Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Goodreads: Sourdough
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism

Panda Rating:

(Review posted from 2018)

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her – feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.


When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

If Vietnamese pho’s healing powers, physical and psychic, make traditional chicken noodle soup seem like dishwater—and they do—then this spicy soup, in turn, dishwatered pho. It was an elixir. The sandwich was spicier still, thin-sliced vegetables slathered with a fluorescent red sauce, the burn buffered by thick slabs of bread artfully toasted.

I really enjoyed this book! Sourdough is full of quirky and endearing characters and situations that make you laugh and fill your mind with wonder. It also made me insanely hungry (2020 edit: reading that quote above already has me salivating!) and brought to life a craving for sourdough – although I’m sure the loaf that I dug into is nothing like the legendary Mazg one (unfortunately). What I liked about this book is that you can take it as lightly as you want to, but if you want to give it a bit more thought, there’s also some meat for you to chew on. It doesn’t go into very fine details, which I didn’t mind because in a book like this, you can easily over-describe situations, events and processes until you bore your reader to death. Robin Sloan definitely doesn’t do that!

I have come to believe that food is history of the deepest kind. Everything we eat tells a tale of ingenuity and creation, domination and injustice—and does so more vividly than any other artifact, any other medium.

Lois, the main character, is so full of life and energy. I could really relate to her thoughts in terms of wondering at being a part of something more; something significant and important. I think that’s what we all go through in our 20s, 30s (and well, some even longer), especially as we finish university and start looking for a job and try to find more meaning in our lives. To find that purpose and to chase after what makes us tick – what gives us life. Lois is so passionate and just dives into situations that come at her – which is the complete opposite of me and probably why I find people who can do that so admirable. That energy of hers was palpable and as I read the book, I happily soaked up her enthusiasm for everything that she was doing. It made me think about what I’m currently doing and whether I am just living in my own version of “General Dexterity”? It’s a big Maybe.

Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.

Of course, there’s also some magical realism sprinkled throughout the book, especially as you come towards the end when you’re kind of doused in it all at once. As someone who is very picky when it comes to magical realism, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it but I absolutely loved it! It’s another element of Robin Sloan’s writing that I loved because it’s not entirely out of place or unbelievable in stories where the characters and events are so full of quirkyness.

I read someone’s comment about his books that summarised them in a really simple but accurate way – just as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was about a secret society for book lovers, Sourdough is about a secret society for food lovers. And who doesn’t love food (and books and secret societies)?! After reading this, it’s pretty safe to say that I thoroughly enjoy the way Robin Sloan writes and he has got a fan in me! Can’t wait to read more from him 🙂

Have you read Sourdough or is it on your TBR?

#TopTenTuesday: Autobuy Authors

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: autobuy authors. I tried to diversify my list a little bit instead of repeating authors and books that I’ve already mentioned on here countless times, but you can’t avoid the inevitable because these authors are my all time faves, so they’re bound to make an appearance! It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to just recall all the authors I’d auto buy, so I had to do a little bit of rummaging around my memory (it’s really that bad) and came up with this list. Yay!

Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a master of crafting words into incredibly bizarre and delightfully magical worlds within our actual world. I’m always left in awe of his stories. They’re dark, funny, did I mention bizarre, and oddly touching. When I read Neverwhere for the first time a few years ago there was no looking back. He’s been an autobuy since! I’ve really enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean At the End of the Lane, to name a few!

Taylor Jenkins Reid. So I’ve only read two of TJR’s books: Maybe In Another Life and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Both took my feelings and ripped them to shreds and I loved every minute of it! These reads are so emotionally packed and I’ve found elements of relatability in both of them, which obviously made it more impactful.

Jodi Picoult. I’ve loved Jodi Picoult since I first discovered her in high school. I think my first book by her was The Pact and it just wowed me with the writing style and the storylines. Since I read most of her books in high school, I don’t think I fully appreciated the complexity of her characters and their situations. I’d definitely love to re-read my favorites at some point!

Robin Sloan. Sloan’s books are so odd, intriguing, and full of quirky loveable characters that worm their way into your heart! Sourdough is probably one of my all time favorite books — no joke. It just makes me feel warm and so happy. Mr. Penumbra’s was also such a fun-tastic adventure with BOOKS and who wouldn’t love that?! I wish it were easier to get my hands on more of his books!

Helen Hoang. Hoang has only put out two books (The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient) so far but I’ve loved both of them dearly! I love the diversity of her romances. They’re awkward, funny, sweet, (so) steamy, and have left me feeling light-hearted after each read. I am also eagerly looking forward to reading about QUAN in her next book, The Heart Principle. She describes it as: “kind of a cross between a gender-swapped Sabrina and Say Anything” … I MEAN C’MON. All the 😍 emojis.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I’m a little embarrassed to mention this but I’ve only ever read anything by both authors that they’ve written together. So that’s The Illuminae Files and Aurora Rising. It’s not that I don’t want to read what they’ve written separately, there are just SO MANY books and so few waking+non-working hours! But I will buy anything these two write together. They are the ultimate dynamic writing duo and slay me with their stories and characters!

V.E. Schwab. After finishing ADSOM I immediately knew it’d be one of my all-time favorite series and Schwab immediately jumped onto my auto buy authors list. I loved the writing, storyline and characters. The magic really came to life! I’ve since read and loved her Monsters of Verity and Villains series.

Christina Lauren. It’s as simple as I love CLo and pretty much everything that I’ve read from them! Josh and Hazel‘s Guide to Not Dating is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite romances. This duo never fail to make me laugh, swoon, squeal, and generally have the most fun reading experience with their books. I’m so looking forward to reading Twice In A Blue Moon when it comes out!

Jane Harper. I discovered Harper this year after reading The Dry and there was just no looking back. Her writing is just stunning. It’s so deeply atmospheric, reading her stories takes you straight into the punishing dry heat of the Australian outback. Although her books are classified as thrillers, I’d say they’re more mystery, but they kept me guessing right up to the end.

Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the writer of my all time favorite graphic novel series, Saga. I’ve mentioned this one countless times already on my blog but it’s seriously so freaking good. Anytime someone asks me for graphic novel recs, Saga is the first one I mention. He’s also written Paper Girls, which I enjoyed!

Who are your auto buy authors? If you’ve done a TTT this week, leave your link in the comments and let’s chat auto buy authors!