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Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren


Overview - Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
A New York Times 2016 Notable Book
National Best Seller
Named one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People"
An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Best Memoir of 2016
A TIME and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil.  Read more...


 
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More About Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
 
 
 
Overview
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
A New York Times 2016 Notable Book
National Best Seller
Named one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People"
An Amazon Top 20 Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Best Memoir of 2016
A TIME and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life--but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl
is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom's labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done "with both the heart and the hands"; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Jahren's probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101874936
  • ISBN-10: 1101874937
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: April 2016
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Scientists - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Science > Life Sciences - Biology

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-02-15
  • Reviewer: Staff

Jahren, a professor of geobiology at the University of Hawaii, recounts her unfolding journey to discover “what it’s like to be a plant” in this darkly humorous, emotionally raw, and exquisitely crafted memoir. In clever prose, Jahren distills what it means to be one of those researchers who “love their calling to excess.” She describes the joy of working alone at night, the “multidimensional glory” of a manic episode, scavenging jury-rigged equipment from a retiring colleague, or spontaneously road-tripping with students to a roadside monkey preserve. She likens elements of her scientific career to a plant world driven by need and instinct, comparing the academic grant cycle to the resource management of a deciduous tree and the experience of setting up her first—desperately underfunded—basement lab to ambitious vines that grow quickly wherever they can. But the most extraordinary and delightful element of her narrative is her partnership with Bill, a taciturn student who becomes both her lab partner and her sarcastic, caring best friend. It’s a rare portrait of a deep relationship in which the mutual esteem of the participants is unmarred by sexual tension. For Jahren, a life in science yields the gratification of asking, knowing, and telling; for the reader, the joy is in hearing about the process as much as the results. (Apr.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A first-hand look at life as a female scientist

“I will never stop being ravenously hungry for science, no matter how well it feeds me,” writes Hope Jahren, a paleobiologist, winner of three Fulbright Awards, a professor at the University of Hawaii and now author of a marvelous memoir, Lab Girl. What’s it like being a female research scientist? You’ll have no better tour guide than Jahren, who is witty, thoughtful, informative and who writes exceedingly well.

Jahren, whose work focuses on plant life, grew up playing beneath the chemical benches in her father’s community college lab in Minnesota, knowing that someday she would have her own lab. Today she does (her third), calling it her refuge, her asylum and “a place to go on sacred days, as is a church.”

Her lab partner, Bill, is her loyal sidekick, whom she adores like a fraternal twin. Their adventures, chronicled here in high style, include overturning a van during a snowstorm, hanging off the sides of cliffs in Northern Alaska and tromping through Irish highlands in search of moss.

Jahren also writes about the difficulty of being a female scientist, sometimes forced to work with “pasty middle-aged men who regarded me as they would a mangy stray that had slipped in through an open basement window.” She relates the ongoing task of securing funding—in their early days as a team, Bill lived in his car when he couldn’t afford his own place. 

Jahren shares her struggles with bipolar disorder (although this isn’t the focus of the book), and the joy of finally meeting the man she would marry and becoming a mother. Along the way, she includes elegant short chapters about the natural world, artfully explaining the way in which various species’ struggle for survival mirrors her own.

Lab Girl presents an edifying and entertaining look into the world of a serious research scientist.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews