Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
A New York Times Notable Book
Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.
Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science Books & Film Prize for Excellence in Science Books
Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, TIME.com, NPR, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Lab Girl is a memoir of a life dedicated to science. It’s also a meditation on nature’s majesty, a tale of spiritual awakening, and a guide to living in harmony with your purpose and your environment. Hope Jahren traces her roots as a groundbreaking biologist to her stoic Minnesota childhood, delivers anecdotes about her personal and professional experiences with the flair of an Irish poet, and shares fascinating observations about the quirks of plant life. Whether you consider yourself an artist or a scientist, this astonishingly beautiful book is a breath of fresh air. Writes Jahren: “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.”
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn't put it down!
Hope Jahren's fascinating career in paleobotany is crystallized in this addictive memoir. Part adventure, part cautionary tale for women in a male-dominated field, her story is deftly woven with snippets of literary classics. I'll never look at a tree in the same way again. In fact, I'm going to plant one in her honor in our back yard!
Lovely poetic writing
This is a beautiful book with gorgeous descriptions of trees that I read extra slowly to savor.
An unusual but fascinating memoir by an enthusiastic scientist who is keenly aware of being a woman in science and the headwinds that come with it. I loved reading about her one-of-a-kind relationship with Bill, her passionate bonding with plants and her labs, and the vagaries of succeeding in academia. Would loved to know more about Bill's place in her family circle and wish she would have told us. But all in all, a page-turner by a gifted writer. Highly recommended.