Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore is a place you can’t help but be curious about, and Clay Jannon unintentionally finds himself a job there working the night shift where he sees few if any customers. Clay quickly notices that the “regulars” never actually buy any books. They rather checkout volumes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world (at least not on the internet). Clay quickly becomes wrapped up in discovering what is happening in this seemingly quiet bookstore that holds an entire library of obscure books.

This book caught my attention several years ago and had been on my “to buy/read list” but I never pulled the trigger on it until recently. I happened across a copy at an annual book sale put on by the local library and finally picked it up. I opened it up and read through all 288 pages in less than one week, which was both liberating and reassuring for me since I have been in a reading slump of late. That alone should tell you how intriguing this book is. The mysteries within it unravel at the perfect pace as you follow Clay along in his journey to discover what type of business his employer is actually in.

One thing I really liked about this book is the way it weaves together the old with the new. The old being the books (some of which are hundreds of years old) and the new being technology. Clay is a web designer who is happy to have his job for Mr. Penumbra because any job is better than no job during a recession. I would consider another level of old and new to be the relationship between Mr. Penumbra and Clay. They are a perfect example about how we as people can learn from each other. Mr. Penumbra is fascinated by what Clay can do with a computer, while Clay in enthralled by the experiences Mr. Penumbra has had.

I’ve written this recommendation while carefully avoiding several key elements about the book could potentially be considered spoilers. Since I would hate to give anything away, but I still have an overwhelming need to tell you more, I will leave you with one cryptic word that shouldn’t give too much away.

Cipher.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Though this book takes on that penultimate question of humanity, it does so in a way that is derived from experience (an experience that pushes the limits of the human mind and body) and a careful examination of that experience. Vicktor E. Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist. This book details his experience and observations during his time in concentration camps. A majority of these reflections take place in Auschwitz.

Please try to prevent yourself from letting that information bias your opinion of this book. In fact, I suggest you try to temporarily forget what you know of World War II as you read it to better grasp what this book is attempting to discover. This book is a record of events and psychological analysis of the human mind. The themes found here are dark at times and unveil some of humanity’s worst traits, but there is a triumph. Human history is plagued with injustices. This book doesn’t try to make sense of those injustices, it tries to make sense of the human mind and the differences between individuals. It attempts to discover what humanity really is.

This book was published in 1946. The first half is Viktor’s experiences in the concentration camps. He spends time analyzing the camp guards, but he spends even more time analyzing his fellow prisoners. The second half delves into Logotherapy, which is Viktor’s theory that human nature is motivated by a search for a purpose for one’s life. This search is individual and suggests that each person discovers their own answer to what their meaning is.

Most copies of this book are printed as a small paperback. Small enough to fit in a pocket and is only roughly 150 pages. Despite its brevity, this book has the potential to cause introspection for the reader that in turn causes analysis of others. At the base of it all is a hope for humanity.

I often recommend books that have positively impacted me and that I greatly enjoy. Some of my past recommendations were purely entertainment picks. Many were books that opened my mind by making me questions certain things in this world. This book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is something a little more. Maybe because it is steeped in history or straightforwardly examines the very definition of humanity. Something about it resonated with me, and I believe I will return to it several times throughout my life.