The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet

When New York's American Museum of Natural History rebuilt its Rose Center for Earth and Space, its staff of astrophysicists, after much discussion, decided to exclude Pluto from the area displaying models of the planets, grouping it instead with the growing number of icy objects being discovered beyond Neptune. The reclassification remained largely unnoticed until a year after the 2000 opening, when The New York Times published a front-page story headlined "Pluto's Not a Planet? Only in New York." Author Neil deGrasse Tyson, the center's director, writes that the ensuing media frenzy made him "public enemy of Pluto lovers the world over." In this irreverent, entertaining, yet substantive book, Tyson traces the short history of Planet Pluto, from its 1930 discovery by an Illinois farm boy and amateur astronomer to the 2006 vote by the International Astronomical Union to demote it to "dwarf planet" status. As Tyson suggests, the debate was not just scientific but also cultural: adults clung to the planetary sequence they had memorized in their youth, while schoolchildren reliably claimed Pluto as their favorite planet, perhaps because it shares a name with a beloved Disney character (the heavily illustrated book includes reproductions of outraged letters Tyson received from kids). In the end, vindicated by the IAU, Tyson makes a compelling case for freeing ourselves from Pluto nostalgia, arguing that "the rote exercise of planet counting rings hollow and impedes the inquiry of a vastly richer landscape of science drawn from all that populates our cosmic environment."

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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…

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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.