Lab Girl (Jahren) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
This book is an embarrassment of riches; Hope Jahren is a gifted botanist as well as a gifted writer. In Lab Girl the reader gets to experience the stressful, competitive world of a research scientist trying to survive in academia while also navigating becoming a wife and eventually a mother, all while managing what is often a debilitating mental illness.… This is a book you won’t want to miss — her blog is every bit as entertaining and well written as  Lab Girl; you can find her at hopejahrensurecanwrite.com. READ MORE …
Cara Kless - LitLovers


Vladimir Nabokov once observed that "a writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist." The geobiologist Hope Jahren possesses both in spades. Her engrossing new memoir, Lab Girl, is at once a thrilling account of her discovery of her vocation and a gifted teacher's road map to the secret lives of plants—a book that, at its best, does for botany what Oliver Sacks's essays did for neurology, what Stephen Jay Gould's writings did for paleontology.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


Large numbers amaze; numbers of large numbers amaze even more. Cognitive neuroscience can explain why…but it takes a passionate geobiologist with the soul of a poet to make us really swoon in the face of computational amplitude. Science is in the end a love affair with numbers, and when it comes to botany, the "numbers are staggering," Hope Jahren writes in her spirited account of how she became an eminent research scientist.... Jahren's literary bent renders dense material digestible, and lyrical, in fables that parallel personal history.... [She] deliver[s] a gratifying and often moving chronicle of the scientist's life.
Melissa Holbrook Pierson - New York Times Book Review


Jahren grew up in small-town Minnesota, playing in her father’s science lab and laboring in her mother’s garden. Her first book invites readers to fall in love, as she did, with science and plants. The award-winning scientist travels the world studying trees with her best friend and lab partner, and finds refuge from life’s conflicts in the lab. "There I transformed from a girl into a scientist, just like Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man, only kind of backward," she writes.
Jennifer Maloney - Wall Street Journal


A scientific memoir that’s beautifully human. Jahren, a geochemist, botanist and geobiologist, has spent the better part of the past two decades studying the secret lives of plants. Part memoir, part biology text, part criticism of the status quo of the scientific community, Lab Girl reminds us that, in ways, we are strikingly like our blossoming brethren. Lab Girl is anything but technical. It is full of pleasing turns of phrase, references to literary figures like Genet and Dickens, and a running botany allusion that punctuates the book’s biographical story. Most of all, it’s deeply personal, following Jahren’s battle with manic depression; a harrowing pregnancy; her unending struggle to secure funding in a quickly drying financial desert; and the loving platonic relationship she shares with her protege and lab manager, Bill.
Melissa Cronin - Popular Science
 

Warm, witty.... Lab Girl is her recounting of the near half century of adventures, setbacks, and detours that brought her from there to here. But even more than that, it’s a fascinating portrait of her engagement with the natural world: she investigates everything from the secret life of cacti to the tiny miracles encoded in an acorn seed, studding her observations with memorable sentences.... Jahren’s singular gift is her ability to convey the everyday wonder of her work: exploring the strange, beautiful universe of living things that endure and evolve and bloom all around us, if we bother to look.
Leah Greenblatt - Entertainment Weekly


Deeply affecting.... a totally original work, both fierce and uplifting: a biologist’s natural history of her subjects, and herself. In Lab Girl, pioneering geobiologist Jahren limns her journey [from] insecure young scientist [to] medals and professional and personal fulfillment. Jahren recognized as an undergrad that science would be her true home—a place of safety, warmth, and light [where] she could be part of something larger than herself. A belletrist in the mold of Oliver Sacks, she is terrific at showing just how science is done. But her prose reaches another dimension when she describes her remarkable relationship with a lab guy, an undergraduate loner named Bill.... Jahren’s writing is precise, as befits a scientist who also loves words. She’s an acute observer, prickly—and funny as hell.
Elizabeth Royte - Elle


(Starred review.) Jahren...recounts her unfolding journey to discover “what it’s like to be a plant” in this darkly humorous, emotionally raw, and exquisitely crafted memoir.... 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.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Jahren's first book is a refreshing mix of memoir about her journey as a woman scientist and musings about plants, the central focus of her successful scientific endeavors. What's most refreshing is the author's openness about her relationship and collaboration with research partner Bill. —Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
Library Journal


(Starred review.) [A] personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.... The author's tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and [her lab partner] Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist. Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.
Kirkus Reviews

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