Staff Picks

Africa: Eye to Eye with the Unknown (DVD)

For fans of: Planet Earth, Life, Animal Planet.

Naturalist David Attenborough is once again our narrator/onscreen host, and he's on hand for multiple moments that aren't simply educational and revelatory, but also jaw-droppingly beautiful, with cinematography so rich and detailed you might even think some of these shots are studio-enhanced special effects.

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Tatsumi (DVD)

For fans of: Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, Persepolis and Yoshihiro Tatsumi's work

Tatsumi celebrates the life and work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi-a manga pioneer who transformed the genre with cinematic inspiration and psychological depth.  Singaporean filmmaker and former comic artist Eric Khoo (Be With Me) brings Tatsumi's 2010 graphic memoir A Drifting Life and five of his classic stories to vivid, stunning life. An inventive animated tribute to a groundbreaking artist, the film is as gorgeous, shocking and darkly funny as the works themselves.

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The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox

For fans of: The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Lost City of Z by David Grann.

When archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a  sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Classical Greece, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe’s earliest written records. Award-winning New York Times journalist Margalit Fox's riveting real-life intellectual detective story travels from the Bronze Age Aegean to the turn of the 20th century to the colorful personal stories of the decipherers.

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The I.T. Crowd (Series)

For fans of: The Office, 30 Rock, Peep Show.

In the gleaming high-rise offices of Reynholm Industries, powerful executives oversee billion dollar business deals. But in the dark and shabby basement, the company's IT Support Team bitter slacker Roy, socially inept Moss, and their new boss, computer illiterate Jen rule their own domain of professional irresponsibility, mega-nerd ecstasy, and random acts of personal insanity.

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

For fans of : Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Midsomer Murders.

While in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained from falling through a trap door, Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant becomes intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to one of history's most heinous villains—a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant determines to find out once and for all what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

For fans of: Philippa Gregory, Salman Rushdie. 

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

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An Idiot Abroad (DVD)

For fans of: The Ricky Gervais Show, the British Office. 

An Idiot Abroad demonstrates that it takes a unique mind to reduce the Seven Wonders of the World to a string of dirty, far-flung tourist traps, but if the mind in question is that of Karl Pilkington, the feat is less extraordinary than expected. Viewed as either a perverse documentary look at a (thankfully) singular mind or 21st-century Theatre of Cruelty, An Idiot Abroad is guaranteed to produce astonished laughter, and is a worthy addition to Gervais and Merchant's ever-expanding canon of uncomfortable humor.

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Vertigo (DVD)

For fans of: Chinatown (1974), Diabolique (1954),  Mulholland Drive (2001).

Dismissed when first released, later heralded as one of director Alfred Hitchcock's finest films (and, according to Hitchcock, his most personal one), this adaptation of the French novel D'entre les morts weaves an intricate web of obsession and deceit. A retired San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's much-younger wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.

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The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg

For fans of: Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell, Patricia Cornwell. 

A woman is found dead, apparently the victim of a tragic car crash. At the same time a reality TV show is being shot in the town. As cameras shadow the stars’ every move, relations with the locals are strained to breaking point. When a drunken party ends with a particularly unpopular contestant’s murder, the cast and crew are obvious suspects. As the country tunes in, the bodies mount up. Under the intense glare of the media spotlight, Patrik faces his toughest investigation yet…

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Hot Fuzz (DVD)

For fans of: British Comedies, Police Comedies.

Sergent Ange, a top London cop who is so good at his job that he makes his fellow officers look like slackers by comparison is "promoted" to serve in the sleepy village of Sandford in this contemporary action comedy from the creators of Shaun of the Dead. Just as it begins to appear as if Sergeant Angel has been relegated to an uneventful existence in the relative calm of the countryside, a series of horrific "accidents" lead him to suspect that the tranquil hamlet of Sanford has fallen prey to a sinister plot which reeks of foul play.

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Beneath the Abbey Wall

For fans of: Rita Mae Brown, James Lee Burke, and Faye Kellerman.

In the Highlands in the late 1950s, much of the local newspaper’s success was due to Mrs. Smart, the no-nonsense office manager who kept everything and everyone in line. Her murder leaves her colleagues in shock and the Highland Gazette office in chaos. Joanne Ross, a budding reporter, assumes Mrs. Smart’s duties, but an intriguing stranger provides a distraction not only from the job and the investigation but from everything Joanne believes in.

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

For fans of: Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Ernest Cline.

National Treasure collides with Google in this delightful caper filled with old-school clues and digital problem solving. When Clay Jannon is hired to tend to Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore during the night shift little does he know that his curiosity will draw him into the strange goings-on of its mysterious customers. Like Clay, you will be drawn into the mystery and want to know why he must record his night shifts in the ancient logbooks stored below the cash register - or why he is not allowed to open the books he so laboriously pulls from the three-story bookshelves using a rickety ladder and pure pluck.

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The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

For fans of: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Foe by J.M. Coetzee.

2013 One Book, One Philadelphia selection

In the early 1900s, numerous Japanese mail order brides came to America seeking better lives. Using a collective first-person narrator, Otsuka looks at the experiences of these "picture brides," organizing their stories into themes which include: their arrival in America; their first nights with their husbands; their interactions with white people; their children; and finally, the experience of World War II. Each section is beautifully rendered, a delicate amalgam of contrasting and complementary experiences.

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Pink Flag by Wire (CD)

For fans of: The Clash, The Ramones, Gang of Four.

Wire were born at the dawn of punk, but they became the quintessential art band. In the three closing years of the 1970s, the English quartet had one of the greatest opening runs of any band, shifting to post-punk before punk began to go stale and forging three masterpieces in a creative furnace so hot it burned out by the end of 1980. Those albums-- Pink Flag,Chairs Missing, and 154-- still sound remarkably fresh... Pink Flag was a fractured snapshot of punk alternately collapsing in on itself and exploding into song-fragment shrapnel. Read the rest of the Pitchfork review here.

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Building Stories by Chris Ware

For fans of: Dave Eggers, Alison Bechdel, Charles Burns.

The pieces, some previously published in various places and others new for this set, swarm around a Chicago three-flat occupied by an elderly landlady, a spiteful married couple, and a lonely amputee (there’s also a bee bumbling around in a rare display of levity)...It’s all about the grind and folly of everyday life but presented in an exhilarating fashion, each composition an obsessively perfect alignment of line, shape, color, and perspective...In terms of pure artistic innovation, Ware is in a stratosphere all his own.

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