The Violinist's Thumb

Sam Kean's bestseller The Disappearing Spoon romped through the Periodic Table in a compulsively readable history of chemical discoveries. In The Violinist's Thumb -- a reference to the genetic quirk that helped make Paganini's playing legendary -- the writer unveils the mysteries of DNA to equally magical effect.

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…