Friday, October 24, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: "Zona," "The Faraway Nearby"

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Andrew Losowsky of The Huffington Post reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

There are three kinds of books people write about themselves.

There are diaries, written when events happen then edited later; there are autobiographies, chronologically retelling a life from birth to book writing; and there are memoirs, filled with often unreliable but entertaining anecdotes.

Yet in recent years, a more freeform kind of personal writing has also emerged, where a general theme is chosen around which the author weaves their own story, and any others they find interesting or relevant to the tale.

These books are less structured, yet more similar to how we really live our lives, surrounded by events and inspirations as well as our experiences.

One such book, "Zona" by Geoff Dyer, is a scene-by-scene narration of a classic Russian film from 1979 called "Stalker." You don't need to have seen, or to ever see, the movie to enjoy this fascinating book, which spends more time on its asides than it does on its supposed subject matter. Dyer is a very English writer, but his charm and intelligence win over almost any reader. Zona is available in paperback and download from Vintage.

I was reminded of Dyer's writing as I read Rebecca Solnit's new book, "The Faraway Nearby," available in download and hardback from Viking. An accomplished nonfiction storyteller based in San Francisco, her latest book is an exploration of stories, memories, her mother's Alzheimer's and a year spent in working in Iceland. She has Dyer's ear for diversions, but writes with such elegance that some of her deceptively simple sentences make you gasp for their poetry and their power.

If you want a very different, lyrical take on how our lives are surrounded and defined by the stories we tell, Solnit's latest book is one of the finest of this or any year.

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