Book Recommendation: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Ever take a chance on a book?

I’m wimpy when it comes to trying something new. Take Harry Potter for instance. I didn’t read the series until the summer of my freshman year of college, circa 2007. That’s TEN years after Harry and his sorcerer’s stone debuted. Hunger Games? Same story. Crazy Rich Asians? Again with the waiting.

I rarely, if ever, read an untested book. I wait until everyone else has read it, then dip my toe in the literary stream and decide if it’s worth the dive.

Well, there are certain authors I trust enough to read their hot-off-the-presses, but those are few and far between.

I can’t remember where I saw a recommendation for Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl. I have the feeling it was from my favorite reading blog, Everyday Reading, but I can’t seem to retrace my steps.

Lab GirlLet me tell you about Lab Girl.

Well, first, let me remind you that I’m married to a biologist with a doctorate in botany. The man loves his plants. And he loves teaching. Thereby, I’ve gained quite an extent of plant-related factoids since our marriage nearly nine years ago.

Lab Girl is a true story, an autobiography, actually. Hope Jahren grew up in North-of-Nowhere Minnesota. Honestly, this Florida girl shivered just thinking of what people up there have to endure. They have closets with heaters just to dry their frozen clothing. Blows my sunshine-filled mind.

Dr. Jahren is a geobiologist with a pure talent for the written word. She tells the story of her life as a female scientist, interweaving vignettes of plant life to enhance her timeline.

Side Note: Geobiology studies how the earth interacts historically with the biosphere.

Related Side Note: A “biosphere” is the regions of the surface, atmosphere, and hydrosphere of the earth (or analogous parts of other planets) occupied by living organisms. (Thanks, Google!)

This sounds highly educated, especially to those of us who haven’t taken a science class since the 11th grade. However, Dr. Jahren keeps it interesting, graspable, and generally snappy, especially as she (and especially her lifelong lab manager, Bill) tend to be particularly eccentric.

I loved seeing the other side of the scientific community. There were times Dr. Jahren had major grant funding, but couldn’t afford to pay Bill (who, at the time, lived in his van/the lab). It was enlightening to see the behind-the-scenes of how the scientific field works (and how much the universities take from said scientists).

Bill and Dr. Jahren take their students on crazy adventures, commit eyebrow-raising stunts, and scrape by to make one successful lab after another. She also dives into her struggles with bipolar disorder and postpartum depression, as well as Bill’s coping with his father’s death. It’s not necessarily a light book, but I loved learning about the plant world and Dr. Jahren’s world as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. And I enjoyed those moments so much that I purchased a copy for my mom and mother-in-law and will soon be buying a third copy for a friend. Non-fiction usually can’t keep my attention, but I stuck through to the bitter end with this beauty.

Highly recommended! Here’s a quick interview with the author, if you’re interested.

Currently Reading:
Wildcard by Marie Lu – The first book, Warcross, borrowed heavily from Ready Player One. This book feels highly reminiscent of that Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception. I’m enjoying the ride, but probably won’t remember much after I close the cover.

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