Charles and Ray Eames's film Powers of Ten might finally have a contender for most useful and enlightening discussion of our place in the micro- and macrocosmos. Blatner examines myriad phenomena from above and below the familiar everyday human realm of comfortable size and perception. Whether he's probing invisible things like radiation or time or examining tangible astronomical objects, he always ties everything together in an organic whole that allows the readers intelligence to slide easily up and down the universal scale of marvels.

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…