Six picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Wimbledon's Serb dominance, an armchair scientist's ticket to outer space, Inspector Wexford's renewed sleuthing, and more.

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Have a ball

During the 1990s, Peter Gabriel convened three week-long songwriting sessions for artists from across the world. Big Blue Ball compiles the best of these unusual collaborations and features Ireland's Sinéad O'Connor, Madagascar's Rossy, Congo's Papa Wemba, Hungary's Marta Sebestyen, and, on several songs, Gabriel himself.

She'll make you talk

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Just in time for the return of Kyra, the Divine, otherwise known as Brenda, The Closer on USA Network, the entire third season comes out on DVD July 1. Ms. Sedgwick, who just got her own star on Hollywood Boulevard, plays the wildly eccentric LAPD interrogator with pitch-perfect precision. The two-hour season finale is especially worth owning in order to watch it more than once.

The Mouse That revved

The Scholastic series for kids is a winner for parents looking for DVDs that respect the source material. Their newest release, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, based on the classic story by Beverly Cleary, follows the adventures of young Ralph S. Mouse as he races around a decrepit old California resort on his human friend Keith's favorite toy. The sweet story is a mix of live action and stop-motion animation and comes with a read-along feature. Bonus: Munro Leaf's "Wee Gillis" about a Scottish lad caught between his Highland and Lowland relatives.

Filling the void

The Web is full of science blogs, but few set their sights exclusively on the wild blue yonder. Armchair astronauts, take note: Space, written by the editors and reporters of the New Scientist magazine, is the next best thing to a ticket to the moon. Posts typically offer a good mix of technological analysis and political coverage; last week, for instance, there was news on Mars, the cosmic ray telescope, and the dust-up between the White House, Congress, and NASA. Catch up at www.newscientist.com/blog/space/. And don't forget your antigravity pen.

Center Court runway

Spectators may be riveted to the next outfit playing at Wimbledon this week (June 23 to July 6), but don't forget to watch talented Serbs Ana Ivanovich and Novak Djokovic, ranked No. 1 and No. 3, serve up some spectacular tennis in pursuit of the grass-court crown.

Return of a Sleuth

Multiple Edgar Award-winner Ruth Rendell has been writing her Inspector Wexford mysteries for more than 40 years, and the unflappable detective still hasn't worn out his welcome. His latest case, Not in the Flesh, opens when a truffle hound digs up some human bones near an abandoned house, and Wexford and his team must piece together events that occurred 11 years earlier. If identifying the body weren't complicated enough, the witnesses are either dead, elderly, or have moved away. Then they find the second body in the basement. This might not be Rendell's trickiest offering (we had it solved halfway through), but it's a fine example of her sharp writing, intelligence, and humanity.

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