Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs "was not a man. She was not rich. She did not reach public recognition of any magnitude until she was pushing fifty." She did not court publicity, dress well or speak in a thrilling voice. She "wrote seven books, saved neighborhoods, stopped expressways, was arrested twice, basked in the glow of legions of admirers, and had a million discussions and debates around the kitchen table, which she always won." Her influence in urban planning circles continues to this day. In the comprehensive and entertaining Eyes on the Street, Robert Kanigel (On an Irish Island) tells us about Jacobs's background, what she accomplished during her years as a writer and activist in New York City, and how she built another life for herself in Canada, where she wrote her most famous and influential work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Kanigel admires Jacobs and he handles her story with respect, humor and scrupulous scholarship, unearthing the solid foundation for her status from the "heaping-up of adulation."

Jacobs was born in 1916 into a loving, enthusiastic, nonconformist family and had an independent, forceful personality even as a little girl. She took full advantage of the professional opportunities for women during World War II and built a rewarding domestic life with a handsome, creative, intelligent man, who proposed one week after he met her at a party and was entirely supportive of her career. Anyone interested in cities or who loves a good biography will enjoy this first-rate story of one of the great independent thinkers of the 20th century. --Sara Catterall 

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