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.

Most Recent Episodes

Book Review: 'The Kortelisy Escape'

In his new novel "The Kortelisy Escape," Leonard Rosen crafts an ingenious, complex thriller that's deeply moving, as well as highly original. The hook is the use of magic tricks to advance the plot and theme. The magical connection between the two main characters, whose alternating points of view move the narrative along, makes this unusual story memorable. He's Nate Larson, a grizzled 66-year old just out of Danbury prison when the story begins. She's his 14-year-old savvy, sardonic

Book Review: 'Lowdown'

It's cold, still dark early, a time, as the cliché has it, to curl up with a good book. And I've got one for you, if "good" means almost non-stop reading because you care about the main characters, even if they're not good. And they're not, in Anthony Schneider's new novel, "Lowdown." They're Mafia, but as "The Godfather" and Tony Soprano proved, complex goodfellas can fascinate. In "Lowdown" Schneider delivers an absorbing tale about a guy whose crime family has real-life connections to the

Book Review: 'The Other Woman'

A fun and games thriller, "The Other Woman" turns on intrigue about Russian espionage, and links present-day Russian attempts to sabotage Western democracies to the machinations years ago by, arguably, the most notorious double agent of the 20th century – the head of Britain's intelligence service, MI6, Kim Philby. In fact, it's now exactly 30 years since the unrepentant Philby died, in Moscow, having fled there in 1963 once he was identified as a member of the infamous British spy ring, The

Book Review: 'Boats Against The Current'

What's it going to be folks, Great Neck or Westport? We're talking about the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . In the decades following its publication in 1925 – to mixed reviews, it should be said – this now celebrated, adored and elegantly written tale of money, romance and identity in the Jazz Age, was understood to have taken place in fictional stand-ins for towns on the North Shore of Long Island. However, in a 1996 article in The New Yorker, scholar and journalist Barbara

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

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