Lab Girl - Hope Jahren

Date Published: April 5, 2016

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Own Copy

Date Read: October 21-23, 2019


Read for NEA's Big Read Wichita/IRL Book Club



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 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.


I can't believe this is a highly recommended book and was voted on by a committee of librarians for the entire city of Wichita to read. Jahern is a narcissistic asshole (she blames it on her family and her Scandinavian heritage) with delusions of grandeur (my opinion). She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder sometime in late 1999 or early 2000s, but that too doesn't excuse her asshole nature. She is also a boring as fuck writer and a horrible, abusive boss and professor to college students of every level. Why would anyone, let alone four universities, let her set up her laboratory on their grounds is anyone's guess. But what really irritates me about Jahern is her internal misogyny. I can not wait until tomorrow night's book club meeting to hate on this book (judging from the comments of other members in our FB group page, I won't be the only one).