Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

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A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead "checking out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.

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More by Robin Sloan

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*One of Amazon's 20 Best Books of 2017*

Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Barnes & Noble, and Southern Living

In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Oct 2, 2012
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780374708832
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Magical Realism
Fiction / Thrillers / Technological
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Don't miss Gabrielle Zevin's new novel, Young Jane Young, coming in August 2017.

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A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.   

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love--love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

“Marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.” —The Washington Post

“You won’t want it to end.” —Family Circle

“A natural for book groups.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A reader’s paradise of the first order.” —The Buffalo News

“A fun, page-turning delight.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Captures the joy of connecting people and books . . . Irresistible.” —Booklist

“A wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Readers who delighted in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Letters from Skye will be equally  captivated by this novel.” —*Library Journal, starred review
*One of Amazon's 20 Best Books of 2017*

Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Barnes & Noble, and Southern Living

In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

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