He attended the University of Chicago Lab Schools, and graduated from Amherst College, where he received his degree in English with highest honors in the major. He has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College and the University of Leipzig, Germany.
His first novel, Naming the New World, was sold when he was 23. Esquire Magazine named him one of the best young writers in America in 2005. His third novel, Dominion, was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Award, as well as one of New York Newsday′s Best Books of the Year.
His work has been widely acclaimed by critics as well as writers as diverse as Joseph O'Neill, Junot Diaz, Jeff Allen, Francisco Goldman. Dale Peck, Maud Newton. and Hannah Tiniti. Peck, widely known for his critical takedowns, has called Baker one of his favorite living writers, saying of his fourth novel Grace, "he works in a rarefied strain of literature whose practitioners include Faulkner, Morrison, Calvino and Cormac McCarthy." Newton has praised Baker's Dominion for "richness of language that recalls the King James." 
Among his concerns are American identity in a global world, cosmopolitanism, race and multiculturalism, post colonialism, and the failure of modernism. He currently lives in New York.
- Grace. Tyrus Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1-440-58575-3.
- Dominion. Grove Press. 2006. ISBN 0-8021-4309-1.
- Once Two Heroes. Viking, 2003, ISBN 978-0-670-03164-1.
- Naming the New World. St. Martins Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-312-18140-6.
- Interview with Leonard Lopate, August 26, 2015.
- Excerpt from Grace, Tyrus Books
- Excerpt from Dominion, One Story, May 30, 2006.
- "Novelist Calvin Baker Considers the Word Slavery Made" (interview with Farai Chideya), NPR, May 22, 2007.
- "The Millions: 20 More Under 40"
- Martin Gallaway, "Five Writers Talk About Their Book Editors", The Awl, December 13, 2010.
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