Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Book Review: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
I love a book that you don't want to put down and once you finish it you've learned about new things and have gained insight into other people's lives. I would say I loved Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. This book is written by Hope Jahren, recounting her experiences in the science laboratory, in academia and in life. Hope is a geobiologist who talks about the life of plants--in a riveting way, and also talks about the life of a scientific researcher--in a very personal way.
Lab Girl chronicles Dr. Jahren's life from her childhood in Minnesota, through her undergraduate college days and into her professor and research roles. Hope incorporates memories and thoughts from her past into tales about plant life and soil science. This may sound unusual, but Hope does a facinating job of it. She is unabashedly honest about the struggles she has faced in interpersonal relationships, in the academic setting, and with her own mental health.
I read this book earlier this year and have had it sitting on my desk waiting for a chance to review it. I got through this book very quickly, which is always a godsend for me. But over the last few months I have not forgotten her stories. These include her loyal lab mate's life living at or below the poverty line on a university's technician's pay. Living in his beat up van, moving it from public land to abandoned parking lot, all while having a shoddy manual transmission.
Hope also weaves information about the life cycle, hopes and dreams and the ultimate end of plants' lives. Talking about paleobotany, academic struggles, successful scientific discoveries and unsuccessful lab disasters, Hope keeps you engaged and rooting for her success.
During the story, Hope also describes her personal struggle with mental health. She is completely frank and honest about what she has dealt with, what it is like, and how she deals with it. It can be surprising to hear her revelations, but it makes you so impressed with her commitment to scientific research, and to the people she values around her.
Her book concludes with a science experiment wrapping up in her botany lab in Hawaii. She is a full professor at the University of Hawaii. She has secured a good position for her faithful companion, Bill, and they are finally able to live well. Hope has married and has a young son. Life seems to be shining on her. And out of her contentment came this wonderful book about her life. Go shine some light on this book, and your knowledge will grow--just like a young seedling!