My Books

-- The fearless activist, author and champion of big-city life.
-- Love and language, happiness and sorrow, on the Great Blasket Island.
-- A much-loved natural material and its man-made imitators.
-- A popular history of tourism through the lens of Nice, France
-- The man who taught us not to stop and smell the roses
-- A rags to intellectual riches story of genius incarnate.
-- Masters and apprentices among elite scientists


I write books, sometimes on quirky topics, like leather and its inspired imitators; that was the subject of my book FAUX REAL. My 2012 book, ON AN IRISH ISLAND, took me to a windswept island village off the coast of Ireland, the setting for a story of love and friendship, literature and language, in the early years of the twentieth century. It came out in a Vintage paperback edition in February 2013, this time with a subtitle: The Lost World of the Great Blasket.

I've also written books about the French Riviera; Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first efficiency expert; mentor relationships among elite scientists; and about the Indian mathematician Ramanujan; that book, The Man Who Knew Infinity, has been translated into a dozen languages and was made into a 2015 film starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons.

Before I started writing books in the 1980s, I wrote magazine articles, essays, and reviews, hundreds of them. But once I started with books I couldn't get enough of them -- big, meaty projects that took me into new intellectual, geographic, and human worlds and demanded my best energies for the three or four years it took to research and write them.

After twelve years as a professor at MIT, I returned in 2011 to Baltimore where I've spent most of my adult life and where I'm back to writing full-time. My latest book, published by Knopf in September 2016, is a biography of Jane Jacobs, the fearless activist, author and champion of big-city life. It's entitled EYES ON THE STREET: The Life of Jane Jacobs.

The Great Blasket Island, setting for On an Irish Island


"[Jane Jacobs] was great, and Kanigel gives her the great biography she deserves," writes Edward Glaeser in American Scholar of Eyes on the Street. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist have each given it "starred" reviews. Knopf publishes the book on September 20, 2016.


Eyes on the Street has been "longlisted" for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.


The film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, was released in the United States on April 29, 2016. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 17, 2015. Dev Patel plays Ramanujan. Jeremy Irons plays G. H. Hardy. The screenwriter and director is Matt Brown. The film had its European premiere at the 11th Zurich Film Festival and has also been shown at the British, Goa, Singapore and Dubai film festivals. At the Dubai festival, I and Matt Brown held a public conversation on the adaptation of the book into a film.


When it is published in September 2016, Eyes on the Street, my biography of Jane Jacobs, will appear in both audio and ebook editions, as well as hardcover.

The G. H. Hardy Reader, edited by Donald J. Albers et al and recently published by Cambridge University Press, includes an excerpt from The Man Who Knew Infinity.

A Polish translation of The Man Who Knew Infinity is under contract with Swiat Ksiazki, Warsaw.

On an Irish Island has won the 2012 Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture, awarded by the American Conference for Irish Studies

The Man Who Knew Infinity has been published in Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam, languages spoken widely in South India, as well as in these other Indian languages: Bengali, Odia, Marathi, and Gujarai.


Vintage paperback, 2013

University of Pennsylvania Press paperback, 2010

See Old News and Talks, too.