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We all know that beauty is truth (and truth beauty), but does visual perfection really exist? And if so, what does it indicate? We turned to two new, fascinating books--one about the economics of beauty, the other about an evolutionary need for it--to find out.

Beauty Pays Handsome people may have better luck catching cabs and getting into exclusive restaurants, but are they better off than the rest of us? Quite a bit, says economist Daniel Hamermesh, in his highly readable exploration of the connection between looks and success. Indeed, Hamermesh found that attractive folks are more likely to be employed, make better money and have more educated spouses than the not-so-pretty. One particularly surprising discovery: Men's salaries are more greatly tied to looks than women's.

Survival of the Beautiful Charles Darwin might have deemed exotic feathers and mating dances unexplainable, but philosopher David Rothenberg posits in his new book that survival of the fittest inherently requires an appreciation of aesthetics--and not just for the purposes of sexual attraction. Rothenberg explores why bowerbirds will literally murder one another for their feathers, why an elephant that paints isn't such a weird thing and why humans might be predisposed to create and seek out beauty.

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