Lab Girl: Book summary and reviews of Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl

by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren X
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2016
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2016

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Award-winning scientist Jahren delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world... Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. 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." - Publishers Weekly

"Lab Girl made me look at trees differently. It compelled me to ponder the astonishing grace and gumption of a seed. Perhaps most importantly, it introduced me to a deeply inspiring woman - a scientist so passionate about her work I felt myself vividly with her on every page. This is a smart, enthralling, and winning debut." - Cheryl Strayed

"Hope Jahren's Lab Girl burns with her love of science, teaching us the way great teachers can. This is a powerful book that is as original as it is deeply felt." - Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

"Lab Girl surprised, delighted, and moved me. I was drawn in from the start by the clarity and beauty of Jahren's prose, whether she was examining the inner world of a seed,  the ecosystem around the trunk of a tree, or recounting her own inspiring journey. With Lab Girl, Jahren joins those talented scientists who are able to reveal to us the miracle of this world in which we live." - Abraham Verghese "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

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Reader Reviews

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Jane Greco

Lab Girl
I will never look at a tree the same again! So many things make this book a joy to read.

Nancy Mumpton

I learned so much!
I am a gardener that didn't know I loved botany until I was grown up and out working. I would have pursued it as a career had I known earlier. I loved this book for the botany, the environmentalism, but mostly for the author's long time friendship and life story! It is unlike any book I have ever read and a great one!

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Author Information

Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren has received three Fulbright Awards in geobiology and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the earth sciences. Named by Popular Science in 2005 as one of the "Brilliant 10" young scientists, she has taught and pursued independent research at universities around the country, most recently as a tenured professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in Honolulu.

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