Book Pairing: The Westing Game and Mr. Penumbra

This next installment in the Reading to Distraction book pairing challenge is made up of two of my favorite books *ever.* | A book review by

This next installment in the Reading to Distraction book pairing challenge (you can read the previous posts here and here) includes two of my favorite books ever. I seriously love both of these books, and I read them even before I had ever heard of this challenge. So go ahead and put both of these books on your TBR list, and then sit back while I explain why!

The books in this pairing are The Westing Game, a Newbery book by Ellen Raskin, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. According to BuzzFeed, here’s the connection:

What was great about The Westing Game wasn’t necessarily the mystery, but the characters involved in it. It was suspenseful, for sure, but it was fun and at times even funny. Robin Sloan captures that feeling in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fast-paced and heady mystery that follows a former web designer who suspects there’s something more to the bookstore he’s taking shifts at. As he delves into analysis with his eclectic friends, he uncovers a world of secret societies, mysterious literati, and a web of technological riddles.

The Westing Game

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game! (Summary via

This is the most amazing book. I read it several times as a kid, each time feeling a little creeped out, but in a good way. The book is full of puzzles that an eccentric group of characters (adults and children) must attempt to solve in order to inherit Sam Westing’s fortune. The whole thing is intriguing and very well written. It’s easy to see why this book received the 1979 Newbery Medal.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave. (Summary via

This book is also full of intriguing puzzles that the quirky characters have to solve, and it has the benefit of being set in a mysterious bookstore complete with a secret society. I’ve highlighted this book before, but I’ll say it again: This is a must read.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

Both of these books are unusual mysteries–unusual in that they’re not really murder mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie–set in unusual locations. They both have a great cast of characters, and both leave you longing for more. Unlike my last disappointing pairing, I couldn’t have picked a better pair myself. For a mystery-loving kid, The Westing Game was just creepy enough to make me want to re-read it several times, and as a mystery-loving adult with a thing for quirk and for books themselves, Mr. Penumbra was an amazing follow up. You absolutely must put both of these books on your reading list!

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