Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Books & Shows Review

Sometime during the past year I decided not to click on articles with clickbait headlines, you know the ones like 'This man saw a dog on the road. You won't believe what he did next'. Also, I said no to Listicles (25 things that only a 90s kid can relate to). And here I am at the end of the year making my own Top Books, Shows, Movies lists. Ah, well.

I did not end up reading a whole lot of books, but made up in quality what I messed up in quantity. Similarly for TV shows, was more deliberate about what I watched as they take up an immense amount of time, and with binge watching seasons on end it's almost like a commitment to a short term relationship.

Below are my ranking of Books (read in 2015) and TV Shows (watched in 2015).

Books

5. 'r2i Dreams - For here or to go?' By Parth Pandya, Ramya Sethuraman, and Subhashini Srinivasan
r2i = Return to India. The debut novel of 3 authors, this one struck a chord close to home given the oft discussed topic among expatriate Indians, how long or if ever? Disclosure, one of the authors, Parth, is a good friend of mine, but that has little to do with this rating as you will find out if you are in the NRI boat and read this book. Expect much more from him in the years ahead. 

4. 'Written By Salim-Javed' By Diptakirti Chaudhuri
The third book in three years on Bollywood and its doyens by Diptakirti Chaudhuri (another friend!). He was the author of my favourite book of 2014 as well - Bollybook. This one is a biographical look at the greatest storytellers of Mumbai's tinseltown - Salim & Javed. You can find the more detailed review here.

3. Sultan of Delhi - Part 1 Ascension By Arnab Ray
This is a special one as it's not launched yet. Had the privilege of reading the draft of this epic drama, set in Delhi and Kolkata over many decades. May seem like a trend by now as this is also by a dear friend - Arnab Ray better known as Greatbong, but this list has been based on nothing but merit. Arnab has authored some of the recent bestsellers in India in the humour, horror and drama genres, and having read all of his books and blog posts (yes, all 10 years+) I don't want to raise the expectations for this one too much, but let's just say it will be one of the best books to come out in India next year. The canvas is vast and Arnab has matured tremendously as a writer to tackle various socio-political subjects as well as relationships and dialogue. Look out for this one.

2. KP: An Autobiography By Kevin Pietersen

I love masala Bollywood and I love cricket. When the two meet, like in the IPL, you can just sit back and enjoy the fireworks. KP has been more open and explicit in this book, presumably read by thousands if not millions, than most of us are in our heads. If you are looking for cricket gossip, and the workings of a genius cricket mind, pick this up.

1. Norwegian Wood By Haruki Murakami
I understand I am a decade or so late on this Murakami bandwagon, but what a writer. It doesn't matter the story is that of a much younger man in a very different country and culture, you identify with the characters in a strangely familiar way. A coming of age novel by the master. He will definitely be on my To Read list in 2016.


Shows

5. Hand of God (Season 1 )

Amazon's original series about a father and judge whose son is in a coma due to an attack and how he falls for religion, or what goes by religion, in his moment of weakness and lets it overpower and control his life completely.

4. Homeland (Seasons 1-4)

Had heard about this thriller on Showtime for years now, and finally during a month of free Showtime access binge watched all four seasons in a few weeks (Season 5 is coming to an end now). Taut and gripping with some glaring plotholes, an above average show made particularly exciting in the last few episodes of season four. Some of the most goosebump raising scenes seen on TV.

3. The Man In The High Castle (Season 1)
A historical fantasy based on the novel by Phillip K Dick. It imagines a post WW2 scenario where the German and Japanese had won and the US is now divided into two regions controlled by them. Was a slow first few episodes and then upped the tempo rapidly. Can't wait for Season 2. Another Amazon Prime Original.

2. Jessica Jones (Season 1)
A superhero with the least superhero powers is the protagonist, and a female protagonist at that. A supervillain with some real powers. Extraordinary performances by the leads and sharp editing makes this otherwise middle of the road Marvel novel stand out. Krysten Ritter is here to stay, look out for her in Season 2 and beyond. A Netflix original. 

1. Narcos (Season 1)
I have always had a keen interest in South America, perhaps because it seemed so distant and different growing up in India, and also because of their disproportionate prowess in world football (soccer). Andres Escobar's shooting post the 1994 World Cup made a big impact on me and always wanted to know more about Colombia. This curiosity was magnified manifold after the brilliant ESPN 30 for 30 show on the 2 Escobars. If 30 for 30 was 10/10 this show on the dreaded Pablo Escobar is 12/10. Finished the season in 2 sittings. Won't take more than a day to finish Season 2 once it is out.


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