Top Picks: Whale exhibit, 'The Passage,' veggie swaps, and more recommendations

'Whales Tohorā' at Boston's Museum of Science, Justin Cronin's vampire saga 'The Passage,' for backyard vegetable growers, and more top picks.

Swap homegrown vegetables on and be a part of a local network and a national movement to trade, share, and encourage local farming
Build a virtual robotic dolphin and learn about New Zealand whale-riding tribes at 'Whales Tohorā' at Boston's Museum of Science.
'The Passage,' Justin Cronin's first book in a planned trilogy, is a morbidly fun vampire tale.

Dive deep with whales

"Whales Tohorā" at Boston's Museum of Science brings the hidden world of the great mammals to the surface. With a whale lab where you can build a virtual robotic dolphin to the sound chamber where you can hear their rumbles and clicks to a film about whale-riding tribes in New Zealand, you learn the natural and human-related threats to the species. Created by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the exhibition travels to the Ontario Science Center in Toronto after leaving Boston Sept. 14.

Shades of nature

Summer rays need summer shades. Go back to stylish basics with Shwood sunglasses from Portland, Ore., "born from the limb of a Mandrone tree." Using both exotic and everyday woods such as maple, wenge, and zebrawood, these artisans craft one-of-a-kind eyewear that shows off their artistry as well as nature's timeless design.

A vampire saga with real bite

In "The Passage" (Ballantine Books, $26), a 766-page sprawling summer read, Justin Cronin delivers a twisted vampire tale fueled by government myopia and paranoia, the perfect incarnation for bloodsuckers ("virals" in Cronin's parlance) in the post-9/11 world. He has plenty of morbid fun in the process, beginning with a not-too-distant America where New Orleans has been leveled by environmental disaster and declared a federal disaster area, and Jenna Bush serves as the governor of Texas. By the end, a century later, a motley crew of so-called stragglers unites with the military in, yes, post-apocalyptic Roswell, N.M. – and leaves a hefty cliffhanger in place for readers to ponder while Cronin works on the final two books in a planned trilogy.

Digitize your scrawl

If you'd like to see your digital John Hancock in your own handwriting, is the site for you. Now you can do everything: pen those digital thank-you notes, fill in family scrapbooks, electronically sign documents on your computer – in your own handwriting. Scan your sample sentences and, presto, you have your very own personalized handwriting font.

Stories told

If you love short stories drawn from real life, has thousands of tales – sometimes funny, occasionally sad, often poignant – to listen to online or download.

Too many tomatoes?

Is your summer garden a bit short on beans this year, but long on beets? Find a friend to swap within your area and help local produce to grow. Join and be a part of a local network and a national movement to trade, share, and encourage local farming – even when it's just in your own backyard.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.