Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Books, Shows, and Documentaries - 2021 Wrap Up

 If you have ever read this blog, then you're in a rare minority of human beings. It also likely means you have come across, or you have had the privilege of me forcing down your throat, my annual movie round ups. To be honest, this blog has pretty much served that one purpose for the past few years. You have one job, blog. 

This year, I am introducing this new post, which I may branch into three-four separate posts in the future, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it. I will share my 5 favourite books, TV shows, and  documentaries from the year, not necessarily 'released' in the same year, because unlike movies, my consumption of other media is not much to write to the internet about. But yes, if something can be done, I believe it can be and should be recorded, so feel free to send me a friend request on Goodreads.

Note: Taking the short cut for the shows and documentaries this first year and using Wiki summaries, and  only sharing my personal comments for the books section. Will share all original comments across sections from next year. Pardon as a first time effort.

Here's my Top 5 in each section this year.


5. The Body by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was a travel writer to me, till this book. Now he has the distinction of writing my favourite, and likely only biology book I have found entertaining, and educational of course. Like all his other books, Bill does the hard job of cracking open the shells of the nuts of the hard subjects and gives us the rich kernels. We know a fair bit about our bodies, or so we think, but for those of us not from the field of medicine or biology, this will be pretty eye opening, and again, never getting that boring feeling of 'studying' that he works hard in avoiding.

4. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Getting back to the joy of reading fiction was one of the highlights of 2021 for me, and The Plot ranks right up there as a taut mystery/thriller. the plot away...heh...this is one of those books you can curl under a blanket at night with and see the rising sun as you wrap it up, with a slightly increased heart rate due to the twists and climax. Just a solid novel let's say, about a novel. 

3. Amazon Unbound by Brad Stone

Obvious personal bias and interest aside, this follow up by Brad to his 2013 best seller 'The Everything Store' literally kicks off where the Amazon story ended in the last book. While I can't comment on the authenticity of any of the events or characters depicted, as a lover of business books and someone with some idea of the context, it was a trip down memory lane, not even a distant memory lane, with familiar names, faced, people, and projects. 

2. A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

Another fiction candidate in the top 5. And with this one based in post war Sri Lanka, a personal topic of interest, covered deftly by Anuk, there wasn't much of a question of whether I will like it, but more of how much. While you may not have the same fascination for the subject, the beauty of the book is you don't need to come from any position of prior knowledge or interest. It's at the end of the day a book about humans, emotions, and how we behave and react to normal and extremely abnormal (violent) situations and how they change us, or not. Will follow this author closely going forward.

1. War Minus The Shooting by Mike Marqusee

While my favourite book of 2021 was published in 1996, the miracle year for us fans of Lankan cricket, this book received a new lease of life this year with 81All Out Publications bringing this book back from the dead. Quoting from my own review below.

"The late Mike Marqusee is a cricket writer, but not your usual type. He was an American, who moved base to England and so had an outside in perspective on cricket. This book itself, while very much about that tournament and the cricketers is also a travelogue and a journalist's perspective of the politics of cricket, the sub-continent, and a lot more. He pulls no punches, at the English/Australian elitism, the sub-continental corruption and jingoism, the Pepsi-Coke wars, and observes the cricket and the drama that follows it with a sense of aloofness and amusement, while never disrespecting the sport or the fans."


Shows (all images and summaries courtesy Wikipedia)

5. Mare of Easttown (2021)

SummaryIn a suburb of Philadelphia, police detective Mare Sheehan investigates the recent murder of a teenage mother while trying to keep her own life from falling apart. Mare is a local hero, having been the star of a high-school basketball championship game 25 years ago. She has also been unable to solve the case of another missing young girl for a year, leading many in the community to doubt her detective skills. Her personal troubles include a divorce, a son lost to suicide, and a custody battle with her ex-heroin addict former daughter-in-law over Mare's grandson.

