Sunday, January 01, 2023

Books, Shows, Podcasts, and Documentaries - 2022 Wrap Up

Nothing screams 'Slacker' more than writing a year end wrap up on the first day of the next year. There we have that out of the way.

For the second post of this newly created annual tradition (2021) we have a new category in addition to last years Books, Shows, and Documentaries  - Podcasts. Let's get into the Top 5s without further ado.


Total books read in 2022 - 26. Full list available here. Feel free to add me as a friend on Goodreads.

5. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot (Fiction)

My review (from Goodreads): I knew what I was getting into, and I had decided I will not let it break me down.

I weeped for a full minute when the most expected thing happened.

Sheer power in Marianne's writing and Rebecca Benson & Sheila Reid's narration. A simple story beautifully told. More of the how story than a what story, and those are the ones where an author truly shines (or falls flat).

Two terminally ill patients, of 17 and 83, develop a bond that sucks you in as they share their experiences of their 100 years. 17 year old Lenni is a firebrand, even if her body is giving up. 83 year old Margot has many more layers to her than you will realize at first. Plus some endearing characters like the priest and Humphrey.

Read if you're looking for a good time and some solid crying your heart out

4. The Illustrated History of Football (Non-Fiction: Sports)

My review (from Goodreads): If you have half an ounce of interest in football (international, or club, that debate doesn't matter here), this is the book for you. Covers the history in the most entertaining way possible, with brilliant comic strips accompanying the story over the decades. I am one of those world cup/Euro fanatics with next to zero idea or interest in club football, and found myself nodding along to long forgotten nuggets from World Cup trivia, to gaining a bunch of information about the same players and their achievements or lack thereof in the club leagues. No punches have been pulled by David Squires, especially towards FIFA or the various associations. There's a joke a minute hidden in plain sight, with smart references aplenty. A perfect companion to take care of the withdrawal symptom after the Doha final.

3. Homeland Elegies (Fiction: Contemporary Historical Fiction)

My review (from Goodreads): Is it fiction? Is it an autobiography? Which parts do we believe? Why does it even matter?

Ayad Akhtar's 'Homeland Elegies' is a unique mix of a first person fictional account where the protagonist shares the name and more with the author, and is a good part fiction mixed with facts. If that premise wasn't intriguing enough, the subjects covered - racism, immigration, Trump, capitalism, current events mixed with fictional situations - makes this an engrossing read.

As a desi immigrant to the US, I identified quite a bit with both the protagonist/narrator and the parent. It helps that Ayad is a brilliant storyteller, and his dialogues, lots of it throughout, is so realistic, both for the immigrant parents, and the first gen narrator.

Sharp, witty, and one that will make you think every time you take a break.

2. The Bollywood Pocketbook Series (Box Set) (Non-Fiction: Bollywood Trivia)

My review (from Goodreads): Disclaimer: Dipta is a friend, so giving this Pocketbook series 5/5 stars. Would have given it 6 stars otherwise.

There is likely no other book/series with a higher trivia/sentence in the world. Likh ke diya.

Also, each of these hundreds (maybe thousands) of trivia nuggets pass the quality bar that would make them good questions at any Bollywood quiz worth their salt. As an entry level employee in this corporation of Bollywood trivia, I look up to Diptakirti as the founder-CEO, who is simply better than all of us in his chosen field.

This 4 series collection includes Iconic Dates, Places, Characters, and Things (likely a hat tip to the popular Indian time-pass game of Name, Place, Animal, Thing). Each book is ~150 pages, with ~50 chapters. Every chapter, at ~3 page is like a healthy yet tasty snack that you can't stop popping in your mouth, much like the popcorn tub in the dark theater which is the spiritual birthplace of this series.

Each pocketbook follows the chronological order of a century of Bollywood. However, the chapters that cover the movies from a hundred years back are no less interesting than the much more recent ones.

This is obviously not Diptakirti's first rodeo at this. He has been writing books on Bollywood trivia for over a decade now with Kitnay Aadmi Thay, Bollybook, Bollygeek, Written by Salim-Javed, Bioscope etc. In this series, not only has he honed his craft to the sharpest level, but it feels like he's also had the most fun writing all of these books, with references and throwbacks to other nuggets within the series itself. 

1. Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa (Non-Fiction: History)

My review (from Goodreads): One of the hardest books I have read, in my life. Not because the author used obscure words I didn't know the meaning of. On the contrary he used lucid language to describe some of the most heinous forms of flouting of human rights and sheer torture carried out by the colonizers and then the native dictators across the continent of Africa.

Stories of how the European colonizers ravaged the continent and its people for centuries is well known by now and is as pathetic as it gets. However, it is just heartbreaking to read how the same story of these nations winning independence and then falling into equally horrifying fate, and in many cases perhaps worse, by the home grown dictators whose cruelty knew no bounds. Repeated across Congo, Zimbabe, Nigeria, Equitorial Guinea, Libya, Ivory Coast among others.

The extensive research that has gone into writing the book jumps out. Kudos to Paul Kenyon for coming up with this brilliant work of history and lessons to be learned from it. 


Shows (all images and summaries courtesy Wikipedia)

Total shows watched in 2022 - 20. 

