Why Read Moby-Dick?

Although Hemingway said that all modern American literature comes from Huckleberry Finn, a case might be made for Moby-Dick as the model for everything that followed in fiction. If Nathaniel Philbrick stops just short of such an assertion, he nevertheless launches a spirited defense of Melville's notoriously unwieldy book. Having unpacked the real-life incidents behind Moby-Dick in his National Book Award-winning In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick focuses here on the transformative magic employed by Melville in his creation of Ahab's quest.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

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…