If the Coen Brothers filmed Flannery O'Connor's stories using the ghost of Grant Wood as set and costume designer, the resulting film might resemble the tales in this career-launching collection from Alan Heathcock, a writer distinguished by his poetic treatment of the quotidian violence that underpins too much of American life.

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…