Saturday, December 30, 2023

Books, Shows, and Documentaries - 2023 Wrap Up

Excited to share the 3rd post of this newly created annual tradition (2021, 2022) - My Favorite Books, Shows, and Documentaries. Unfortunately I had to remove the Podcast section after adding it in 2022 as I almost heard the same shows again, and will still recommend all of the ones from last year.

Note: Unlike for my movies, shows, and documentaries lists where I keep "released this year" as the eligibility criterion, the books list is not restricted to just books released in that year, but books read in that year.

Books (all book pictures from Goodreads) 

Total books read in 2023 - 23. Full list available here. Feel free to add me as a friend on Goodreads.

5. Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister (Fiction)

My review (from Goodreads): Checks all the boxes of a simply good book. You're invested in the characters from the get go. The time travel angle adds a fresh angle to the whodunnit. The going back a few months, years, and decades is also filled with meticulous nuances of the life from the recent and not very distant past. You keep guessing on what our protagonist will find out, as much as what you truly want.

4. The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall (Non-Fiction: Geography)

My review (from Goodreads): Strong follow up to the same author's 'Prisoner's of Geography' from a few years back. In the Power of Geography Tim Marshall takes us through some specific examples of countries e.g. Australia, Turkey, UK, the Sahel etc and explains why and how their geographies have been both their strengths and weaknesses in various cases. Some of the more obvious ones would be oil availability in the middle east, while the same abundance of riches in several African countries have been a curse. It felt like a continuation from where he left off in "Prisoners..." and while I may not retain all the details a few months from now, as the explanations provided were logical and some interesting tidbits throughout the book, made for an engrossing read and you will be better off even subconsciously by having a deeper understanding of the world.

3. Yellowface by R. F. Kuang (Fiction)

My review (from Goodreads): In R.F. Kuang's satirical novel Yellowface, aspiring writer June Hayward seizes the opportunity to present an unpublished manuscript as her own, catapulting her into literary stardom. However, her literary masquerade unravels amidst social media scrutiny, literary investigation, and a haunting ghost story (well, sort of). Through Kuang's thought-provoking prose, Yellowface challenges readers to question the ethics of literary appropriation, the impact of online personas, and the true nature of artistic inspiration.

I found the book compelling and while I won't say I was swayed wildly across the pendulum, I could see what the author was trying to achieve through the story and she manages to do so successfully.

A thriller/mystery quite distinct from your regular ones.

2. Unstoppable Us, Volume 1: How Humans Took Over the World by Yuval Noah Harari (Non-Fiction: Everything)

My review (from Goodreads): This is the kid's version of Sapiens, which is one of my all time fav. books. If you have a kid below the age of 13 you should read this one to them, if not then read it by yourself. It talks about the evolution of our species, from well before the stone age, till the time we became the big dogs on earth, and how we did so without size or muscle power. A hard read in places and kids can feel a bit scared of the chapters that talk about hunting and killing animals, so please use your judgement based on your child. My daughter and I can't wait for Volume 2. 

1. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Fiction)

My review (from Goodreads): I am a sucker for stories that span across eras with our characters growing and evolving to different versions of themselves. Tomorrow 3 is a solid example of this genre. The protagonists are relatable and interesting even if not always likeable. The rapport they share are similar to ones you would have shared with some friends, and their life charts out in ways expected and then there are the twists. You feel for them and want to drill sense into them at time. The writing is engaging without trying too hard. The hype was worth it.


Shows (all images courtesy IMDb and summaries by Bard)

Total shows watched in 2023 - 14

5. Kaala Paani (Hindi)

Summary: Kaala Paani is a Hindi-language survival drama web series set in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The series follows a deadly epidemic that threatens to wipe out the population. A mysterious illness spreads through the Andaman Islands' water supply. Dr. Soudamini Singh races to find a cure, but authorities ignore her warnings. The islands are quarantined, and the population struggles to survive. The epidemic is eventually stopped, but at a great cost. The series is a cautionary tale about the dangers of environmental destruction.

