Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

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Read 03/01/2016-05/01/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Robin Sloan has written a wonderful, funny, heartwarming book. I’ve loved books since I can remember (I think I’ve said before that my Mum worked in a library and I genuinely can’t recall not being able to read). I’ve been fascinated and terrified by second hand book shops since I was about 10 and realised just how many books there are in the world and how very old some of them are. I’ve loved typography since my brother started his apprenticeship as a printer and came home full of knowledge about typefaces. This book hit lots of happy buttons for me. It’s a great story, with lots of flights of fancy but enough realism to make them believable.

The story contains lots of things I love. As well as the second hand book shop, there are: a bunch of geeks excited by model making, computer coding and fantasy novels; a mysterious secret society; a quest to break a secret code; the history of printing and typography; and museums. Sloan has created a parallel universe with enough that’s the same as our here and now to make it believable, mixed up with flights of fancy that made me laugh at the same time as I wished they were real. For example, I work in a museum and, as far fetched and unattainable as it is, I wish there was a global database where we all document our collections and can check what’s out there already. Sloan’s naivety made me laugh on that one!

I loved the sense of urgency in the quest, and I loved its conclusion. Most of all, I loved the characters and was sorry to say goodbye to them.

After I read the book, I discovered that someone had put together a Reading Map to accompany the book. This site sends you off at tangents based on the things you found interesting in the book, and includes a shout out to one of my favourite series as a child, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

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