Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday's Tomes: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Book challenge. I started with the first category, a book I'd been meaning to read, and read My Dog Tulip. It wasn't my cup of tea.

Around the time I started My Dog Tulip, I was out running errands. I'd been at Kohl's buying new gloves (Side note: those Isotoner people know what they're doing--best gloves ever!) and the poor cashier couldn't figure out how to use the Visa gift card I'd gotten for Christmas and I had to pay without the gift card. That meant I still had a gift card when I left the store--I used that as a good excuse to stop by Barnes and Noble.

All of the books I'm looking forward to this year don't come out until the summer (it's so kind of publishers to save my favorite authors for the months I'm not teaching so I can binge read!), so I had the luxury of just browsing.

I found myself drawn to this bright yellow book with kind of sloppy text across the cover. I picked it up. Read the back cover. Put it down. Walked away. Then I came back. I read the cover again. There was a blurb from my mom's old college pal George Saunders whose stories I usually love (even if they are a little weird for my taste some times). I decided I should get it.

So my second book of the reading challenge for the category of a book I chose because of the cover is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. It's the story of a young man who loses his job and ends up working at a 24-hour book store for an odd little old man. He meets a variety of characters--some who are techies, some who are bookworms, some who are artists--and together they join in this adventure to solve a mystery. 

On one hand, it's a delightful story about the power and magic of books--something that I've always believed in. It's also a celebration of technology and the new ways we can interact with books--something I've been exploring with some of my literature classes as I've had my students engage with some of our texts in new ways like retelling Dracula via Twitter. I liked that Sloan wasn't suggesting that technology ruined literature. I also liked that he showed there's some magic in actual, physical books that just can't be captured on a screen.

On the other hand, I never felt connected to the majority of the characters. There was potential for them to be fun and quirky--like Kat, who has a dozen identical T-shirts because she decided that she "didn't want to waste brain cycles figuring out what to wear every morning" which made me think of the game The Sims. But every chapter added characters to the cast and by the end there were so many of them and very few of them had much depth. I also felt like the last few chapters were kind of rushed, so there was all this build up to the mystery and then it was just over.

I finished the books a couple weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it. I guess that must say something. I'm just not entirely sure what.

Visit The Modern Mrs. Darcy for more info on the challenge.
Halfway through February, I've checked off 2 of the 12 books and I've made good progress on book #3. I've chosen The Picture of Dorian Gray for a book that I should have read in high school--it's slow going, but since we're in full-blown hibernation mode this week and I only have about 100 pages left, hopefully it won't be long before I can check off that category as well.

I'm linking up with the Modern Mrs. Darcy--check out the other books people have been reading lately!


  1. Hmm interesting. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to keep track of all the characters! I don't think the book I'm reading right now fits into any of the categories, but I have a lot planned out, so I have faith I'll get there by December :-)

    1. I'm sure you will, too! You read way more than I do.

  2. Replies
    1. It's definitely one that's kept me thinking for weeks on end!

  3. It does sound interesting, but it's tough to get into a book when you can't relate to the characters, or feel like you can get to know them enough. It always disappoints me when a book doesn't end well either.
    At least you have chosen a good time to do all this reading....there's nothing better when hibernating (which reminds me that I need to get reading too).
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. It was an interesting book! I just feel like there are still things that were unresolved for me--although I can't pinpoint one specific thing--and so I wasn't ready for it to be over. It has been excellent reading weather. I tackled the next two categories, plus a book that doesn't fit into any of them for me, over the last week! Hope you're making the best of hibernation with some good reading, too!