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"What Do You Seek in These Shelves?": Book Review

- By Emily Chilton, Co-Editor-in-Chief -

Festina lente. Gerritzoon and Gerritzoon Display. These are just a couple of the things that I Googled after reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. If you’re wondering, “festina lente” is Latin for “make haste slowly,” and while the Gerritzoon typeface is made up, the wonder in this novel is real. Featuring an eccentric cast of characters, surprisingly lovely descriptions, and an adventure to boot, this book will draw readers just as its eponymous bookstore draws in weird customers.

Mr. Penumbra’s focuses on Clay Jannon, a San Franciscan graphic designer hit by the 2008 recession who takes the night shift at an odd and infrequently visited bookstore. Before long, he realizes that “strange things are underway at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” as he writes in the store’s intricately detailed logbook of customers. Clay soon finds himself swept up in a quest involving, among other things, secret codes, a gaggle of Googlers, several books of life, and a missing set of five-hundred-year-old printing press punches. Clay’s intensely realistic and often funny inner monologue keeps the plot rollicking along, supported by an ensemble worthy of a Broadway show. Childhood fans of Harry Potter or any book about secret worlds and adventures will be delighted with this more mature, but equally engaging story.

Available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at Quail Ridge. Audiobook version, narrated by Ari Fliakos, available from Audible.

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