When Mr. Penumbra interviews narrator Clay Jannon for the position of night clerk at the 24-hour bookstore, he asks what a Reader’s Advisory librarian might ask:
“Tell me about a book you love.”
Do you enjoy puzzles, mysteries, and adventures? Do you like reading about books, bookstores, and quirky book lovers? Have you ever found yourself mulling over the future of the printed word in an increasingly digital age?
If you enjoyed this book and would like to read further bookish tales from a range of genres, check out these titles:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Imagine if Willie Wonka had been a video-game designer. Now imagine a world in which most people spend their time as avatars in a virtual reality. The founder of this virtual reality leaves his fortune to the first to win a contest, comprised of puzzles and tasks based on 1980s popular culture. Three teens compete to win against an evil conglomerate. (School Library Journal Review)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
After years of working as a fireman-one who burns books and enjoys his work-Guy Montag meets a young girl who makes him question his profession and the values of the society in which he lives…(Publishers Weekly Review)
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (From the Hardcover edition)
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
As the new millennium got underway, John Gilkey began to steal thousands of dollars worth of irreplaceable rare and valuable books from libraries, museums, and dealers across the U.S. Brought up in a household that collected books as ardently as it committed petty crimes, Gilkey began his acquisitions by any means possible. As Bartlett discovers, book theft is a widespread crime that respects no borders. Moreover, the rare-book business has always had more than a whiff of impropriety, if not actual dishonesty, about it. Bartlett establishes links with Gilkey, whose crimes have landed him in prison and who is apparently eager to have his exploits immortalized in print. She also encounters Ken Sanders, a book dealer obsessed with apprehending Gilkey. This is a grand morality tale in which books as objects become perversely more important than the ideas contained within. (Book List Review)
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Isaac Vainio is a librarian and a libriomancer, that is, part of an organization, the Porters, created by Gutenberg to manage the magic inherent in books. He’s on punishment duty, relegated to database creation for the Porters. When he’s attacked by vampires from the current crop of books and manages to defeat them with a weapon pulled from another title, he’s dragged back into the machinations of the Porters organization. He’s joined by his pet fire-spider, a creature pulled from a book before Isaac was forbidden to work libriomancy, and a fighting dryad. As he investigates what’s going on, he discovers that Gutenberg himself has disappeared. There’s something sinister going on with the Porters, and there are some nasty secrets about to come out into the light of day. Isaac is a likable character, and the unraveling of the mystery is a wildly entertaining story. Libriomancer is a lot of fun, and the promised sequels constitute something to look forward to. (Book List Review)
The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
Hay has woven an irresistible tribute to–or perhaps a warning about–the obsessive nature of book collecting. Delicately spun around the social and sexual awakening of Rosemary Savage, a young Tasmanian emigre to New York, this cautionary tale tracks the life-altering influence the rumor of the recovery of a lost manuscript by Herman Melville has upon several employees of a cavernous used bookstore. After the death of her mother, Rosemary moves to New York and is hired by George Pike, the crusty owner of the Arcade. Modeled after the world-famous Strand Bookstore, the Arcade is a refuge of sorts for a handful of idiosyncratic employees, including an embittered albino manager, a good-hearted transsexual cashier, an insufferably aloof nonfiction expert, and an avuncular rare-books curator. When a mysterious letter offering the sale of Melville’s missing opus arrives at the Arcade, rivalries are formed, conspiracies are hatched, and an inexorable chain of events inevitably resulting in tragedy is set into motion. Rosemary’s naivete serves as an effective counterpoint for the machinations of her suddenly desperate and grasping coworkers. Dedicated bibliophiles will relish the Melville story-within-a-story angle. (Book List Review)
The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury
What’s left when you lose everything? Kingsbury (Coming Home, 2012) works through that tough question in her newest novel. Charlie Barton and his wife, Donna, ran the Bridge, a historic bookstore in Franklin, Tennessee, for 30 years, but a declining industry and a devastating flood left them with an empty storefront and insurmountable bills. Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly connected in college over their passion for reading, using the Bridge as their getaway from the very different lives they led. Years later, both look back and wonder what could have been…(Book List Review)
About the Author by John Colapinto
Cal dreams of being a best-selling novelist (like the author himself, with As Nature Made Him). But it’s his law student roommate who has actually written a juicy first work. When the roommate conveniently dies, Cal claims the novel for his own and achieves easy fame until he realizes that someone knows about his nasty little deception. (Library Journal)
The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
An extraordinarily haunting love story told in the voice of a man who appears to age backwards
We are each the love of someone’s life.
So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other. At his birth, Max’s father declares him a “nisse,” a creature of Danish myth, as his baby son has the external physical appearance of an old, dying creature. Max grows older like any child, but his physical age appears to go backward–on the outside a very old man, but inside still a fearful child. (bookbrowse.com)
Possession by A. S. Byatt
Winner of England’s Booker Prize and the literary sensation of the year, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.
An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, an intellectual mystery, and a triumphant love story. This tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets became a huge bookseller favorite, and then on to national bestellerdom. (from the Vintage International edition)
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. (from Goodreads)
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the State’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancé is the head of State security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen. With shades of Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and The Thousand and One Nights, Alif the Unseen is a tour de force debut—a sophisticated melting pot of ideas, philosophy, religion, technology and spirituality smuggled inside an irresistible page-turner.
Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa. (From Random House)
Japan’s most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.
Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon. (From the back cover)
Life is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. She lays and Octavo for him, a spread of eight cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision—if he can find them.
Emil begins his search, intrigued by the puzzle of his Octavo and the good fortune Mrs. Sparrow’s vision portends. But when Mrs. Sparrow wins a mysterious folding fan in a card game, the Octavo’s deeper powers are revealed. For Emil it is no longer just a game of the heart; collecting his eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos.
Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, The Stockholm Octavo brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic in a breathtaking debut that will leave you spellbound. (From the inside cover)
Da-da-de-da-da Code by Robert Rankin
All Jonny Hooker has to do to claim a big prize is to solve the Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code. Scattered throughout popular music, Jonny knows the code has something to do with the Devil’s Chord, as well as the great blues musician Robert Johnson; Elvis Presley–who is of course still alive–and with the Secret Parliament of Five, who dictate world affairs. When he solves the Code, Jonny will discover why all the most famous rock musicians die at 27, the truth about raising an ancient god, and all about the destruction of the world.
PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
PopCo tells the story of Alice Butler-a subversively smart girl in our commercial-soaked world who grows from recluse orphan to burgeoning vigilante, buttressed by mystery, codes, math, and the sense her grandparents gave her that she could change the world.
Alice-slight introvert, crossword compositor- works at PopCo, a globally successful and slightly sinister toy company. Lured by their CEO to a Thought Camp out on the moors, PopCo’s creatives must invent the ultimate product for teenage girls. Meanwhile, Alice receives bizarre, encrypted messages she suspects relate to her grandfather’s decoding of a centuries-old manuscript that many-including her long-disappeared father-believe leads to buried treasure. Its key, she’s sure, is engraved on the necklace she’s been wearing since she was ten. Using the skills she learned from her grandparents and teaching us aspects of cryptanalysis, Alice discovers the source of these creepy codes. Will this lead her to the mysterious treasure or another, even more carefully guarded secret?