4. Scam 1992 (2020)

Summary: Harshad Mehta is an ordinary Gujarati salesman who lives in a cramped one-room apartment in Mumbai's Gujarati dominated suburb of Ghatkopar along with his parents, wife Jyoti and brother Ashwin. After doing all sorts of odd jobs, he joins the Bombay Stock Exchange as a “jobber”. Unsatisfied with his growth, he soon starts his own consulting firm. Exploiting loopholes in the market system and bribing various officials, he soon amasses a huge amount of wealth. In a parallel narrative, journalist Sucheta Dalal is investigating Mehtas's business after getting a tip from a bank clerk about Mehta's involvement in a scam in State Bank of India.

3. Squid Games
Summary: Seong Gi-hun, a divorced father and indebted gambler who lives with his elderly mother, is invited to play a series of children's games for a chance at a large cash prize. Accepting the offer, he is taken to an unknown location where he finds himself among 456 players who are all deeply in debt. The players are made to wear green tracksuits and are kept under watch at all times by masked guards in pink jumpsuits, with the games overseen by the Front Man, who wears a black mask and black uniform. The players soon discover that losing a game results in their death, with each death adding ₩100 million to the potential ₩45.6 billion grand prize. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, to try to survive the physical and psychological twists of the games.

2. Yes Minister (1980)
Summary: The series opens in the wake of a general election in which the incumbent government has been defeated by the opposition party, to which Jim Hacker MP belongs. His party affiliation is never stated, his party emblem is clearly neither Conservative nor Labour, and his party's political colour is white. The Prime Minister offers Hacker the position of Minister of Administrative Affairs, which he accepts. Hacker goes to his department and meets his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, and Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley.

While Appleby is outwardly deferential towards the new minister, he is prepared to defend the status quo at all costs. Hacker and his party's policies of reducing bureaucracy are diametrically opposed to the Civil Service's interests, in which staff numbers and budgets are viewed as merits of success (as opposed to sizes of profits or losses in private industry). Woolley is sympathetic towards Hacker but as Appleby reminds him, Woolley's civil service superiors, including Appleby, will have much to say about the course of his future career (i.e., assessments, promotions, pay increases), while ministers do not usually stay long in one department and have no say in civil service staffing recommendations.

1. Succession (Season 3) (2021)

Summary: Succession follows the Roy family, owners of media conglomerate Waystar RoyCo. The family patriarch, Logan Roy (Cox), has experienced a decline in health. His four children – removed oldest son Connor (Ruck), power-hungry Kendall (Strong), irreverent Roman (Culkin), and politically savvy Shiv (Snook) – all with varying degrees of connection to the company, begin to prepare for a future without their father,[7] and each begins vying for prominence within the company.

Other notable mentions:
Fauda: Seaon 1
White Lotus (Limited Series)
WandaVision: Season 1
The Queen's Gambit (Limited Series)
The Flight Attendant (Limited Series)
Paatal Lok (Limited Series)
Family Man: Season 2
A Teacher (Limited Series)


Documentaries (all images and summaries courtesy Wikipedia)

5. Break Point (2021)
Summary: It is a story of ambition, hard work, belief, friendship, brotherhood and partnership of the former Indian tennis players

4. House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths (2021)
Summary: True crime docu-series on the 2018 Burari Deaths

3. Pele (2021)
Summary: Pelé is a 2021 biographical documentary film about Brazilian footballer Pelé. It's a Netflix original film.

2. Turning Point 9/11 And The War On Terror (2021)
Summary: Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror is a 2021 American five-part docuseries created for Netflix and directed by Brian Knappenberger. The series documents the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11 2001 in New York City's Lower Manhattan, as well as the events that took place both in Afghanistan and the United States, which led to the attacks. It was released on September 1, 2021.

1. Tiger (2021)
Summary: The documentary is based on the 2018 biography Tiger Woods and examines Woods’ relationship with his father, Earl, and what impact that may have had on his development as a man, his rise, fall, and return in the world of golf. It features interviews with Woods former caddie Steve Williams, Woods former girlfriend, Nick Faldo, Bryant Gumbel, and Rachel Uchitel who was at the center of Woods’ infidelity scandal. Tiger notably relies on outside voices to tell Woods' story and does not include his perspective or commentary.

Other Notable Mentions:
Bad Sport
Allen V Farrow
Framing Britney Spears

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