Roddy Doyle: What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

From a New York Times Book Review interview with Irish novelist Roddy Doyle:

What books are on your nightstand?

“Notes From an Apocalypse,” by Mark O’Connell; with that title, I half-dreaded what I’d find but — a hundred pages in — I’m rightly anxious but laughing. “Hope in the Dark,” by Rebecca Solnit, for a bit of well thought-out optimism last thing at night. I found Nicole Flattery’s story collection, “Show Them a Good Time,” under the bed this morning but it’s back on the nightstand where it belongs. The stories are brilliant, full of surprises.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

I suspect that writers reading are like mechanics looking over the shoulders of other mechanics. What moves me most is what another writer does with words — how they create an accent, put hair on a head, give a man a heart attack, give a woman twins, get a man to tell another man he loves him — with the right, surprising line of words.

What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

I reread Raymond Carver’s story “Cathedral” in March. I actually read it twice because I’d forgotten how great it was — and how great he was. Since then, I’ve been reading a Carver story every day; they are so brilliant and, surprisingly perhaps, varied. I read Dickens again and again. And I read Flann O’Brien’s “At Swim-Two-Birds” every couple of years. The really great books change as we get older.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

“The Life and Adventures of Paddy O’Driscoll,” by Charles Dickens. It has never been published and exists only in my head, and only as a title. But it’s very good.

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