Rebecca's Reviews > Lab Girl

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
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really liked it
bookshelves: memoirs, science-tech, read-via-netgalley, mental-health, best-of-2016

“Because I am a female scientist, nobody knows what the hell I am, and it has given me the delicious freedom to make it up as I go along.” This memoir puts so many things together that it shouldn’t work, yet somehow – delightfully – does. With witty anecdotes and recreated dialogue, Jahren tells about her Minnesota upbringing, her long years in education, her ultimate specialization in geobiology/botany, crossing the country to take up academic posts in Atlanta, Baltimore and Hawaii, her long-time platonic relationship with eccentric lab partner Bill, and zany road trips across America for conferences and field work.

On the serious side, she writes about how bipolar disorder complicated work life, marriage and motherhood. Add to all that the interspersed chapters illuminating aspects of plant biology and you get a truly varied and intricate narrative. What I think the author does best is simply conveying what it is like to have true passion for your work, a rare thing: “being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.” You don’t have to be a science type to enjoy this book. All that’s required is curiosity about how other people live. Jahren might even inspire you to go plant a tree.

Another favorite passage:
“All the baffling things that arrived unwelcome with adulthood – tax returns and car insurance and Pap smears – none of them matter when I am in the lab. … My laboratory is like a church because it is where I figure out what I believe.”

P.S. Bill exists! (Lest you thought, like I did for a while, that he was just so kooky he must be made up.) He appears in the photo illustrating this Popular Science article.
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Reading Progress

October 26, 2015 – Shelved
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
April 5, 2016 – Shelved as: memoirs
April 5, 2016 – Shelved as: science-tech
April 5, 2016 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
May 1, 2016 – Started Reading
May 10, 2016 – Shelved as: mental-health
May 12, 2016 – Finished Reading
December 27, 2016 – Shelved as: best-of-2016

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Serendipity: Just last night Jahren was interviewed about her book by Jeffrey Brown. Go listen, if you like:

message 2: by Judith (new) - added it

Judith Great review Rebecca - you've made me want to read it.

Rebecca Thanks, Joodith! It's a really fun read and I think Jahren's enthusiasm for science is infectious.

Sonja Arlow Your review is what led me to this book so thanks I really enjoyed this

Rebecca Oh great, glad you liked it! Sorry I only just saw your comment.

Elyse Walters Great review Rebecca-- enjoyed Margaret's link too...

I loved this book so much !!
Thank you!!!!

Renata What a great review you wrote! I had read it once before just because I got the book for Christmas and hoped it would be wonderful - you showed me it would be! Now I have just finished reading the book, my heart and mind are full of thoughts, and I think you wrote beautifully about it. Thanks for the photo of Bill and Hope working together! What great hearted friends they are!

Rebecca Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the book and my review :)

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