Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

A 'delicious' Latin music mix, quilts that qualify as art, the Iditarod from the comfort of your sofa, and more.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The play's the thing

During these tough times, here's a real treat: From Oct. 16-30, 600-plus theater companies in more than 120 US cities are offering a chance to experience live theater – free of charge. Check out for listings. Everyone, please take your seats.


Young@Heart, a documentary about a senior citizen choir that sings rock music, doesn't exploit its subject. It's fun watching old folks sing David Bowie's "Golden Years" or Coldplay's "Fix You," but the filmmakers' real interest is how the joy of music gives these retirees a new lease on life.

Latin music layer cake

The 15 solo artists and groups on The Rough Guide to Latin Street Party (World Music) display a gleeful energy. Chale Brillante y Su Gambino combines mambo brass choruses, flamenco castanets, and Dominican merengue rhythms creating a delicious musical layer cake. Other groups integrate rap with South American folk dance beats. Like any stylistic mix, success depends on agile rhythm sections, sharp studio production, and, in this instance, a consistent dance party vibe. This succeeds on every level.


When does quilting, that beloved folk craft, become "art"? In gathering examples from 40 quilters globally, Martha Sielman has assembled a radiant assortment of craft elevated to high art in Masters: Art Quilts (Lark Books). If any one thread runs through this colorful collection, it is that these designs shout out for artistic display on walls rather than just covering beds. Styles range from quilts evoking Oriental landscape paintings to cubist collages.

Rebus gets his gold watch

After 21 years, cranky Scottish inspector John Rebus finds himself with another dead body – a Russian dissident – and only 10 days to solve the case before mandatory retirement. In Exit Music, Edgar Award-winning author Ian Rankin offers his hero a jazz riff of a swan song, with his excellent character studies and ambling, knotted plots balanced by a certain wistfulness. As he prepares to leave the station, Rebus realizes he doesn't even have a mug to pack up. "Feeling a bit maudlin tonight, John?" he asks himself early on. "Then he gave a chuckle, knowing he could maudle for Scotland." Fans will call for an encore, but this is a satisfying end to the popular series.

A hairy ride

Discovery Channel's Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod, airing Oct. 14 at 10 p.m., follows 96 mushers and their dog teams as they re-create the historic race against time to deliver medicines to a remote village. Created in 1973, the race stretches from Anchorage to Nome, across 1,150 miles of Alaskan wilderness. It's a brutal ordeal, and watching it makes clear why Alaskans know more about their dogs than about themselves.

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