Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

83%

20 Critic Reviews

...she writes, “there is still no journal where I can tell the story of how my science is done with both the heart and hands”. Luckily for us, that journal is this book.
-Guardian

Synopsis

National Best Seller
Named one of TIME magazine’s "100 Most Influential People"
A TIME and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016 So Far 

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Hope Jahren

See more books from this Author
HOPE JAHREN is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards 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. Currently, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where in 2008 she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health. The author lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.
 
Published April 5, 2016 by Knopf. 306 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon10
Peak Rank on May 08 2016
icon5
Weeks as Bestseller
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Lab Girl
All: 20 | Positive: 19 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jan 05 2016

The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist. Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 12 2016

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.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Melissa Holbrook Pierson on Apr 08 2016

If her use of allegory to make science approachable verges on pat, Jahren can be forgiven, for it allows her to deliver a gratifying and often moving chronicle of the scientist’s life.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Mar 28 2016

By crosscutting between chapters about the life cycle of trees and flowers and other green things, and chapters about her own coming-of-age as a scientist, Ms. Jahren underscores the similarities between humans and plants...

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Helen Pearson on Apr 29 2016

...she writes, “there is still no journal where I can tell the story of how my science is done with both the heart and hands”. Luckily for us, that journal is this book.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Lucie Green on Apr 24 2016

Jahren writes: “Love and learning are similar, in that they can never be wasted.” And neither is time spent reading this book.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from Guardian

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by MEGANNE FABREGA on Apr 03 2016

“Lab Girl” is long on detail, and short chapters act as vignettes connecting Jahren’s major life events and drawing comparisons between plant life and human life.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt on Mar 25 2016

...Jahren’s singular gift is her ability to convey the everyday wonder of her work: exploring the strange, beautiful universe of living things that endure and evolve and bloom all around us, if we bother to look.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Donna Seaman on Feb 15 2016

A botanical variation on Helen Macdonald’s best-selling H Is for Hawk (2015), Jahren’s forthright, beautifully expressed, and galvanizing chronicle deserves the widest possible readership.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Jacksonville.com

Good
Reviewed by Anne Payne on Jan 22 2017

Jahren’s voice is passionate and confident without being overwrought or arrogant. She can turn a willow tree into a character while avoiding tweeness or condescension, just explaining the science facts that set its life apart from those of other trees.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Watermark Books And Cafe

Good
Reviewed by Bruce Jacobs on Apr 05 2016

Jahren emerges as a smart, practical, good-hearted woman who loves her work and also finds joy in her husband, young son and best friend, Bill.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Library Journal

Excellent
on Feb 22 2016

This title should be required reading for all budding scientists, especially young women. However, being a scientist is not essential in order to savor Jahren’s stories and reflections on living as well as fossil plant life.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

The New Zealand Herald

Good
Reviewed by Lyn Loates on Apr 30 2016

In these chapters Jahren's passion rises, setting them apart from the principal story; they are where she digs deep and delivers some of the loveliest writing I've seen in a while.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

New Statesman

Good
Reviewed by Rachel Cooke on May 17 2016

...Lab Girl is a book of ideas, and in its Stakhanovite rigour lies all its excitement, the secret (or seed?) of its jungly success.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Elle

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Royte on Apr 01 2016

Jahren's writing is precise, as befits a scientist who also loves words. She's an acute observer, prickly, and funny as hell. Lab Girl does have one flaw: Jahren feels perpetually dissed by male scientists, but she offers little empirical evidence of gender bias.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Prospect

Good
Reviewed by PHILIP BALL on Apr 21 2016

This kind of personal, bittersweet, bruised memoir is emerging as a new way of writing about science—one that will hopefully banish for good the notion that it is just for the boys.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

The Advocate

Good
Reviewed by Laura Acosta on Jun 07 2016

Jahren interweaves personal and professional tales with fascinating stories and facts about plant life that are thoroughly engaging. Her passion, dedication and love for science enabled her to overcome the harsh realities of scientific research and academia...

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Alice Cary on Apr 01 2016

...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.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

https://lareviewofbooks.org

Good
Reviewed by Jeremy B. Yoder on Jul 18 2016

...if Lab Girl chronicles the real and substantial barriers to becoming a successful scientist, it also makes that life compelling: she shows the fruit that can still grow from the rocky soil of a research career.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

https://www.sciencenews.org

Good
Reviewed by MEGHAN ROSEN on Jun 26 2016

In the epilog, Jahren eases the reader back to the reality we know. “Plants are not like us,” she writes. “They are beings we can never truly understand.” But anyone who reads Lab Girl will know that can’t be true. Because for nearly 300 pages, Jahren has made us feel like we can.

Read Full Review of Lab Girl

Reader Rating for Lab Girl
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 503 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×