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 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 Bialosky and her hope is that it will work for her readers.

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.

A new book by New York Times reporter James Barron follows the incredible history of a tiny postage stamp that ignited a deep desire among the rich, and not so rich, to possess it.  

161 years ago, London issued, among others, a provisional one-cent postage stamp for British Guiana because a regular shipment of stamps never arrived. In 2014, the one-cent magenta, called that for its color, was auctioned off at Sotheby’s to shoe design magnate Stuart Weitzman for $9.5 million.

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.   

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.

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