Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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I’m not much for autobiographies and thus I haven’t read very many of them, but I figured this was about a scientist and she loves plants so this would be the one to read if I’m going to start.  Indeed, I actually really enjoyed this book!

I have to admit that I actually listened to the audiobook and it was narrated by the author.  Initially I thought this was a bad idea because Hope isn’t a voice actor, she’s a scientist, so her voice is a little monotone and not too emotional (actually, she does try-on an Irish accent at one point).  I was worried that I would have to suffer through a droning autobiography and would be asleep for most of it.  However, it did actually grow on me and I ended up liking it because I could tell when something actually mattered to her because you would hear it in her voice – a very humanizing touch.

Anyway, what about the content?  Hope Jahren is a paleobotanist, which isn’t as boring as it sounds; in fact, she has contributed quite a lot to our understanding of how the world’s climate has changed over time based on what she has deduced from plants – old and new.  She’s a bit of a detective and she uses elemental analysis along with the magic of plant biology to do what she does.  This autobiography chronicles her life (and her partner in science/crime, Bill) from early childhood in an emotionally stunted Scandinavian family in Minnesota, up to her current career as a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii.  As a fellow scientist I was able to relate to a lot in this book which is probably why it kept my attention (and I got the jokes).  Actually I think this is a great book for anyone interested in the sciences to read because it is a true-to-life example of how difficult it is to succeed in the modern science world, especially as a woman.  It is not glamorous and funding is always scarce, but you meet some really cool people and you get to be the only person in the world that knows something for just a brief moment.  So if you’re in the trenches or stuck at a bench, this is a good read if anything so that you can commiserate with a kindred spirit.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

1 comments on “Lab Girl by Hope Jahren”

  1. I keep seeing this book everywhere- on tumblr, in book stores from Boston MA to Charleston SC – it sounds like an interesting read (listen!). I actually love it when authors narrate their own audiobooks because I feel they have author insight into how they think parts should be read- the Irish accent for example. It reminds me of when Tarantino acts for a few moments in his own films- it just tickles me!

    Thanks for posting- glad to see a break in the Klune Kraze 😉


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