One book I forgot the list as one of my favorites is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. It is a fantastic mystery where no one dies but the suspense can be cut with a knife. Here is the review from the New York Times Book Review Dec. 14, 2012.
Clay Jannon, an unemployed Web designer, takes a job working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour bookstore, owned by the strange Mr. Penumbra. The store is just as inscrutable, with two kinds of customers — random passers-by who stop in so rarely Clay wonders how the store is able to stay open and a furtive “community of people who orbit the store like strange moons. . . . They arrive with algorithmic regularity. They never browse. They come wide-awake, completely sober and vibrating with need.” These customers borrow from a mysterious set of books, which Clay has been warned not to read. He surrenders to his curiosity and discovers that the books are written in code. With the help of his roommate, a special effects artist; his best friend, a successful creator of “boob-simulation software”; and his romantic interest, Kat Potente, who works for Google in data visualization, our likable hero goes on a quest. He solves the Founder’s Puzzle, the origins of which are never clearly explained, using data visualization and distributed computing and stumbles upon an even bigger mystery: Mr. Penumbra has disappeared. Clay tracks him to New York, and in the city, the friends locate the Unbroken Spine, headquarters of a secret society.
They match wits with the Unbroken Spine as both groups try to decipher a text; the secret society using old, rigorous research methods, while Clay and his friends harness the power of current technology. In the end, both are right and wrong. Working together is the only way they will find a solution.
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence. Sloan balances a strong plot with philosophical questions about technology and books and the power both contain. The prose maintains an engaging pace as Clay, Mr. Penumbra and the quirky constellation of people around them try to determine what matters more — the solution to a problem or how that solution is achieved.