LAB GIRL

Hope Jahren

National Best Seller

Named One of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl is a book about work,

more …

National Best Seller

Named One of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.

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  • Knopf
  • Hardcover
  • April 2016
  • 304 Pages
  • 9781101874936

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$26.95

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About Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren has received three Fulbright Awards in geobiology and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the earth sciences. Named by Popular Science in 2005 as one of the “Brilliant 10” young scientists, she has taught and pursued independent research at universities around the country, most recently as a tenured professor at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in Honolulu.

Praise

It is a rare breed of scientist who is both a leader in her field and a great writer, but Hope Jahren is both. A tenured professor at the University of Hawaii, Jahren has built a career and a reputation in science by unearthing secrets hidden in fossilized plant life. Her work has resulted in at least 70 studies in dozens of journals, but it’s also given her a platform to talk about something else: widespread sexual harassment and discrimination in science. On her blog, in op-eds and in her new memoir, Lab Girl, Jahren wields her influence to call out a culture that has caused women to flee the field she so loves. That’s why she does it: she loves science. And whether she’s writing about lab funding, discrimination or deciduous trees, she has a way of making you love it too.” —Siobhan O’Connor, TIME, 100 Most Influential People

“Lab Girl made me look at trees differently. It compelled me to ponder the astonishing grace and gumption of a seed. Perhaps most importantly, it introduced me to a deeply inspiring woman—a scientist so passionate about her work I felt myself vividly with her on every page. This is a smart, enthralling, and winning debut.—Cheryl Strayed

A powerful new memoir . . . Jahren is a remarkable scientist who turns out to be a remarkable writer as well. A geobiologist who can take you into the deepest secrets of plants and earth, then turn around and stun you with her own deeply human story. Think Stephen Jay Gould or Oliver Sacks. But Jahren is a woman in science, who speaks plainly to just how rugged that can be. And to the incredible machinery of life around us.” —Tom Ashbrook, On Point, National Public Radio

Some people are great writers, while other people live lives of adventure and importance. Almost no one does both. Hope Jahren does both. She makes me wish I’d been a scientist.” —Ann Patchett

Discussion Questions

What were Jahren’s main motivations for pursuing scientific research as her career?

Describe Hope and Bill’s work partnership and friendship. What makes them so well suited to each other, and what’s unexpected about the dynamic of this male-female relationship?

How does Jahren balance the excitement and frustrations of working in a lab and researching in her story?

What are some of the unique challenges she faces as a woman in science, and what message does she convey to girls and women about following their dreams in this field—or any?

What was the most interesting fact about plants you learned while reading Lab Girl?