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