An outstanding chronicle of a provocative, influential, iconoclastic theorist of the American cityscape.



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 (On an Irish Island, 2012, etc.) engagingly assembles the extraordinary life of Jane Jacobs (1916-2006). She was an American-Canadian whom many considered radical and outspoken, and her feisty determination won her great respect and admiration alongside biting criticism. With affable prose and exacting detail, Kanigel diligently escorts readers through Jacobs’ lifetime in a three-part narrative tracing her early years, when she cultivated a “defiantly independent” character, through her middle and later years, when intensive grass-roots organizing with civic groups bolstered her community-based perspectives on urban planning. As a schoolgirl in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Jacobs began challenging authority as she spoke up and “figured things out for herself, and said them,” which led to run-ins with authority figures. Journalistic motivations led her to newspaper writing in Manhattan and an early career “coup” writing a piece on the fur district for Vogue at age 19. During that time, a fond appreciation for Greenwich Village bloomed. A whirlwind marriage to architect Robert Jacobs Jr. and a West Village property purchase proved blissful, and even the trouble of a redbaiting FBI investigation and a criminal mischief arrest hardly dimmed Jacobs’ hardheaded, contrarian opinions on economic erosion, cultural collapse, and urban sprawl. The author shares a vast wealth of entertaining anecdotes highlighting Jacobs at her best (and worst) and features a particularly compelling address to urban designers at Harvard and the story of her vehement opposition to Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway project. Throughout her adulthood, Jacobs authored an impressive, intellectually innovative oeuvre, including the groundbreaking The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which she wrote after her relocation to Canada with her family in the late 1960s. 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.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-96190-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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