Top Picks: Tea with Jane Austen, Soviet students, Lord of the Rings hi-def, and more

The importance of tea in Jane Austen's England, the final generation of students under the Soviet system, Lord of the Rings out on Blu-ray, and more recommendations

Red Square Productions
"My Perestroika"
PAXTON & Acony Records
Gillian Welch with "The Harrow & The Harvest"
Book Scan
"Tea with Jane Austen"

A delicious little book

In Tea with Jane Austen, author Kim Wilson examines the social history of tea in Regency England through the lens of Austen's novels. The many roles tea played in the social hierarchy are meticulously detailed along with the different settings at which tea was consumed. The book is enlivened with anecdotes about Austen's personal life, excerpts from her many novels, and scandalous tidbits about tea smuggling. With Wilson's help, this work is the perfect accompaniment to any of Austen's books.

Jazz, Brazilian style

Sultry Brazilian singer/pianist Eliane Elias wraps her jazzy bossa nova style around familiar Top 40 radio chestnuts as well as some homeland favorites on her smooth new release, Light My Fire. The title seems like a fait accompli, the way she coos her way through the title song, swings softly on Brubeck's "Take Five," and turns Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" into a sexy slow jam. And with countrymen guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves and drummer Paulo Braga laying down irresistible grooves, you'll wonder "Is it hot in here? Or is it just...?"

Life in a post-Soviet world

My Perestroika, airing on PBS's "POV" June 28, looks at what it was like for the last generation of Soviet schoolchildren. Director Robin Hessman spent five years recording the lives of five Moscow schoolmates as they passed through glasnost and perestroika and emerged, in various states of disillusionment. With its then-and-now home-movie footage and period newsreels the documentary is almost a companion piece to Michael Apted's "Up" series.

Frodo's mission goes high-def

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Blu-ray) is the definitive high-definition collection, enhanced by more than two hours of material chosen by director Peter Jackson and more than 4-1/2 hours of special features, including filmmaker Costa Botes's behind-the-scenes documentaries.

Shakespeare's Globe

Beginning June 27, Shakespeare comes to more than 260 movie theaters nationwide from the legendary Globe Theatre in London. This four-event series will kick off with "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and wrap up in September with "Henry VIII." Check for tickets.

Welcome Welch

It's a special event when Americana sweetheart Gillian Welch releases an album. The Harrow & The Harvest, her first in eight years, feels like an intimate gift. Her ongoing partnership with David Rawlings spawns flawless harmonies and telepathic guitar interplay, his distinctive single-note runs tenderly enveloping Welch's world-weary vocals. The "Way It Will Be," "Tennessee," and "Hard Times" will most likely join the growing canon of great American songs penned by this talented duo.

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