Joan Baum

Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. Joan has a long career as a critic and reviewer, writing for, among others, WNYC, Newsday, The Christian Science Monitor, MIT's Technology Review, Hadassah Magazine and writing on subjects in her dissertation field, the major English Romantic poets. She covers 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 – books written by local authors or books set in the area – 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.

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.

Though set in the late 1990s in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo, now known as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Frederic Hunter’s new novel, The Uttermost Parts of the Earth, is impressively, disturbingly, contemporary. If ever fiction can inform as effectively as journalism or history, this compelling and politically charged love story, is It. You may want to get out an atlas, though, to follow the horror, as the tribal violence evolves into the Rwandan genocide and bleeds into the equatorial province of Congo.  

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 century.” At least before O.J.

Richard Drew / AP

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.

“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.

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