A Reef in Time

Marine biologist J.E.N. Vernon calls his research subject "Nature's pinnacle of achievement in the ocean realm," and The Reef in Time: The Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End makes an outstanding case for the truth of that simple statement. But Vernon has set himself a much more audacious task than merely convincing his readers of the beauty, complexity, and uniqueness of "the largest construction of living organisms anywhere on Earth." His aim is to let us in, as far as possible, on his intimate knowledge of the reef's astounding life story (one which, Vernon argues, can be understood as beginning 25 million years ago), its role in the ocean today, and its probable future. That last is not a pretty picture, as one might surmise -- and although Vernon is cautious in his predictions about what global warming will and won't do to marine life, he presents a bleakly convincing picture of what human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide will mean for the oceans in general, and the Great Barrier Reef in specific. Happily, this is not merely a call to environmental action, but an attempt by a man who is as much an enraptured diver as a committed scholar to share his love for this magnificent aspect of our planet's life. The text is gorgeously enhanced by color photographs which will make many readers think about taking scuba lessons and making arrangements to witness the GBR's majesty up close -- while the reef still has time. -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.