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

I have an affiliate relationship with and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.

4 Stars

After the recession hits, Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. He spends hours walking the streets of San Francisco, trying to find something, anything. He wanders into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and finds himself working as a bookstore clerk. But there aren’t really very many customers. Well, there are a few impassioned, odd people who come in and request books from what Clay refers to as the “Wayback List,” books he’s not supposed to look at. He likes Mr. Penumbra and when it starts to look like Mr. Penumbra might be in some kind of trouble, Clay calls in his friends to help the owner out.

Oh. My. Gosh. I enjoyed the heck out of this audio book! I described it to my husband as “The Da Vinci Code for tech-savvy bibliophiles.” (I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code so that’s a compliment.) People in robes, secret messages, clues, and only one man to tie them together. What’s not to love?

I loved the characters. Clay is pretty funny and I loved listening to his internal monologues. I loved Mr. Penumbra’s willingness to do whatever he felt needed to be done. And that he was willing to listen to Clay’s crazy ideas without being an old codger. He embraced the technology Clay introduced him to! Clay’s friends were all pretty funny and talented in their own unique ways too.

I wouldn’t describe myself as “tech-savvy,” so I have no idea how much of the technology described in here is real and how much is made up. Some of it was pretty cool. And some of it was a little…not so cool. There were some ideas I wouldn’t mind discussing in a book group or something. Like how one character who works at Google seems to think that all information should be shared freely. A good idea in theory but if authors aren’t getting paid for their writing, how will they have time to write more books for us to read? Stuff like that.

Ari Fliakos did a fabulous job narrating the audio book. I’m so glad I listened to it! I’m sure his delivery added something to the story.

For a fun, hard-to-describe book, give this one a try, especially on audio. I was thoroughly entertained.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Robin Sloan on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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  1. I listened to the audio book for Mr. Pendumbra as well. It really is a fantastic deliver for a fantastic book!

  2. I've never heard this book described as such. I am definitely pushing this one to the top of my TBR pile! Great review!

  3. This sounds like a book i would love. A daVinci code for bibliopholes sounds fantastic to me. Will have to see if I can get on audio. Thanks for recommending!

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