“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”
I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.
It’s full of charming characters, has air of intrigue, and is chock full of beautiful prose like the breathtaking quote I’ve included above. Plus…it’s a book about books! How can you possibly beat that?!
The story focuses on Clay Jansen, an unemployed marketer who suddenly lands himself a job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. Working as a clerk overnight in the store, Clay soon discovers that there is more to this dusty bookshop than meets the eye. Strange, eccentric customers come in at all hours of the night to request ambiguous authors that Clay has never heard of, and Mr. Penumbra has forbidden him from ever looking inside any of the books. After a bit of sleuthing, Clay discovers that he has landed himself in the middle of a strange, secret society, and he becomes obsessed with uncovering all of their mysteries. The result is a fun and offbeat story that I fell head over heels in love with!
While there is no real magic in this book, no wizards casting spells or unexplained phenomena, I can’t help but feel like Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore belongs in the realm of fantasy or magical realism. The book exudes a sense of magic and mysticism that spills from the pages as you read. From the mystery of the bookstore itself to the quirky cast of characters, everything felt like it belonged in another world, even though it was clearly taking place in present day San Francisco. This aura of magic is furthered by Sloan’s beautiful writing, which had me bewitched from the first chapter.
One of my favourite things about Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, however, was the juxtaposition between the old and the new. Between the physical and the digital. Between books and technology. Sloan brings the debate surrounding the power of technology to make books obsolete to the forefront, showing that the physical word will always have a place of importance, even as the rest of the world becomes increasingly digital. In fact, he shows how the two can co-exist together, which to a book lover like me is a message of happiness and hope.
The Bottom Line: If you love books then this is a must-read! Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is like a love letter to books. It’s magical, quirky, and an all around great read! I wish I had read it sooner!