I love this book – read it a couple times, listened to the Audible version – so yeah – I’m a fan.
Ok here goes: combine one out of work web designer, a mysterious bookstore, a secret society, Google, Hadoop, encrypted messages and cute Data Visualization girl from Google and you have Mr Penumbra’s 24 bookstore.
This book actually uses Hadoop as a plot point! So cool for us geeky data types. It is a little “San Francisco techie hipster” so maybe it won’t appeal to all. I have also encountered some folks from Google who pooh-poohed the book – perhaps too much “inside baseball” for them. But for those of us who are a little bit techie and/or who don’t work at Google (or who still have a sense of humor about it) …it’s fun. It’s a fun book and well written.
Clay, our hero, is an unemployed Web Designer in San Francisco. When we meet him, he is looking for a job (even with the tech boom, it’s not always that easy to find a job in SF even with mad coding skills!) . He stumbles onto an ad for a job at “Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour book store”. He is quickly hired by Mr Penumbra because “he can climb ladders”.
What makes the bookstore mysterious is the fact that the bookstore is divided into two parts – the “normal” section that sells slightly used books for a few bucks a day (what kind of a business model is that ? ) and the “other” bookstore . The “other” part of the bookstore contains books that, as far as Google knows, don’t exist. Clay refers to this section as “the Waybacklist”. It contains books that are apparently written in code and which are only checked out by very strange scholars.
Clay soon draws on his friends and his coding skills to try to solve the mystery of the “Waybacklist” – Neel, Kat (the cute Data Viz Googler girl) . The story travels from from Mountain View to New York City to Las Vegas and possibly to some strange mountains….
A great read. Wonderful characters. Festina Lente!
Read it! even better – if you can – listen to it on Audible – the characterizations there are very well done.