Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

After reading Lab Girl, I will never look at trees the same way again. Hope Jahren gave me a new appreciation of these silent but knowing inhabitants of our planet. She has dedicated her professional (and one could argue her personal) life to furthering our understanding of the flora that is crucial to life as we know it.

But this book isn’t all about trees. It’s also about Jahren’s life as a scientist, which can be a difficult road for a woman leading her own lab in terms of gender bias and operational expenses. I was surprised to learn that universities don’t offer much financial support for their scientists/researchers. Jahren spent years fighting for every cent, often creating equipment out of used parts found in second-hand shops. This seems problematic, forcing scientists to devote a lot of energy to find funding instead of actually doing research. But I digress.

One of the most charming aspects of this book is Jahren’s deep and abiding friendship with Bill, her lab partner. In fact “lab partner” doesn’t do their relationship justice.

I liked the structure of this memoir — personal reflections interspersed with informative science. Hope Jahren’s passion for her work is contagious. I wanted to run outside and dig in the dirt for a while. The narrative is full but doesn’t get bogged down in irrelevant details. Jahren seems to have a sixth sense for what information to put in and what to leave out. So the story moves quickly. She also does a lovely job of putting words to her emotions as in this one memorable passage: “I navigated the confusing and unstable path of being what you are while knowing it’s more than people want to see.”

While this memoir is ostensibly about the path to becoming a scientist, it’s really about finding your tribe (even if that is only one other person), perseverance, and following your curiosity — universal desires to which many of us can relate.

Four hearts for this one. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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