Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs - Robert Kanigel

Staff Pick

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) wasn’t an urban planner, though The Death and Life of American Cities, with its model of the “mixed-income, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, sensitively scaled, densely populated community” remains one of the twentieth century’s most influential books. Nor was she an economist, though economics was at the heart of her work. She had no academic credentials at all, not even a bachelor’s degree. What she had was courage, curiosity, and an ongoing “conflict with received wisdom.” Robert Kanigel calls her “some odd breed of genius,” and her iconoclastic spirit infuses every page of his energetic Eyes on the Street (Knopf, $35). Jacobs said she “grew up with the idea that she could do anything”; she proceeded accordingly, leaving Scranton at age eighteen to become a writer in New York. She wrote on everything from furs and diamonds to Cold War propaganda and the metal industry, freelancing for Vogue, then working as a staff writer for Amerika (a publication of the Office of War Information), Iron Age, and Architectural Forum. Later, it was all books. Books—and a long and happy marriage to the architect Robert Jacobs, three unconventional children, and indefatigable social activism. Her fight against Robert Moses and his expressway was only one of Jacobs’s many battles; she protested the Vietnam War, was arrested twice, and moved to Toronto to keep her sons from being drafted. There she continued to work against large-scale urban renewal projects, and her home became a headquarters for community organizing. Ideas were Jacobs’s lifeblood and she was never more charismatic—never more of a people person—than when she was in the middle of a passionate debate.

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs By Robert Kanigel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345803337
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Vintage - August 8th, 2017