Lab Girl

Hope Jahren. Knopf, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-87493-6
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. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-101-87494-3
Hardcover - 505 pages - 978-1-4104-9078-0
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-345-80987-2
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-345-80986-5
Paperback - 514 pages - 978-1-4328-4084-6
Paperback - 304 pages
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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