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Robert Kanigel, photo by Michael Lionstar

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 take me into new intellectual, geographic, and human worlds and demand my best energies for the four or five years it takes 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.


I am currently working on a biography of a classics scholar who in the 1920s overturned long-prevailing ideas about the origins of the Odyssey and the Iliad. Its provisional title is Hearing Homer's Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry.

The Great Blasket Island, setting for On an Irish Island