Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman (1968)Read about the other entries on the list.
Though he wasn’t much of a cyclist himself, Flann O’Brien must be the patron saint of all cycling literature. In The Third Policeman, written at the end of the 1930s but published only posthumously, he outlined his “Atomic Theory” of cycling: spend too long on a bike, O’Brien argued, and you’ll begin to exchange atoms with your machine. “You would be surprised at the number of people in these parts,” says one of the titular policemen to the nameless narrator of O’Brien’s novel, “who are nearly half people and half bicycles.”
In the circular hell described in the book, keen cyclists end their lives sleeping standing in hallways with their elbows propped up against walls. Bicycles take on humanity, and begin creeping around at night and stealing from pantries. It’s all gloriously weird.
The Third Policeman is among A.F. Harrold's top ten imaginary friends in fiction, William Fotheringham's top ten cycling novels, and Michael Foley's top ten books that best express the absurdity of the human condition.
Also see the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books on cycling, John Mullan's list of ten of the best bicycles in literature, Marjorie Kehe's list of ten great books about cycling, Matt Seaton's top 10 books about cycling, and William Fotherham's top ten cycling novels.