Books & Reading

Opening line: The Luck of the Bodkins

“Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

The Luck of the Bodkins by P.G. Wodehouse, 1935


Book Review, Books & Reading

What I Learnt From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

1. An ultra fashionable way of expressing a vacant expression, unfurnished with emotion. This is what I look like when I’m being informed about the efficacy of homeopathy:

He has the strangest expression on his face – the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.


2. I’ve never been to New York but apparently in the Big Apple, humans, not birds, tweet:

The thinnest tendrils of dawn are creeping in from the east. People in New York are softly starting to tweet.


3. If you want to give your child a name that he will curse you for for the rest of his life, you can always turn to softwares:

Hadoop! I love the sound of it. Kat Potente, you and I will have a son, and we will name him Hadoop, and he will be a great warrior, a king.


4. Let’s say you meet an alien one day and it asks you ‘What is this Internet thing? Why does everybody love it so?’ Memorise this answer:

I’d sit at my kitchen table and start scanning help-wanted ads on my laptop, but then a browser tab would blink and I’d get distracted and follow a link to a long magazine article about genetically modified wine grapes. Too long, actually, so I’d add it to my reading list. Then I’d follow another link to a book review. I’d add the review to my reading list, too, then download the first chapter of the book – third in a series about vampire police. Then, help-wanted ads forgotten, I’d retreat to the living room, put my laptop on my belly, and read all day.


5. Does an inventive analogy make you simultaneously shudder with pleasure and hate the writer for coming up with it first? I’m a sucker for analogies:

…I can´t stop squirming. If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now, and translated it into five new languages.


6. For a while in 2013, the hashtag #firstworldproblems took over my Facebook news feed like a meme-wrecking hurricane. To see an example of a first world woe in a novel is just.. priceless:

Kat bought a New York Times but couldn’t figure out how to operate it, so now she’s fiddling with her phone.


7. This is what my books tell me every time I snuggle into bed with my newly acquired Kindle:

I have one and I use it most nights. I always imagine the books staring and whispering, “Traitor!”


8. And this one little priceless gem, which someone should have told me about when I was still in school learning how to string together a friendship:

Let me give you some advice: make friends with a millionaire when he’s a friendless sixth-grader.



I love the expression on people’s faces when I summarise the plot of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The conversation, with few variations, goes like this:

“Hey Preet, what are you reading?”

“Oh, it’s just this novel about a 500-year-old black-robed cult dedicated to unraveling the mystery left behind in the encrypted book of Italian printer Aldus Manutius, in which is the secret of immortality. But it’s also a love letter to Google and the world wide web.”


“In a nutshell: global conspiracy, code-breaking and girlfriends who work for Google.”

In a nutshell: be careful when you ask me about what I’m reading. I don’t know how to stop talking.