Top Picks: 'Reading Rainbow,' Ridley Pearson's The Risk Agent, and more

'Up Heartbreak Hill' follows Navajo teen athletes struggling with their future, James May explores how technology has revolutionized modern life, and more top picks.

Courtesy of Anthony Thosh Collins/PBS
Thomas runs down Asaayi Road in the PBS program 'Up Heartbreak Hill.'
Kristine Adams/Trio Garufa

One for the beach

In The Risk Agent (Putnam, 432 pp.), by Ridley Pearson, everyone gets shanghaied in Shanghai. Grace Chu, a Chinese forensic accountant who served in the Red Army, and John Knox, a wandering American war zones contractor, are hired by a private security company in Hong Kong to resolve a kidnapping. Pearson delivers a roller coaster of deceits and double crosses. It all adds up to the perfect summer read: not too heavy, not too light, and plenty of fight.

On track toward the future

In the PBS POV documentary Up Heartbreak Hill, director Erica Scharf turns her camera mostly on two Navajo teenage track athletes, Thomas Martinez and Tamara Hardy. The high school seniors raised on a reservation in New Mexico struggle to reconcile their dream of going to college with their parents' desire to have them stay close to home. It premières July 26.

Desert dreams

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a charming, independent film based on the award-winning Paul Torday novel of the same name, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The tale is nominally about the unlikely upstream efforts of a team trying to bring fishing to the desert. But it's really about love, faith, and the power of a sheikh's dream to make the deserts of life bloom.

Time sleuth

The entertaining, six-part series James May's 20th Century is now available on DVD from Athena. With his signature curiosity, perspective, and wit, James May travels the globe, as well as back in time, to learn how new technologies have revolutionized every aspect of modern life. These range from medical advancements to space travel. The DVD three-volume box set includes "James May's Big Ideas," a 180-minute bonus program, a 12-page viewer's guide with a timeline of inventions, and articles on the decades of the 20th century.

A smarter 'Reading Rainbow'

After a six-year hiatus, PBS's Reading Rainbow is back – as an iPad app. Host LeVar Burton returns to guide kids through a library of interactive books and video field trips. With 150 picture books available at launch, the app lets readers select one story free of charge. Additional tales require a subscription, $10 a month or $30 for six months.

It takes Trio to tango

Play Trio Garufa's "El Rumor de Tus Tangos" and you'll either get up and dance, or more likely, wish you knew how. Trio Garufa are a US-based tango group who have tested their skills in the tango clubs of Buenos Aires. Alongside traditional tracks you'll hear a few sultry tunes, such as "Milonga Uruguaya," that wouldn't seem out of place on one of those funky Buddha Bar collections. Bottom line: Trio Garufa know their art, and with tango already such a modern music form, it doesn't need much to keep it interesting.

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