EYES ON THE STREET: The Life of Jane Jacobs

10 Best Books of 2016, Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

Andrew Carnegie Medal in Nonfiction, 2017, longlisted

2016 year-end listings: Booklist's "Top 10 Arts Books"; Eartheasy's "8 Books for a Sustainable Mind"; World Architecture's "Top 10 Architecture Books of 2016"; The Australian's "Books of the Year"; Passerbuy's "Best Books of 2016"; Times Higher Education's "Books of the Year 2016"; Englewood Review of Books's "Best Books of 2016"; and America Magazine's "Ten Best Reviewed Books of 2016"



Review Excerpts


"Kanigel's book is sure-footed...He has offered something few others have in a crowded field: a new way of seeing this familiar, almost sainted figure...Life, vitality, newness, constant becoming -- these, Kanigel reveals, were the true subject of Jacobs's most famous book, and of her life's work. -- Samuel Zipp, n + 1, December 2016


"If you have any interest in Jane Jacobs...you should read this comprehensive and accessible biography...As deftly as a playwright, Kanigel records the twists and turns of Jacobs's evolution from stenographer to author in a way that makes her evolution seem more inevitable than incredible." -- James R. Kelly, America: The National Catholic Review. November 7, 2016


"Kanigel deftly links Jacobs's life experiences to the development of her original ideas."
-- Howard Husock, City Journal, October 19, 2016


"Kanigel rightly tries to counter some of the deification around Jacobsís cultural standing, leaving us with a work of wary appreciation that perhaps isnít quite wary enough . . . [His] book invites the rest of us to keep debating." ó Ginia Ballafante, The New York Times Book Review, October 9, 2016


"Kanigel offers readers a well-researched, comprehensive portrait of Jacobs -- one that is both reverent and realistic and, a few missteps in tone aside, portrays wholly a writer and thinker whose work changed the way we think about cities...Where Kanigel excels is in his lively description of Jacobs's career." He exhibits an "ability to imbue the creation of ideas with meaning and weight." -- Hilary Reid, The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture, October 4, 2016


An "effusive and immensely affectionate new biography of Jane Jacobs...which manages the whiplash feat of being both the best informed and the least discriminating life & times Jacobs is ever likely to receive. He assures us right up front that everybody referred to his subject as 'Jane,' he's certainly not going to buck consensus -- and the result is warming just the same, made all the more so by Kanigel's absolutely unfailing nose for the perfect quote and anecdote...A narrative of terrific readability." -- Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly: An Arts and Literature Review, October 1, 2016


Jane Jacobs's 1956 talk at Harvard "caused a small sensation. She was taking on the biggest orthodoxies of postwar urban planning. It was the beginning of her rise from unknown journalist to famous urban thinker and activist, a story well told in Eyes on the Street." -- Marcus Gee, Toronto Globe and Mail, September 30, 2016


"Kanigel does a terrific job explaining what it was like to live with a chronically (and sometimes needlessly) oppositional person." -- Catherine Corman, The National Book Review, September 30, 2016


"In Eyes on the Street, Robert Kanigel has written the definitive Jacobs biography, illuminating how her ideas rankled, spread and then garnered her such devotion....Kanigel appraises the work and life of Jaco0bs in prose that is as lively as her own." -- Emily Badger, Washington Post, September 30, 2016


"A lithe narrative." -- Lev Bratishenko, Literary Review of Canada, September 29, 2016


"Like Jacobs, Kanigel is a lively writer and his biography is comprehensive, clear-eyed, and even sporadically witty...Eyes on the Street is a powerful and all too rare biography of a female public intellectual....These days, when we're still obsessing over how women in the public arena should talk and look, it's uplifting to read about Jane Jacobs, a woman who effectively spoke her mind and changed the world and didn't give a damn about whether she should have smiled more." -- Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio/​Fresh Air, September 28, 2016


"Kanigel, who has found the right tone for his subject, light but serious, introduces us to the young Jane Butzner, as she was born, in 1916. His portrait of growing up in the Butzner family, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is hugely attractive." -- Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, September 26, 2016


"Kanigel brings this extraordinary woman to life while showing how her ideas unfolded, so that even readers unfamiliar with Jacobs and her work gain insights into how a curious and tenacious mind transformed both the ways we look at cities and our strategies of community activism...

"[The book delivers] fast-paced and nuanced storytelling in a crisp prose style that engages the reader in an intimate portrait of the woman behind the urban visionary...

"This most complete biography of Jane Jacobs to date is a treat to read, as much for an appreciation of Kanigel's own craftsmanship and his delight in his subject as for his keen insights into an original mind...Eyes on the Street leaves us not only with a yearning to be sitting about Jacobs's kitchen table debating theories and strategies with the family, friends, and neighbors, but also with an urge to sit in a bar with Kanigel enjoying the repartee of a master storyteller." -- Marilyn Gates, New York Journal of Books, September 22, 2016


"Kanigel has created what will likely become the definitive biography of Jane Jacobs in her centenary year." -- Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron, September 22, 2016


"Mr. Kanigel's description of the Jacobs family's first week in Toronto illustrates his strengths as a writer. Jacobs was stopped by the police for jaywalking. Her husband was stopped for obstructing the view from his rearview mirror by piling furniture in the back seat of the car. Their 13-year-old daughter was stopped for walking down the street alone too early in the morning. These are wonderful details. New York City Toronto was not...[Eyes on the Street] is a picture of a writer who insisted on thinking through the biggest questions for herself." -- John Buntin, The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2016


"Robert Kanigel's Eyes on the Street is the Jane Jacobs biography I've been waiting for." -- Richard Florida, The Atlantic/​City Lab, September 20, 2016


"Jacobs's career was larger than a single book, and thanks to Robert Kanigel's Eyes on the Street, we come to appreciate her intellectual development and professional achievements in all their fullness...[Jane Jacobs] was great, and Kanigel gives her the great biography she deserves." -- Edward Glaeser, American Scholar, Autumn 2016



"Robert Kanigel's magisterial biography of Jane Jacobs captures the woman behind the legend...Eyes on the Streetis a nuanced, intimate portrait...an exhaustively researched, beautifully rendered tale, revealing the human contours of a vigorous, original mind." -- Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, September 16, 2016.


"Comprehensive and entertaining...Kanigel admires Jacobs and he handles her story with respect, humor and scrupulous scholarship...[A] first-rate story of one of the great independent thinkers of the 20th century." -- Shelf Awareness, August 15, 2016


"A significant, comprehensive biography of an irrepressible urbanist, author, and pioneering community activist. Drawing on a cache of archival source material, award-winning author Kanigel engagingly assembles the extraordinary life of Jane Jacobs.....With affable prose and exacting detail, [he] diligently escorts readers through Jacobs' lifetime...Kanigel crafts a well-rounded, illuminating narrative of a 'woman of the people who'd risen up out of the gritty city streets to fight city hall.' An outstanding chronicle of a provocative, influential, iconoclastic theorist of the American cityscape." -- Kirkus "starred" review, June 2016



"In this zestfully illuminating and entertaining biography, Kanigel aligns Jacobs with her peers Rachel Carson and Betty Friedan as he takes full measure of her accomplishments and influence and elucidates the scope and passion of her unique quest to understand what sustains civilization." -- Booklist "starred" review, August 15, 2016


"Meticulously researched yet very readable." -- Library Journal, July 1, 2016


"Kanigel captures the life and character of Jane Jacobs, a stubborn, principled activist and the doyenne of urban planning...[He] turns Jacobs's life into a fascinating narrative with an endearing, obstinate, brilliant protagonist." -- Publishers Weekly "starred" review, May 30, 2016