2022: A Roundup of Books

My hopes of reading a few more books than last year got dashed by Netflix, Instagram and Twitter. I just about managed to hit my target (but not without some underhand tricks) and I end the year with hopes of reading more... next year.
Here are my favourite five* books from the year.

5. Uttam Kumar: A Life in Cinema - Sayandeb Chowdhury
Uttam Kumar is that star whose roles have been recreated by at least nine Hindi film superstars, and yet he never succeeded in the Hindi film industry (despite his best efforts). He is still Bengal's biggest superstar - forty years after his death - though there's no major analysis of his craft. Till now. Chowdhury does an excellent job of deconstructing Uttam's star persona and explains how his stardom was an 'idea whose time had come'. Contextualising his rise with the history of Bengal and Bangla cinema, neatly classifying his roles, highlighting some of his best work and balancing his admiration for Uttam with hard-nosed research, he produces a book that is a must-read for fans and newbies alike. (I only wish the language was a little simpler, though!) 

4. Adi Parba - Koustuv Bhattacharya (Bangla)
A Mahabharat retelling set in a dystopian post-nuclear India is a story OTT platforms should kill for. This almost-unknown Bengali novel has a superb flow and plotting, balancing both action and characterisation - neither following the original epic too closely nor deviating much. He introduces interesting new elements that reference both ancient and modern India, building a layer over the original story for a fresh perspective. As the title indicates, this is just the first part. I am looking forward to the rest! 

3.  Blankets - Craig Thompson 
I got acquainted with Craig Thompson through Habibi, and expectations were understandably high. That tale of magic realism had a worthy predecessor in Blankets, one of the best coming-of-age stories I have read. Set in near-present-day America, it is also an America we aren't familiar with. Thompson recounts his tender, unsure love story in a conservative, insular country and imparts a timelessness to it. 

2. Whole Numbers and Half Truths - Rukmini S
This is the book you should read if you want to get a sense of modern India through hard numbers. Except, you won't get any answers. Rukmini S does a great job of explaining why India can't be pegged down to a few figures and how finding a process is more important than finding the answer. If you're in a profession that needs to understand or are just a curious Indian, this book is a must-read.

1. Cinema Speculation - Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino is that film-crazy uncle who remembers every single movie he watched, even key bits of the theatre experience. And then follows it up with bold analyses of the films, things you didn't notice, theories you didn't think of, movie pairings you couldn't imagine. Some of the movies mentioned were obscure (at least to me) but, that's a great way to start Googling, streaming and discovering new films! 

Books you read cannot hold a candle to the books you are part of. So extending the list of my favourite books for the year to two more...

0. The Boss Dilemma - Trishna Chaudhuri
My wife became an author with this delicious rom-com set in Bangalore that made detours to Koh Samui, Dubai and Kodaikanal, tagging along with the perfect couple. Except that they don't know it yet, working in the same office and trying to avoid becoming office gossip. As I read the first draft, I was unwittingly drawn into the fairy-tale romance, a story that's as real as it is escapist. It's the perfect weekend read. 

0. The Bollywood Pocketbooks - Diptakirti Chaudhuri
Depending on whether you count this as four books or one, I now have ten books (or seven) under my belt. It was an exercise in both fandom and discipline to come up with 200 interesting nuggets about Bollywood and write a tight chapter on each - hopefully egging the reader to rekindle memories or discover more. [More about the books here.]