My Books

-- A biography of Jane Jacobs, due out in 2016 from Knopf.
-- 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


Vintage paperback, 2013

I write books, sometimes on quirky topics, like leather and its inspired imitators; that was the subject of my book FAUX REAL, which came out in paperback in 2010.

ON AN IRISH ISLAND, published in 2012, 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; the Indian mathematician Ramanujan; Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first efficiency expert; and about mentor relationships among elite scientists.

Before I started writing books in the mid-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'm now once again back in Baltimore, where I've spent most of my adult life and where I've returned to writing full-time. I'm now finishing a biography of Jane Jacobs, the author and urban visionary. It's under contract with Knopf and will probably come out in 2016.

The Great Blasket Island, setting for On an Irish Island
Knopf hardcover, 2012


The film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, 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. It will also be shown at the British Film Festival and at the Dubai Film Festival, in December 2015.

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.

I'm the recipient of a grant from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in support of my current book project, a biography of Jane Jacobs.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is now available in an e-book edition from Simon & Schuster Digital.

High Season in Nice is available as an e-book (but only in the U.K.) from Hachette Digital..


In late December 2011 and early 2012, I gave a series of public lectures in India as part of the year-long 125th-birthday celebration of Ramanujan, subject of The Man Who Knew Infinity. These took place in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and New Delhi.

In Chennai, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, in the presence of the prime minister of India, honored me with a scroll acknowledging the impact of the book.

In Bangalore, I gave a two-day workshop on science writing.


University of Pennsylvania Press paperback, 2010

See Old News and Talks, too.