Baum on Books Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. She has a long career as a critic and reviewer, covering all areas of cultural history but particularly enjoys books at the nexus of the humanities and the sciences.With an eye on reviewing fiction and nonfiction that has regional resonance for Connecticut or Long Island, Joan considers the timeliness and significance of recently published work: what these books have to say to a broad group of readers today and how they say it in a distinctive or unique manner, taking into account style and structure as well as subject matter.
Baum on Books

Baum on Books

From WSHU

Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. She has a long career as a critic and reviewer, covering all areas of cultural history but particularly enjoys books at the nexus of the humanities and the sciences.With an eye on reviewing fiction and nonfiction that has regional resonance for Connecticut or Long Island, Joan considers the timeliness and significance of recently published work: what these books have to say to a broad group of readers today and how they say it in a distinctive or unique manner, taking into account style and structure as well as subject matter.More from Baum on Books »

Most Recent Episodes

Book Review: 'The Woman In The Window'

It's quite an accomplishment to write a psychological thriller these days. We're so sophisticated, so jaded by edgy crime in fiction and movies, not to mention real life, that we're suspicious when we're told a new book's come along that's a nail-biting page turner. Cynics that we are, we also tend to think that best-seller suspense tales must be contrived. But what debut novelist A. J. Finn does with "The Woman in the Window" is remarkable. He's created a breathless, stunning twist-and-turn

Book Review: 'Saving Sin City'

Every now and then when it seems the world can't get any greedier or immoral, a book comes along to remind us that the world's always seemed spiritually bankrupt to the generations who lived through their own mad, bad times. That's the implied premise of Southampton writer and historian Mary Cummings' fascinating narrative about New York's Gilded Age, which she revisits by way of one of the most bizarre murders in American history and its judicial aftermath, often called "the trial of the

Book Critic Joan Baum Remembers Philip Roth

American novelist Philip Roth has died. He was 85. Roth's work is known for its unflinching look at the human character. His style was deeply autobiographical. Many of his works were set in his hometown, Newark, N.J., and his characters often struggled with the complexities of integrating into mainstream American life.

Book Review: 'The Book Of Cheese'

"More than any other food, cheese has personality," writes Liz Thorpe in her gorgeous, yummy, almost overwhelming treatise, The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You'll Love . "Punk cheeses, boring cheeses, comfort cheeses" and her own favorites, based on flavor, texture, scent and surprise, but Thorpe urges everyone to follow his or her own nose and taste buds. Her theme is: take a chance, discover something new. Start with a cheese you like—maybe one you remember from

Book Review: 'Fractured Continent'

There's an old proverb popularized by Mel Brooks that sums up "Fractured Continent," William Drozdiak's fine, eminently readable analysis of European politics that made The New York Times Most Notable 100 Books list for 2017. The proverb is: "Hope for the best, expect the worst." But even if the "crises" explored by Drozdiak in 14 Western capitals, don't constitute the worst in the continent's 70-year-old attempt to achieve unity after World War II, they do exemplify a deepening division within

Book Review: 'Poetry Will Save Your Life'

It's a forceful and confident title that Jill Bialosky gives her unusual memoir, Poetry Will Save Your Life. She writes "will" not "can" or "may." I'm not so sure, nor am I convinced that a favorite book wouldn't do, or music, with its purported power to soothe the savage breast. Because it's longer and without meter or rhythm, however, a novel is not as likely as a poem to prompt immediate reaction. In any case, there's no denying that poetry as consolation, if not salvation, worked for

Book Review: 'The Coyote Hunter Of Aquidneck Island'

James Conroy's new novel, The Coyote Hunter of Aquidneck Island not only introduces readers to a still rural bit of paradise set in Narragansett Bay, but to little known facts about indigenous New England Indian tribes...and coyotes. And, starting with the opening dialogue, the novel also introduces some good writing that brings together domestic drama, lore about the environment and some little-known Civil War military history. Conroy, a published poet and novelist from Long Island has an unusual

Book Review: Building Small

It may be hard to credit in this age of monster McMansions that the "tiny house movement" which began in the hippie `60s, continues to grow. But so say architectural designer and illustrator David Stiles and his wife, Jeanie Stiles, a writer and photographer. Their attractive newest how-to book, Building Small , their 25th, pitches barns, cabins and sheds as weekend and year-round retreats, whether off the grid or on. Would you believe an adorable 8' X 11' backyard Tudor or a two-level Japanese

Book Review: Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

According to reports, the famous astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, won't be available to answer any questions during Monday's solar eclipsey. Tyson says he'll be in an undisclosed location where he will experience this celestial phenomenon in private. But Tyson did share his ideas about the cosmos and the people who have studied it, in his latest book, "Astrophysics For People In A Hurry." Book critic Joan Baum has this review: Neil de Grasse Tyson knows he's a science rock star and loves it.

Book Review: 'The Burning Girl'

In her moving, elegiac new novel The Burning Girl , Claire Messud alludes to childhood as a Wordsworthian time when we still trail "clouds of glory." For adolescence, though, she invokes the Biblical phrase "through a glass darkly," meaning that what we think we see and know of life and ourselves is imperfect. That the "weight of the world falls upon us" in adolescence, and pain and fear and uncertainty replace the bliss of being young. The Burning Girl is a haunting coming-of-age story in the

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