24-Hour Bookclub Recap: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

As an observer, I always like to hear about things go—how the story turns out. I read all kinds of announcements online, but reflections are my favorites. So here goes one of those.

Last week, I wrote that I’d be reading Robin Sloan's new novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in one marathon day for 24-Hour Bookclub, a new thing Max Temkin and I started. Max followed up with a post of his own.

On Friday, I went to the grocery store and picked up some snacks for the day: yogurt, apples, jack-o’-lantern chocolates. That night, I had trouble going to sleep—I was too excited. Looking forward to the marathon day evoked that old Christmas Eve feeling in me: total, gleeful anticipation.

Woke up in the morning, realized that a few people had already tweeted at @24hourbookclub wondering if they could begin. Not everyone lives in the same time zone! I apologized quickly, then posted a stream of stage-setting tweets. (Use the hashtag, tweet your thoughts, have fun—we’re not rule sticklers, and besides, we’re making this up as we go along.)

Then I dug into the book. And oh wow. The book was so good. It stayed good the whole way through, but it had the special quality of grabbing me from the first sentence. I knew I could count on Robin to write something fun and real.

I poked my head up every couple of chapters to check Twitter, reply to people, retweet fun thoughts. My double bed (my favored reading place, aka the only comfortable surface in my dorm room) became command central: computer at my side, phone blinking with Twitter notifications, book nestled in the folds of the comforter whenever I had to set it down.

At one point, Ed Cormany and I tweeted almost exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. I took a screenshot just seconds later:

In that moment, I felt so ridiculously connected.

All in all, over 25 people read the book as part of 24-Hour Bookclub. (I asked for names and addresses afterward for a small surprise we’re planning, which is how I know with such specificity.) I collected over 150 tweets into a mammoth Storify. I made some new friends, and strengthened old friendships. When I saw photos of dear friends in San Francisco sitting and reading the book together in Dolores Park, my heart nearly exploded. Really, what could be better than reading together?

I finished the book in the early afternoon. This was around when the first wave of readers finished, too, so I tweeted out some congratulations. For the rest of the day, I watched as others crossed the finish line, celebrating with them as they did. As for me, I didn’t want the day to be over. In the end, I went back to the beginning and started again.