“I call it the Waybacklist.”

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay Jannon’s an out of work software designer in San Francisco, who after much persistence in pursuing want ads stumbles across a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Now: I was pretty sure “24-hour bookstore” was a euphemism for something. It was on Broadway, in a euphemistic part of town. My help-wanted hike had taken me far from home; the place next door wa called Booty’s and it had a sign with neon legs than crossed and uncrossed.

No, Clay, nothing so pedestrian as that. The interview consists of two questions: Had Clay worked at a bookstore before, and

“Tell me,” Penumbra said, “about a book you love.”

And thus does Clay wind up working the night shift of a store divided, into the front section where you can find “Aristotle’s Nicomanchean Ethics and Trevanian’s Shibumi,” and the back section, where are stocked thousands of titles that Clay says “as far as Google knows don’t exist.”

Clay calls this section “the Waybacklist.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but a Rocky and Bullwinkle reference is just about guaranteed to suck me in, and it certainly did here. A sweet story about a quest, and love, and friendship, and truth, and of the price of that truth, too. Delightful read.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Way Back List? Way back machine?? Now I am thinking of Mr. Peabody, and Touche Turtle, now connecting with Rocky or Bullwinkle. Oh well.


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