never open any of the books.

One night, when there are no customers, Clay can no longer suppress his curiosity and opens one of the forbidden books. Its contents will draw him into a centuries-old unsolved mystery…


First Impressions

Believe it or not, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is on my university set reading list for next year – I love my degree!!! It is such a fun read and another wonderfully unexpected, non-traditional addition to our course.

Despite not seeming very academic, it is relevant I promise! I am taking a module on literature and digital culture; Robin Sloan’s novel is fitting because it explores the relationship between books and technology in a light-hearted, slightly teasing way.

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan Book Review Pinterest Graphic

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My highlight of this story was its talented, funny and often eccentric assortment of characters. Like all good adventure stories, it also has its fair share of bad guys!

I admired the smart and ambitious Kat. She is a rising star at Google who refuses to compromise her intellect to make her seem less threatening to males of the species. However, my favourite has to be Clay, the central character. His imagination and adventurous spirit give him a real knack for unravelling mysteries.

 Flashes of normalcy and unashamed geekery helped to make him feel more relatable:

“Then: I google ‘time-series visualization’ and start work on a new version of my model, thinking that maybe I can impress her with a prototype. I am really into the kind of girl you can impress with a prototype.”


The first thing to understand about Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is that it’s not meant to be believable. Inspired by fantasy and science fiction, it exalts in pushing the boundaries of credibility.

Instead, it’s best to just go with this helter-skelter adventure story in which knowing everything will turn out for the best is part of the charm. This sheer enjoyability does not mean the book isn’t thought-provoking. Sloan explores themes such as:

  • The influence of technology on our lives
  • Limitations and possibilities of human progress
  • How much value we place on the past

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan Quote

Writing Style

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is clearly a well-researched and carefully thought-out piece of fiction. References to Gutenberg and the first printed books made my inner literature nerd light up. Despite this, the novel manages to never take itself too seriously.

Throughout the book, Sloan gently pokes fun at the ancient(ish) books vs technology debate. No sides are taken: e-reader-defenders and hardcore bookworms alike are not immune to becoming objects of the author’s witty observations:

“Kat bought a New York Times but couldn’t figure out how to operate it, so now she’s fiddling with her phone.”

“I did not know people your age still read books,’ Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. ‘I was under the impression they read everything on their mobile phones.’
‘Not everyone. There are plenty of people who, you know – people who still like the smell of books.’
‘The smell!’ Penumbra repeats. ‘You know you are finished when people start talking about the smell.'”

Favourite quote:

“Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.” 

Read if: You want to be delighted by a fun and quirky adventure story!

Buy Now on Better World Books:

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If you enjoyed Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, take a look at The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.

Have you read Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, or anything else by Robin Sloan? Do you think the books vs technology debate is sometimes taken too seriously? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

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12 thoughts on “Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fun, Quirky Bookworm’s Delight!”

    1. Thank you for the kind comment, I really appreciate it! ❤️ Yes, I usually go into required reading expecting it to demand at least some effort, but this book is just so playful and light-hearted. I highly recommend it, especially as it sounds right up your street! I would love to know what you think once you get around to reading it
      X x x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment Kitty! Yes, I’d never heard of this one until it was put on my required reading list, but I’m so glad I found it! It’s lovely to hear that you like the sound of it too. The style is really light-hearted and fun – perfect for getting out of a slump or to take a break after a heavier book. I’d love to know what you think if and when you get around to reading it! X

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you very much! ❤️ It’s certainly a book to make all book-lovers warm and fuzzy inside – no wonder you’re nostalgic! X


  1. This book does sound like it checks all the boxes from plot to writing to the characters. I also did Literature in undergrad. Its always awesome when you get such good reads as part of the assigned reading. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you Diana! ☺️That’s fantastic that you studied literature at undergrad too – it’s the best subject (not that I’m biased). I’m lucky because my uni is fairly new and non-traditional so we’re left free to explore books that aren’t the usual ‘classics’. I can highly recommend Mr Penumbra, it’s just such a fun read! X


    1. Thank you for the comment 😊 It was indeed so refreshing to read something funny and playful – plus I’m a complete sucker for ‘book books’ too! X x x

      Liked by 1 person

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