I think each Patrick deWitt novel is going to be the one that helps everyone fall in love with his writing, but "The Librarianist" could finally do it.

The Canadian has written five novels, addressing wildly different subjects but all with a low-key sense of humor that's a bit like "Grand Budapest Hotel" filmmaker Wes Anderson's, except all deWitt characters don't talk alike. (Hollywood has noticed deWitt's work, although neither "French Exit" with Michelle Pfeiffer nor the "The Sisters Brothers" with Joaquin Phoenix was a hit.)

"The French Exit," in which a near-bankrupt New York widow and her son decide it'd be more fun to spend their remaining cash in Paris, used to be deWitt's most accessible novel. "The Librarianist" is even more so, with a title character, Bob Comet, who confesses that he keeps meaning to get around to life but reading keeps distracting him.

Bob, who believes "it was other people who made for problems," will appeal to anyone who suspects that they prefer books to humans. With his reluctance to engage with others and his gift for understatements so understated that he doesn't realize how hilarious he is, Bob could easily be a character in an Anne Tyler novel.

In his playfulness and boldness, deWitt writes more like contemporary Kevin Wilson ("Now Is Not the Time to Panic") than Tyler. DeWitt's dialogue moves with the speed and precision of great conversation and its jokes sneak up on you, more like a wisp of wind on your cheek than someone tapping you on the shoulder to tell you something funny.

I'm thinking, for instance, of when Bob suggests to the woman who will become his wife that it seems that she doesn't like kids and she replies, "No, to be honest, I don't. It's a steep investment for a woman, with unreliable returns."

There aren't many characters in "Librarianist": Bob, wife Connie and friend Ethan are the main ones, with two other distinctive people emerging in a flashback that reminded me of the "Fargo" scene when Marge Gunderson meets an old high school friend: It could be cut but it provides so much texture that it's hard to imagine the piece without it.

The flashback finds Bob running away from home at age 11, then hitching his wagon to a pair of down-on-their-luck sisters, whose vaudeville act is so faded it's practically invisible. There's a madcap quality to Bob's time with the sisters, and to the bickery way they speak, but the scenes help us understand the loneliness of Bob, who doesn't miss home and whose disappearance doesn't seem to alarm his mother.

We also learn a lot about Bob in present-day scenes in which he volunteers at a senior living center, planning to delight them with his love of literature but, instead, putting them to sleep by reading tortured Russian novels.

Unlike those novels, "Librarianist" is bright and entertaining from beginning to end. If Bob could read "Librarianist" to the seniors, they'd love every minute of it.

The Librarianist

By: Patrick deWitt.

Publisher: Ecco, 352 pages, $30.