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Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Dog show pooch-gazing, comedian Carlin's timeless wit, England's green and manicured land, and more.

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Courtesy of PBS

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Ruff competition

As the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City's Madison Square Garden gets ready to debut on USA Network Feb. 9-10 at 8 p.m., CNBC offers an hour of preshow pooch-peeping and historical information on the club and its activities. Tune in Feb. 5 at 9 p.m. for a taste of what to expect and double your canine enjoyment.

Garden gazing

The English Garden by the editors of Phaidon Press offers a breath of fresh air through paintings, engravings, and photographs of 100 iconic gardens from the past 500 years. Chronologically organized, this collection cleverly juxtaposes vibrant images of conventional, classically balanced gardens with quirky botanical experiments. The budget-priced coffee-table book ($24.95) offers brief commentaries on each garden and its creator, a glossary, and a directory of gardens open to the public for readers hungry for England's green.

Skip the presses

Would-be novelists used to have only a handful of routes to publication: an agent, a well-placed short story, or a visit to the local vanity press. These days, thousands of writers are visiting Smashwords.com instead. The site offers a simple publication platform for stories, poems, and novels. And Smashwords recently signed a deal with the makers of Stanza, the e-book application for the iPhone. Your manuscript could rocket from a dusty shelf to touch screens across the country within minutes. Now that's instant gratification.

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