Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (by Robin Sloan) was published in 2012, so I’d seen it during my frequent hauntings of Barnes & Noble, but I never purchased it. Over the summer, I began subscribing to Audible, Amazon’s audiobook division, and downloaded this one–it was on sale. I’d completely forgotten about it until I logged back into Audible and saw it there, waiting for me.
So I started listening during study breaks and on walks. I’m planning on another post to talk about the pros and cons of audiobooks, but suffice it to say I really enjoyed this one. This book really draws you in from the start–it’s clever and suspenseful and incredibly nerdy.
It’s about a 24-hour bookstore (already sounds pretty wonderful, right?), a secret society, and the ongoing struggle between books and technology. It’s clear that Robin Sloan loves books, so I’m already a fan, but he also draws in references to e-Readers and, yes, audiobooks. His novel tackles all of the ways in which technology competes with books and all of the ways we book-lovers respond to technology.
The characters are really well-developed and the combination of truth (real-life printer Aldus Manutius, Google’s sprawling California complex) with fiction (a book-based secret society, an ancient typeface) is very engaging.
This book falls into one of my favorite genres–books that celebrate books and writers (That’s a genre I just made up, in case you’re wondering). There are a lot of books in this genre–from sequels to Pride and Prejudice to retellings of Othello from Iago’s perspective. If you’re looking for others, here are three I’ve read recently:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
What are your favorite books about books? I’m adding Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore to my list for the year, and I’m looking forward to what’s next–45 down, 5 to go!