Samuel Johnson

This September marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Johnson, and the tricentenary has seen the publication of another small shelf of biographies of this essential yet enigmatic figure in English literature. DON’T OPEN ANY OF THEM until you have read W. Jackson Bate’s 1975 life, one of most satisfying, absorbing, and inspiring biographies ever written.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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…