The Sugar Barons

The history of the world can be traced through its most valuable commodities, one of which, for a time, was simple cane sugar. "White gold" funded the rise and fall of empires, shaping our modern geopolitical landscape and establishing the economic promise of the New World. The not-so-sweet nexus of all this greed and chicanery was the Caribbean, its history of slaves and masters, fortunes and failures portrayed brilliantly here by scholar and former West Indies citizen Matthew Parker.

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…