4. Beef (English)

Summary: Road rage sparks a dark, escalating feud between struggling contractor Danny and frustrated entrepreneur Amy. Secrets, betrayals, and violence spiral as they target each other's vulnerabilities. A car crash forces them into uneasy alliance, revealing their shared pain and unmet dreams. Forgiveness and understanding emerge despite the trauma, offering them a chance to heal. 'Beef' serves up a raw, darkly comic journey through anger, revenge, and unexpected compassion.

3. Dahaad (Hindi)

Summary: Sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati investigates a series of deaths where women are found in public bathrooms. The deaths first appear as suicides but as the investigation progresses, Bhaati realizes that there's a serial killer on the loose.

2. The Last of Us (English)

Summary: Twenty years after a fungal apocalypse, hardened smuggler Joel escorts 14-year-old Ellie, immune to the infection, across ravaged America. Their bond deepens amidst brutal violence and lurking infected, but Joel's trauma threatens their journey. Hope emerges with potential rebels, the Fireflies, seeking Ellie's immunity for a vaccine. Betrayal and loss shatter their trust, forcing Joel to make a life-altering decision to protect Ellie. In a world shrouded in darkness, a fragile hope survives through their complex and unwavering bond.

1. Succession (Season 4) (English)

Summary: Season 4 of Succession throws the Roy siblings into a global chess match as Logan's health deteriorates. Kendall, desperate for legitimacy, pursues a hostile takeover while Shiv navigates the political minefield of Waystar Royco's legacy. Roman, emboldened by a surprise promotion, revels in chaos as Connor schemes for the presidency. Kendall's reckless pursuit backfires, leading to a public meltdown and a humiliating shareholder vote. Logan, ever the puppet master, uses the crisis to tighten his grip, forcing alliances to shift and loyalties to crumble. Meanwhile, Gerri navigates the power vacuum with serpentine grace, and Cousin Greg emerges as an unlikely kingmaker. As tensions rise and betrayals multiply, the siblings are left grasping for power, forced to confront the true cost of their ambitions and the legacy they fight to inherit. The season culminates in a shocking cliffhanger, leaving the Roy family on the brink of fracture and viewers gasping for more.


Documentaries (all images courtesy IMDb and summaries by Bard)

Total documentaries watched in 2022 - 20. 

3. The Romantics (Hindi/English)

Summary: "The Romantics" is a documentary series that explores the history of Indian cinema and its impact on the country's culture. Through interviews with some of the biggest names in Bollywood, like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Ranbir Kapoor, the series dives into the evolution of Indian cinema from its early days to the present.

The documentary explores various themes, including how Indian cinema reflects Indian society, tackling social issues and promoting cultural understanding. It also highlights the unifying power of cinema, bringing people together from different backgrounds through shared experiences.

"The Romantics" is a love letter to Indian cinema, celebrating its rich history, cultural significance, and enduring impact on the lives of millions. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in Indian cinema or the power of film in general.

2. Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

SummaryWall Street titan Bernie Madoff built an empire on a lie: a colossal Ponzi scheme. The 2008 crash exposed his web of deceit, leaving a trail of ruined lives and shattered trust. This docuseries explores the rise and fall of the "Monster of Wall Street," from his meteoric success to his chilling downfall, revealing the human cost of financial greed and the dark underbelly of Wall Street.

3. The Hunt for Veerappan

SummaryDeep in South India's forests, Veerappan, a ruthless poacher and smuggler, reigns. The 1990s echo with his crimes: elephant slaughter, sandalwood heists, and audacious kidnappings. Two states unite against him, forming a special task force. The ensuing manhunt spans two decades, twisting through dense jungles, political games, and shifting loyalties. Veerappan, hailed as a Robin Hood by some, terrorizes others. The documentary dissects the myth and the man, weaving in the voices of his wife, police officers, and villagers caught in the crossfire. Ultimately, the bullet-ridden saga confronts the legacy of a criminal king and the cost of bringing him to justice.