Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Book - 2016
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An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a long-time collaboration, in work and in life; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see and think about the natural world.
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book might have been a revelatory treatise on plant life. Lab Girl is that, but it is also so much more. Because in it, Jahren also shares with us her inspiring life story, in prose that takes your breath away.
Lab Girl is a book about work, about love, and about the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about the things she's discovered in her lab, as well as how she got there; about her childhood--hours of unfettered play in her father's laboratory; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work "with both the heart and the hands"; about a brilliant and wounded man named Bill, who became her loyal colleague and best friend; about their adventurous, sometimes rogue research trips, which take them from the Midwest all across the United States and over the Atlantic, from the ever-light skies of the North Pole to tropical Hawaii; and about her constant striving to do and be the best she could, never allowing personal or professional obstacles to cloud her dedication to her work.
Jahren's insights on nature enliven every page of this book. Lab Girl allows us to see with clear eyes the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal, and also the power within ourselves to face--with bravery and conviction--life's ultimate challenge: discovering who you are.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf, ©2016
ISBN: 9780345809865
9781101874936
Branch Call Number: 580.92 JAH 2016
Characteristics: 290 pages ; 25 cm

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r
ritarufus
Nov 05, 2017

Interesting book but it took a long time to really get moving. Once the author started talking about the research on trees i enjoyed more. It was more of a personal journal of becoming a scientist and the struggle of having enough money to keep going. And her personal connection to her lab researcher Ben, who is a bit of a misfit.
Can't say as I'd recommend.

l
Librarydog
Jul 05, 2017

Yes, you really want to read this one. It's fascinating to slowly learn more and more about this very interesting scientist's life as you learn a LOT about trees and plants. It's quite interesting to read how differently a life can be lived, and yet be full and satisfying. Fans of "H is for Hawk" will like this one, and I also suggest "The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating" by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. I really enjoy learning so much about a subject as I read!

s
spiderfelt_0
Jun 06, 2017

There are so many reasons to love this memoir. Jahren breaks down the science with metaphors that are both meaningful and understandable. She writes beautifully of her friendship with a student turned employee and later partner in scientific exploration. There is a perfect balance between personal stories and science, never shying away from the difficult or messy parts of life. Clearly a genius of this generation, and inspiration for many.

k
kehuben
Apr 15, 2017

In Lab Girl, Hope Jahren created an enjoyable and humorous combination of memoir and science with a dash of literature. It really worked for me.

I found it intriguing how she alternated between the chapters on plants and those on her life stories, intertwining them in a way that showed how plants and humans can, at times, react in a similar manner to similar stimuli.

I loved the visit to Monkey Jungle where she sees the monkeys behaviour in terms of students in the lab. It is hilarious without being unkind or cruel.

Finally, I really appreciate that she wrote about serious science in an easily approachable manner. This is the type of science writing that can have wide appeal without a ‘dumbing down’ of the subject. I think she and Bill must be an incredible teaching team!

n
namowkoob
Apr 09, 2017

Like many other readers, I wasn't sure if this book would really grab me, but I quickly got sucked in and couldn't put it down! Hope Jahren can make even a non-science-obsessed person want a lab of his or her own, and believe that, armed with nothing more than questions, you will make amazing discoveries in it.

SCL_Heather Apr 04, 2017

I just don't think it's fair that such a gifted scientist should also be such a beautiful writer. this is not the type of book I am normally drawn to but after reading so many great reviews I had to give it a try and I really liked it. This book is many things: a beautiful story of a friendship between two eccentric people, a love letter to science in general and plant life in particular, a poem, a memoir.

AliReads Apr 03, 2017

An awesome biography about a woman who loves trees, and her science-soulmate assistant Bill who used to live in a hole. They're both incredible, stranger-than-fiction characters, both passionate about science, both with a few tips about how to be very, very poor and still manage to run a lab. Stories of plants echo events in her own life - growth and roots, pollination and sex, endurance and survival. Hope shares her unique view of the world, coloured by her childhood, her mental illness, her amazement at the science of trees and roots and soil, and it's infectious. I loved every fact, every odd anecdote, every insight and struggle. Definitely one of my favourites for 2016.

Cynthia_N Mar 17, 2017

Enjoyable read! I loved seeing the friendship between Jahren and Bill endure through the years and the plant side was very interesting. Worth the time.

m
melmccurdy
Feb 04, 2017

Utterly fascinating book - plants, botany, labs, relationships, families. Even for a non-science person like me. And considering the recent war on science from the current regime, oh so timely. Piss off climate naysayers and plant a tree.

d
DorisWaggoner
Jan 19, 2017

After reading several professional reviews, I put "Lab Girl" on hold, even though there were more than 100 ahead of me. It was more than worth the wait. I hadn't thought of the comparison to "H is for Hawk" until several readers mentioned it, but the two books do have much in common. Mainly both writers are passionate lovers of nature, in different forms, and go their own ways regardless of what others think. Jahren is, I think, in the end more open about herself. Coming from a Scandinavian family myself, I understand how a lack of conversation and openness can, for some people, lead to a lack of self confidence. Yet Jahren's brilliance pushes her into her father's science lab and encourages her to become a scientist like he is. She is also a stupendous writer. She's very open about her friendship with Bill, whom she takes in when she sees his brilliance in spite of his homelessness and lack of grace. This friendship has nothing to do with her marriage, and her husband is smart enough to not be threatened by it. I love the structure of the book, with its chapters about her personal life and the life of trees/grasses/mosses. I will never see green quite the same way again. Nor will I see bipolar in quite the same way again.

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shayshortt
Nov 17, 2016

Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.

FSJPL_Amy Jul 01, 2016

"Being able to drive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a happy life" - Hope Jahren, "Lab Girl"

q
queequegs
Jun 28, 2016

These two organisms--the wasp and the fig--have enjoyed this arrangement for almost ninety million years, evolving together through the extinction of the dinosaurs and across multiple ice ages. Theirs is like any epic love story, in that part of the appeal lies in its impossibility.

q
queequegs
Jun 28, 2016

Unlike the overall character of winter, which may be mild one year and punishing the next, the pattern of how light changes through autumn is exactly the same every year...These plants know that when your world is changing rapidly, it is important to have identified the one thing that you can always count upon.

q
queequegs
Jun 28, 2016

Love and learning are similar in that they can never be wasted.

e
EricaReynolds
Jun 28, 2016

A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed.

e
EricaReynolds
Jun 28, 2016

Now you ask a question about your leaf. Guess what? You are now a scientist. People will tell you that you have to know math to be a scientist, or physics or chemistry. They're wrong. That's like saying you have to know how to knit to be a housewife, or that you have to know Latin to study the Bible. Sure, it helps, but there will be time for that. What comes first is a question, and you're already there. It's not nearly as involved as people make it out to be. So let me tell you some stories, one scientist to another.

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shayshortt
Nov 17, 2016

The daughter of a community college science professor, Hope Jahren always felt at home in the laboratory, playing there while her father worked. After obtaining her PhD from UC Berkeley, she would go on to become a geobiologist, founding multiple laboratories, and winning honours from the Fulbright to the Young Investigator Medal. Part memoir, and part science, Lab Girl shares Jahren’s experiences from graduate school to tenured professor, and all the bumps along the way, including funding cuts, bipolar disorder, and changing institutions.

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