An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime 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 probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her insights on nature enliven every minute 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 the power within ourselves to face - with bravery and conviction - life's ultimate challenge: discovering who we are.
©2016 Hope Jahren (P)2016 Random House Audio
"Some people are great writers, while other people live lives of adventure and importance. Almost no one does both. Hope Jahren does both. She makes me wish I'd been a scientist." (Ann Patchett)
Excellent read! Shares the challenges of being a female scientist in today's American university context as well as the difficulties of being a scientist more generally if one is doing non military related pure research. More than that she tells a deeply personal and powerful story of her own challenges and dreams while sharing something of the realities of dealing with bipolar disorder. Those who want to know more about how plants operate should read this book. Those who enjoy good biography can enjoy it too. I found it interesting on many levels!
Hope Jahren narrated her own book, which I didn't like at first, since she read in a sort of melancholy tone. But as I listened on, her voice grew on me and I started connecting with the main character's pattern of speech/thoughts. I respect the author's intense research on science, particularly biology. Hope Jahren's passion for plants, trees, scientific research, humanity, life cycles, statistics, etc revealed itself more and more as the book progressed. The main characters were complex and felt realistic to me. The plot carried me away into the character's mind and world. I definitely recommend experiencing this book!
Although initially annoyed by the author's somewhat languid reading style, I gradually came to appreciate her authenticity and honesty and--most of all--the way she utterly transformed my view of the natural world (and especially trees). Her memoir is at once a coming of age story about a driven young female scientist battling for relevance in a patriarchal profession, a love story between the protagonist and her best friend and colleague, and a passionate and scientifically precise guide to the "secret lives" of trees and other plant life, which are far more fascinating than I'd been led to believe. Now when I look out my window (as the author invites readers to do early on in the book), what I see is not just trees, but the outward manifestation of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, a struggle for survival on a monumental scale, and unimaginably complex processes, communications, and interactions about which most humans have no clue. I ended up listening to the entire book twice and parts of it multiple times (just so I could remember the astonishing data the author provides on trees).
When I like a book, I try to stretch out my listening experience as long as possible, but this book is so engaging that I finished listening to it over one weekend. All sorts of subjects are melded: science research of course, depressing statistics about difficulties of funding, academic department dynamics, and a memoir of an amazing work relationship spanning two+ decades. I will never look at the tree-line I planted behind my house in the same way. It is more of a marvel than I knew.
This book is so special, I hardly know how to describe it. It's a book about a life well lived. It's about finding yourself, accepting who you are and thriving. If you like science and nature and trees, you'll love the little nuggets of botany and biology, strategically placed to compliment the thread of the story. It's also a book about love, friendship, family and survival. I highly recommend it.
This resonates with me in so many ways!!! I'm not a geobiologist at a large research university, but a biochemist at a small liberal arts college and still felt so many points of connection. Thank you Prof Jahren for sharing your story!!
Best book I've read in a long time. Everything about it from the narrater the the poetic words used to describe everything. Who would imagined plants could be so interesting. And don't forget to plant a tree. Or ten or more.
The true heartfelt exposure of her heart and mind.
Her struggle is real and her story would benefit so many young girls on their journey to womanhood.
this was my first experience with her and her writing
Lab girl fits
I am looking forward to sharing this book with my book club.
The remarkable Professor Hope Jahren has shared with us her stories from growing up in her father's college laboratory in the midwest to her life as a research scientist at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa. This autobiography is much deeper and much more beautiful than a "woman in science" book.
This is a profoundly human account of people growing into what they always were and were meant to be. This is an account of many imperfect people making their way in a flawed and sometimes hostile world.
This is a story of people, of love, of discovery and of science. But mostly, this is a story of the deep connections between people that are formed over the course of a life time.
I dearly loved the way Hope has woven into this book parallel stories about the evolution and biology of plants. She alternates her life's stories with accounts of how different plants grow and struggle. She touches on the majesty and wonder of living organisms that survive for centuries or millennia.
Another theme that Hope includes is the profound emotional impact of discovery. For some people, this "need to know" is a compulsion. Professor Jahren does more than explain this, by sharing her life and discoveries with us, she helps us experience these things vicariously through her.
Hope is the reader of this audio book. This is a first hand telling of wonderful stories by the chief participant. Listening to Hope is like listening to a close friend across the kitchen table. Hope's masterful narration of her own stories is outstanding!
I have many favorite books and I seldom recommend books to other people. But I recommend this book for anyone that has an open mind and open heart and an enjoyment of science and an appreciation for how this old world is the product of endless struggling.
As with all actual life, the book is bitter-sweet. There are times for laughter and smiles as well as tears both of joy and sadness.
This is a beautiful work.
I truly enjoyed listening to this book. Normally I would not pick up a memoir, but I heard Ms. Jahren speak on NPR and knew that this would be an interesting one. I also am not a scientist, but I do love plants....all kinds. I have always found them fascinating and my greatest joy in spring is playing with flowering and non flowering plants. Ms. Jahren has given me a new appreciation for all the hours of dedication that her research requires. And yet, it will go mostly unnoticed by the average person. Sad, but true. On the other hand, I am just glad that such painstaking research is taking place, hopefully to make our world better for future generations.
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