Top Picks: 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,' Neil Diamond's 'Acoustic Christmas,' and more

Photographer Loes Heerink captures images of street vendors in Hanoi, Vietnam from above, Martin Cruz Smith's 'The Girl from Venice' features the smooth precision of a seasoned pro, and more top picks.


Christmas tunes

It’s that time of year and new Christmas albums are hitting the shelves: In the pop realm – senior division– there is the appealingly laid-back Acoustic Christmas, by Neil Diamond, and a gently rocking new collection, ‘Tis the SeaSon by Jimmy Buffett, done parrot-head style, of course. Red-hot country singer Kacey Musgraves presents the playful A Very Kacey Christmas (with guest stars Willie Nelson and young sensation Leon Bridges) and the mighty-voiced Jennifer Nettles goes pop country with To Celebrate Christmas.

Math and friendship

In The Man Who Knew Infinity, “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Dev Patel portrays mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who grew up in India and attended England’s Trinity College after mathematician G.H. Hardy saw his theorems. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer writes that “the film’s core is the deep friendship that developed between Hardy, the tweedy Oxbridge atheist, and his devoutly religious disciple, who believed that his equations expressed thoughts from God.” It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Thrilling novel

Thriller writer Martin Cruz Smith returns with a World War II stand-alone novel, The Girl from Venice. Nazi-occupied Italy is in disarray in 1945 as the Axis alliance comes unwound. The novel centers on Giulia, an escaped Jewish orphan who turns up floating in a lagoon. Cenzo discovers Giulia. Their uneasy alliance takes shape while peril closes in. Il Duce himself, Mussolini, makes a few cameos and Smith navigates the murky waters of unreliable authorities – and friends and family – with the smooth precision of a seasoned pro.

Street view

In Hanoi, Vietnam, street vendors carry goods from flowers to bananas on their bicycles. Photographer Loes Heerink captured images of these vendors from a bird’s-eye view and presents an intriguing portrait of everyday life in Vietnam. Find her series at

Girls return

The girls are back with the Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which brings back mother Lorelai, daughter Rory, grandmother Emily, and more almost 10 years after the original acclaimed show went off the air. The new episodes are now streaming.

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