The Abacus and the Cross

A science-minded Pope who honored Islamic thought? Such was the resumé of Pope Sylvester II, who, prior to his death in 1003 AD, did his best to enlighten the Dark Ages. Nancy Marie Brown sets his uniqueness in a vivid medieval context.

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…