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Robert Kanigel, photo by Michael Lionstar

My new book, published by Knopf in April 2021, is a literary adventure story about a classics scholar who in the 1920s overturned long-prevailing ideas about the origins of the Odyssey and the Iliad. It takes readers to Paris, Yugoslavia, and Harvard, as well as to the San Francisco Bay Area, where our hero grew up. And to Los Angeles, where he died of a gunshot wound at age 33.  It's entitled HEARING HOMER'S SONG: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry


Since the 1980s, I've been writing 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.


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 more than a dozen languages and was made into a 2015 film starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons.


In 2011, after twelve years as a professor at MIT, I returned to Baltimore where I've spent most of my adult life and where I write full-time. My earlier 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 called EYES ON THE STREET: The Life of Jane Jacobs.


Before I started writing books in the 1980s, I wrote magazine articles, essays, and reviews.  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 realms and demand my best energies for the four or five years it takes to research and write them.




The Great Blasket Island, setting for On an Irish Island