Sourdough – Reader’s Guide

Sourdough - Reader's Guide“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 neighborhood 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?

“Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer” (Amazon summary).


This is one of my favorite reads! I could not put the book down. I read it in two days -to the neglect of all else. It does have a few swear words but no violence and no sex. Thank you, Robin Sloan, for writing such a marvelous book!


#1 Eater:

  • How have advertisements changed your plan?
  • What impact do first impressions make?
  • Do we all just want to be sorted like Hogwarts? Why or why not?
  • How is repetition an enemy to creativity?
  • How does Michigan life compare/contrast to California life?
  • How can food make one happy?

The Slurry Table

  • Did a liquid diet supply the answer? Why or why not?
  • Why do emotions make people uncomfortable?
  • How does sorrow mimic cardiac arrest?

The Clement Street Starter

  • How and why would the slurry offend a chef?
  • What is the start in your life?
  • What emotions and actions does music have in your life?

Spartan Stix

  • How has the modern American melting pot altered traditions and family?

The Lois Club

  • What purpose would a club for a name serve?
  • How do personalities take up space?
  • How does learning make one interesting?

Jesus Christ is an English Muffin

  • What images does the description of ‘starter’ bring?
  • How does it feel to receive a special package?
  • How does Lois’ first experience baking compare to yours?

Sharing the Miracle

  • How does it feel to receive a baked treat from a neighbor?
  • Would you accept a baked good from a stranger? Why/why not?
  • How often do you think about where your food comes from?
  • What purpose does the music have for Lois?

Chef Kate

  • Why would Lois bring the crock to work and play music for it?
  • How would Lois life look different if she were to sell her bread?

<From: Beo>

  • What would be Lois’ reaction to the message?

The Jay Steve Valve Oven

  • How could Lois meet the production challenge created by Kate?
  • How do hobbies become obsessions?
  • Why or why not would you attempt such a project?

<From: Beo>

  • How was Beoreg keeping his culture alive and vibrant?

The Problem was Ongoing

  • What was the excitement of capital?
  • Why would Lois pursue bread making when she made more programming?
  • How did baking bread compare/contrast to Lois’ work project?

<From: Beo>

  • What are the benefits of obscurity?

A Catalogue of Phenomena

  • Why couldn’t Lois take a picture or record the sound of the starter?

The Lois Club (Continued)

  • What role does the Lois Club play in her life?
  • Would you heed Lois’ advice to get out of a boring job? Why or why not?
  • What makes someone interesting?

<From: Beo>

  • What is Mazg?
  • What are the pros and cons of denying one’s heritage and culture?

The Greatest of all Markets

  • Why did the farmer’s market require a try out?
  • How does competition both inspire and deflate individuals?

<From: Beo>

  • What would be your favorite place? Where you lived?

The Pantheon

  • What qualifications would a farmer’s market judge need?
  • What emotions accompany waiting for a judgement or response to an application?

<From: Beo>

  • Why would Beoreg share his news with Lois first?


  • What emotions accompany you in a new place and situation?
  • What kind of welcome did Lois receive in Alameda? How would you feel in her place?

<From: Beo>

  • How would Beo feel not having Chaiman with him?

Pink Light

  • What would you do if you were Lois in this eccentric place and with these eccentric people?

<From: Beo>

  • How does Lois provide Beo with a link to the past, present and future?

The Faustofen

  • What do you think about Belasco’s desire for a robot?
  • How would Lois acquire one?

<From: Beo>

  • How do starters sing?


  • What does Andrei teach by example of the role of a leader?
  • How important was it for Peter and Lois to plan their approach with Andrei?

<From: Beo>

  • What role does the connection with Beo play in Lois’ life?


  • What role does Horace play?
  • What challenges would Lois face that she would normally have faced as part of a team? How would she overcome these challenges alone?

<From: Beo>

  • What picture does Beoreg paint?
  • What difference does quality make in cooking?

The Darkness

  • How did the market attract people?
  • How did Lois feel hearing sold out on her first day?
  • How did the bread change her life?
  • What emotions did the starter possess?
  • How is exhaustion from working different than exhaustion from doing nothing?

<From: Beo>

  • What does the feeling to move feel like?

The Eater’s Archive

  • What do you think caused the faces?
  • Why would someone collect restaurant menus?

<From: Beo>

  • What does Beoreg mean by being light?

The Lois Club (continued)

  • How does it feel to receive a compliment?
  • If you wrote a book who would you dedicate it to?

The Hub, The Heart

  • What mystery could the starter hold?
  • What credentials would Lois need as a baker?
  • How did Lois feel learning Charlotte Clingstone’s restaurant?

<From: Beo>

  • Why would Beo be surprised about his starter?


  • Why would Loise want to see Jim?
  • Why would a starter need music to flourish?
  • How does music change the starter?

<From: Beo>

  • What role does food play in romance?

The Egg Problem

  • What difference is there for the robot arm between assembling something to cracking an egg?
  • What results professionally could Lois expect from solving the problem?

Elephant’s Armpits

  • Why elephant’s armpits?
  • Why would Marrow Fair offer classes?
  • How would bacterial analysis change taste?

A Long-awaited Announcement

  • Why did Mr. Marrow use such clandestine mannerisms?


  • Which profession would you choose if you were Lois?
  • What vision did Lois have?
  • What is the cost of progress?

The Novice’s Grace

  • Why was Charlotte’s entourage surprised at her offer to Lois?
  • Who could be Mr. Marrow and why would he keep his identity secret?

<From: Beo>

  • What was the smell?


  • What are the dangers of hurrying a starter?

<From: Beo>

  • What purpose is there to the story?
  • Why does Beoreg tell it in pieces instead of at once?


  • What was Agrippa’s specialty?
  • How are we amateurs?
  • What does respect have to do with it?

<From: Beo>

  • How is culture transmitted through music?

Agrippa (Continued)

  • What role does bacteria play in your life?
  • What skills does Lois learn from Agrippa?

<From: Beo>

  • How does the story of the pirates impact Beoreg’s culture?

The Fall of Camelot

  • In reality, what would be the result of combining two different starters?

<From: Beo>

  • What is their relationship?
  • How has their relationship changed?

Tend Your Garden

  • How is Lois’ imagination vital to her success?
  • How does passion energize work?
  • Ho had the Clement starter become a conqueror?


  • What is unique about this starter?

The Slurry Factory

  • What does Jaina’s car say about her?
  • How does Lois feel coming to slurry country?
  • How can bacteria colonies be trained?
  • What role could the starter play in the future of slurry?

The Island of the Mazg

  • What significance is the lemon?
  • How did the starter find the lembas?
  • What is the consequence of the encroachment of the lembas?
  • What would the firemen do?
  • How would Lois feel when Jaina asserted she’d found the bacteria?

The Lois Club (Continued)

  • How would Lois feel not having been mentioned in the article?
  • What would you do if you were Lois?

Mr. Marrow

  • Could Charlotte believe in and participate in both philosophies?

The Beginning

  • Should Lois share the music secret? Why or why not?

<From: Beo>

  • Why did Lois keep the box arrival a secret?

<From: Lois>

  • What value does the prospect of money hold for Lois and Beoreg?
  • Why use a different starter?
  • What pros and cons are there to using the Clement Street starter?


Tracy Harrington AtkinsonBy Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8,   The Personal Pursuit of Perfection and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.


Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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