DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a program in VOA Special English about music and American life.

This is Doug Johnson. Two thousand five has arrived.

On our show today, we tell about the most popular books, movies and songs of the past year.

Top Books of 2004

The newspaper U.S.A. Today has released a list of the most popular books of two thousand four. U.S.A. Today creates the list from information about the number of books sold during the year. Gwen Outen tells us about a few of them.

GWEN OUTEN: The newspaper says the most popular book in the United States last year was "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. It was the third most popular book in two thousand three.

"The Da Vinci Code" is an imaginary story about an art expert who attempts to solve a murder mystery. The mystery involves the Roman Catholic Church and questions some of its beliefs. The questions asked in the book involve clues to the murder. The painter and engineer Leonardo da Vinci reportedly left the clues in his artworks.

The information provided in "The Da Vinci Code" has led some readers to question the teachings of their church. Religious leaders and history experts have both praised and criticized the book. They say Dan Brown has placed a new meaning on an old story that has not been proved. And they all say that it is important to remember that it is an invented story and not to be read as truth.

U.S.A. Today says the second most popular book last year was "The South Beach Diet" by Arthur Agatston. Doctor Agatston has developed a way for people to lose weight and still eat the foods they enjoy. His book explains the need for people to change the way they eat. He suggests eating more high-fiber foods and healthy fats, while cutting bread, rice, and fruit. The book also includes directions for suggested meals.

Dan Brown also wrote the third most popular book in the United States. That book is called "Angels and Demons." It involves the same art critic who appears in "The Da Vinci Code." This story involves a reported plot against the Roman Catholic Church by a centuries old secret organization known as the Illuminati. The art critic must solve a murder mystery and save the Vatican, too.

Top Movies of 2004

DOUG JOHNSON: At the end of the year, the American movie industry reports about the most popular movies of the year. The results are based on the number of tickets sold in theaters throughout the United States.

The most popular movie of two thousand four in the United States was a funny animated movie for children and adults called "Shrek Two." It earned more than four hundred thirty six million dollars.

The movie is the second one about Shrek, a large green creature called an ogre. Shrek has rescued and married Princess Fiona. Her parents invite them to Fiona's homeland, called Far, Far Away, to celebrate their marriage. But her parents do not know that the newlyweds are both ogres. The movie also involves characters from children's storybooks. They include Puss in Boots, Prince Charming, Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man.

The second most popular movie in the United States last year also starts where an earlier movie ended. This movie is "Spider-Man Two." It earned at least three hundred seventy three million dollars last year.

Spider-Man is a super hero who helps people in New York City. He is really a young man named Peter Parker who is in love with Mary Jane Watson. But Peter cannot tell her that he is Spider-Man. In "Spider-Man Two", Peter fears losing her forever because she is engaged to marry an astronaut. Peter wants to stop being Spider-Man because he feels it is ruining his life. But he is forced to continue his two lives because the city is threatened by Doctor Octopus, a creature with four metal arms.

The third most popular movie in the United States last year earned more than three hundred seventy million dollars. It is "The Passion of the Christ." The movie is about the final twelve hours of the life of Jesus. Actor Mel Gibson directed and produced the movie. It used the Latin and Aramaic languages to tell its story. Critics said the film used extreme violence in showing the death of Jesus. But millions of people who saw the movie called it a religious experience.

Top Recordings of 2004

Each December, Billboard magazine lists the most popular recordings and performers of the year. Faith Lapidus tells us about a few of them.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Billboard magazine says the top selling record album of two thousand four was "Confessions" by Usher. It has sold more than seven million copies. The top single from that album is this song, "Yeah."


"Billboard" magazine says the group OutKast produced the second biggest record album of the year. It is called "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below." Here is OutKast performing their song, "Hey Ya."


"Billboard" says the third most popular album in the United States last year came from American singer Josh Groban. The album is called "Closer." We leave you now with Josh Groban performing, "You Raise Me Up."


DOUG JOHNSON: This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC.

We are sad to report to you the death of VOA Special English announcer Richard Rael. He died earlier this week following a bicycle accident. We will miss our co-worker and friend. But you will be able to continue to hear his voice on some of our repeat broadcast features.

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Efeem Drucker. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA.'s radio magazine in Special English.