5. House of the Dragon (Season 1,  2022)

Summary: House of the Dragon is an American fantasy drama television series created by George R. R. Martin and Ryan Condal for HBO. A prequel to Game of Thrones (2011–2019), it is the second series in the A Song of Ice and Fire franchise. Condal and Miguel Sapochnik served as the showrunners for the first season. Based on Martin's 2018 novel Fire & Blood, the series is set about 100 years after the Seven Kingdoms are united by the Targaryen Conquest, nearly 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, and 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen. Featuring an ensemble cast, the show portrays the events leading up to the beginning of the decline of House Targaryen, a devastating war of succession known as the "Dance of the Dragons".

4. Only Murders In The Building: Season 1 (2021)

Summary: Only Murders in the Building is an American mystery comedy-drama television series created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman. The ten-episode first season premiered on Hulu in August 2021. The plot follows three strangers played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, with a shared interest in true crime podcasts who join together to investigate a death in the apartment building they all live in. The series has received critical acclaim for its comedic approach to crime fiction, as well as the performances and chemistry among the lead performers. In the first season, after a suspicious death in their affluent Upper West Side apartment building, the three neighbors start their own podcast about their investigation.

3. White Lotus: Season 2 (2022)

SummaryThe White Lotus is an American black comedy-drama anthology television series created by Mike White for HBO. It follows the guests and employees of the fictional White Lotus resort chain whose stay is affected by their various psychosocial dysfunctions. The first season is set in Hawaii and the second season is set in Sicily.

2. Ozark: Seasons 1-4 (2017-2022)
Summary: Ozark is an American crime drama television series created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams for Netflix, and produced by MRC Television and Aggregate Films. The series stars Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as Marty and Wendy Byrde, a married couple who move their family to the Lake of the Ozarks and become money launderers. Bateman also serves as a director and executive producer for the series. The first season was released on July 21, 2017; the second season was released on August 31, 2018, and the third season was released on March 27, 2020. The first three seasons are 10 episodes each. In June 2020, the series was renewed for a fourth, and final, season consisting of 14 episodes split into two parts.

1. Ted Lasso: Seasons 1 & 2  (2020 & 2021)
Summary: Ted Lasso is an American sports comedy-drama television series developed by Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly. It is based on a character of the same name that Sudeikis first portrayed in a series of promos for NBC Sports' coverage of the Premier League. The series follows Ted Lasso, an American college football coach who is hired to coach an English soccer team in an attempt by its owner to spite her ex-husband. Lasso tries to win over the skeptical English market with his folksy, optimistic demeanor while dealing with his inexperience in the sport.


Documentaries (all images and summaries courtesy Wikipedia)

5. The Tinder Swindler (2022)
SummaryThe Tinder Swindler is a British true crime documentary film directed by Felicity Morris and released on Netflix on 2 February 2022. The documentary tells the story of the Israeli conman Simon Leviev (born Shimon Hayut) who used the dating application Tinder to connect with individuals who he then emotionally manipulated into financially supporting his lavish lifestyle on the pretext he needed the money to escape his "enemies."

4. Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (2022)
Summary: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is a television special released on 1 January 2022 on HBO Max. It is a reunion special for the cast and crew of the Harry Potter film series, marking the twentieth anniversary of the series' first instalment, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001). The films' protagonist trio Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson appear in the special, with surviving principal cast members Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Tom Felton, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright, Alfred Enoch, Ian Hart, Toby Jones, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, producer David Heyman, and filmmakers Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates. The special also marked Coltrane's final on-screen appearance before his death in October that year.

3. Ben Stokes: Phoenix From The Ashes (2022)
Summary: A refreshingly honest film about an extraordinary cricketer. Directors Chris Grubb and Luke Mellows were allowed unprecedented access to Ben's life with interviews and insight by Sam Mendes.

2. McEnroe (2022)
Summary: It follows John McEnroe as he finally tells his side of his storied career and performances on the court..

1. Roadrunner (2021)
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a 2021 American documentary film directed and produced by Morgan Neville. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 11, 2021, and was released in the United States on July 16, 2021, by Focus Features. The film grossed $5.5 million at the box office and received critical acclaim, but also garnered controversy over its use of artificial intelligence technology to reproduce Bourdain's voice for some audio clips.

The film follows the life and career of chef, author, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide on June 8, 2018, at the age of 61 while on location in France for his CNN show Parts Unknown. The documentary features interviews with David Chang and Éric Ripert, as well as members of the production crew from Parts Unknown.



Listing the 5 Podcasts I make a point to listen to whenever a new episode drops.

5. Market Measures and The Skinny on Options by Tasty Trade (Options Trading)

4. Attention Pliss by Greatbong (Variety show)

3. The Daily by  New York Times (Daily News Analysis)

2. Pivot by Kara Swisher & Prof Galloway (Tech-Biz News and Analysis)

1. Decoder with Nilay Patel by The Verge (Tech Deep Dive and Interviews)

Other notable mentions:

1. Bad Bets (Business History)
2. Hard Fork (Tech/Biz Strategy)
3. Sharp Tech (Tech/Biz Strategy)
4. Plain English (News Analysis)
5. The Journal (Daily News Analysis)
6. On With Kara Swisher (News Analysis/Opinions/Interviews)

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