Ugly Beauty

What a convoluted backstory lurks in a bottle of mascara or a tube of lipstick bearing the Rubinstein or L'Oreal trademarks! Fierce rivals till their eventual hostile merger, the two companies share pasts steeped in European history and culture, from Nazi collaboration to evolving gender politics. All is ably chronicled in this fascinating study by Ruth Brandon.

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…