Penumbraby Zoe de Lellis and Aly Runke, contributing writers


Way back in 2012, a little book burst onto the New York Times’ Bestseller List, a debut novel by Robin Sloan. His novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore has since garnered an even wider audience than in its debut year. I first encountered this novel in 2013 when I saw it on a summer reads wish list and was drawn in by the cover. I sought it out for almost three months with no luck before finally finding it in a local bookstore.

The story is about Clay Jannon. On his San Francisco job hunt, he comes across Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and the eccentric clientele it serves. The book has mystery, technology, romance, humor, and so much more!! I fell in love with it from the first few pages and have recommended it to many of my peers. I also had the privilege of having written to and received a response from Robin Sloan about his novel and our respective writing experiences.

My favorite part of the reading experience is that Sloan incorporates modern technology with his own imagination to create a novel that is unpredictable throughout.



Zoe is, in fact, the reason I picked Penumbra up in the first place. I had heard of it and after her gushing and accolades, I knew I’d have to read it. This summer I found a copy of this elusive book and devoured it. The characters enchanted me and it was so in the present with the book and tech worlds and how they mesh or don’t mesh in our world today. Another fun tidbit: the paperback cover glows on the dark! Definitely a cool addition to your bookshelves.

Robin Sloan is supposed to be writing another novel, not many details have been revealed, but regardless, I’m positive I’ll be picking it up!

Robin Sloan:

In 2013, Robin Sloan spoke in a Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFOB) panel called “Fiction from the 21st Century.” When asked how Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore came to be, Sloan said, “The seed of the story was actually a Tweet that a friend sent back in 2008. I can remember so vividly, walking down the street, scrolling though Twitter, and I found this Tweet, which said, ‘Just misread a sign that said 24-hour book drop as 24-hour book shop. My disappointment was beyond words.’  Immediately, I thought, ‘What goes on in a 24-hour bookstore?’ and we were off to the races.

“I think of myself as more of a sci-fi reader than a literary fiction reader. This is not science fiction, but it’s larded with homage and references. This is kind of the trick of setting a book in a bookstore: you get to stock the bookstore, you get to choose what titles are on the shelves and kind of talk about them and talk about the editions, so there are dozens and dozens of sciece fiction books that I love, that are in this book, and I think of them as sort of that secret signal that sign of the secret society of people who love these books.”


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