My Books

-- 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 early last year, 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's coming 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 about the French Riviera; the Indian mathematician Ramanujan; the first efficiency expert, Frederick Winslow Taylor; 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 -- loved those great big 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.

Now, after twelve years as a professor at MIT, I'm 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 heavily into the research for a biography of Jane Jacobs, the author and urban visionary. It's under contract with Knopf, but don't look for it before 2016.

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


A film based on The Man Who Knew Infinity is in the works. Dev Patel is to play Ramanujan, Jeremy Irons to play G. H. Hardy. The screenwriter and director is Matt Brown. Producers are Edward R. Pressman, Prashita Chaudhary of Cinemorphic Entertainment, Jim Young of Animus Films, and Sofia Sondervan of Dutch Tilt Film. Shooting in the U.K. and India is slated for 2014.

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. This follows a Bengali translation published in July 2013.

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.

On an Irish Island was named a "2012 Nonfiction Must-Read," on Riffle's World-Lit list.

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

An excerpt from The Man Who Knew Infinity appears in Benjamin Wardhaugh's A Wealth of Numbers: An Anthology of 500 Years of Popular Mathematics Writing recently published by Princeton University Press.


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.