When I was young and insecure I used to pretend to have read books I hadn't. It started in university in attempts to impress cute English majors and carried over when I started selling books. I felt customers wouldn't respect my opinion unless I could give them my first hand impressions. What a fool I was. Luckily I quickly caught on that people didn't care about what I had or had not read - they just wanted a book they would like. I learned to listen to what friends, co-workers and customers had to say about books and authors I had not read, and soon I was confidently recommending books based on this information.
If I were a bookseller today, I'd be selling bucket-fulls of a novel called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. Two weeks ago a friend of mine told me that it was the most enjoyable book he'd read in years, then last week another friend recommended it, saying that she really liked all the plot twists and suspense. I trust the taste of both of these friends - they are avid readers who will not recommend something unless it really stands out. They are smart people, so anything they like has got to be well written and if they both praise a book while using terms like "suspenseful" and "accessible", then I know I'm looking at book with wide appeal. It also seems that the public buzz about this particular book is getting stronger - at this moment there are thirty two holds for the copies we have in the library. The last time I remember this much positive word-of-mouth over a book it was shortly afterThe Sister's Brothers was published, and I think this one might even appeal to wider range of people.
What is behind all this interest? The publisher's blurb reads as follows: A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore. Sounds like The Da Vinci Code crossed with the kind of hip writing that fans of Jonathan Letham or David Mitchell have come to love. The names of other authors have been mentioned in comparison as well: Eco, Murakami, Calvino. The adjectives I most commonly hear applied are quirky, smart and (most importantly) fun.
Of couse few, if any, books appeal to everyone, and since I don't know you (you being whoever may read this blog) I can't guarantee this will be your next favourite book. But if you are a book nerd (and if you are reading this I have to assume you are a bit of a book nerd) the chances are pretty good you will like this a lot. So get a copy - ask for it should anyone pester you for last second gift suggestions. Or check it out from the library; just make sure to get your name on the hold list right away. That list is only going to get longer, I suspect.