Monitor picks

Five things we think you'll really like.

Essaying the fine things in life

In At Large and At Small, the inimitable Anne Fadiman has once again crafted a lovely collection of musings on everything from amateur lepidopterists (butterfly collectors) to ice cream. Especially moving is "A Piece of Cotton," her essay on the symbolic meaning of the American flag following Sept. 11. ($21, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.)

From spy to private eye

In USA Network's Burn Notice (Thursdays, 10 p.m.), spy Michael Westen is fired – or, more accurately – fired upon, when US intelligence abruptly cuts him loose. So much for a pink slip. Decamping to Miami, he utilizes his McGyver-like skills (turning cellphones into a surveillance devices) for detective work. As the droll-wit spy, Jeffrey Donovan (l.) is Clint Eastwood gruff but with a twinkle in his eye.

Master i-Language

Trying to brush up on Chinese or Spanish for your next trip abroad? Put aside that phrasebook you were planning to pack. There's a podcast for that! Free downloadable language lessons from the iTunes Store let you make good use of your inflight hours – the longer the journey the better. (Just search under "language education.") ¡Buena idea!

News that's easy to use

In 1998, Michael Wolff wrote a book about his experience with an Internet start-up during the dotcom boom. This month, Wolff, the Vanity Fair media columnist, is back in business with Newser.com, an aggregator website that uses an algorithm to rank news stories from all over the world. It's in Beta until October, but the colorful presentation is a nice antidote to the bone-dry Google News.

Dangerous icecapades

As gripping as that TV show about Alaskan crab fisherman, Ice Road Truckers (History Channel, Sundays, 10 p.m.) follows drivers who haul 18-wheelers to Canadian diamond mines near the Arctic circle. The challenge: They have just 60 days each year to forge a host of roads over frozen lakes for journeys of up to 350 miles. Will the ice hold under all that transport tonnage?

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