‘Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore’ by Robin Sloan

Mr PenumbraWhen unemployed graphic designer Clay takes a job working nights at Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, all he wants is a job. But it soon becomes clear that the bookstore, and its enigmatic owner, are more than they seem.

As well as the traditional books you’d expect to find in a bookshop, there’s also a second set of books – written in code and hidden away from the eyes of prying customers. Throughout the quiet night shift, an assortment of people occasionally hurry in to borrow one of these books, whilst returning another. Clay’s role is to note down what book is borrowed with a description of the borrower, but not to ask questions.

Inevitably, Clay starts to wonder about what this strange collection of people are up to. Finding the codes unintelligible, he and his friends instead draw on their technological skills to help track the pattern of borrowing in a way that they can understand. Unwittingly, he soon uncovers a clandestine literary society working to decode the mysteries around a centuries’ old secret. Continue reading

James Patterson offers grants to independent booksellers

At a time when independent book shops are struggling to stay afloat, it’s fantastic to see authors showing their support for stores.

James Patterson, best-selling author of the Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club novels, recently pledged to hand out grants totalling £250,000 to independent booksellers in the UK – and the first round of these grants have just been awarded.

This amazing opportunity was open to any store with a dedicated children’s book section and an idea for innovative ways to encourage children to read more. 73 independent British bookshops from all across the country have received funding so far, with another round of awards to come. The money will be spent on a whole range of new initiatives designed to encourage children to engage with books, including new displays and spaces, reading and activity areas and even mobile book vans to go out into rural areas.

Patterson has made no secret of his support for independent bookstores in the past – and has actively spoken out about the damaging effect that Amazon is having on the industry. While the retailer has the ability to undercut booksellers on price, bookshops offer a space to discover new books and to inspire a passion for reading that’s hard to replicate online.

He’s also done tons of work to promote children’s reading, including starting the ReadKiddoRead website, which is aimed at parents and full of top tips to get kids reading, helpful articles and book recommendations.

While the grants may not be enough to turn the tide around, this very public statement by one of literature’s most prolific and successful writers should help to draw some much needed attention to the issue in the mainstream press. Anything that helps to get children interested in books gets a thumbs up from me!

If you want to see the full list of bookshops that have received funding, they’re all listed in this article. If you spot one that’s near you, why not go along and show your support!