Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BOOK: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, 280 pages

I'm a science girl. I was a chemistry major in university, and now I teach physics. Biology wasn't exactly my favourite subject but I appreciate the science of plants. I loved this book and have been telling all my science teacher friends about this book.

Interesting side fact: our high school science department is significantly female. At one point we had 1 male teacher out of about nine of us. We have another one or two males teaching some science courses now, but we are a department of Lab Girls.

Jahren is a geobiologist and the book covers many aspects. Her home life and how she became interested in science, her struggles with getting funding and setting up labs, life as a female scientist in a male dominated profession, her struggles with mental health, and the adventures she has with her long-time lab assistant Bill. As well, there are lovely short passages describing trees and all the life processes of trees. There is enough biology if you like that but not so much that it feels like a textbook. Underlying the biology is the love and passion Jahren has for her subject.

The writing was lovely throughout. The sections that dealt with her mental health and her pregnancy were so well done. She writes personally, but I didn't feel like the other people in her life were exploited in any way by her sharing. At one point, I was worried something terrible was going to happen to someone in her life (like a divorce, or death) but this is not that kind of book. She integrated the biology, the personal, and the professional so well that I could not state the main focus of the book, and I enjoyed all the parts.

A well-written book on any topic is a delight. It is why you can read a book on a topic that you don't usually read and enjoy it immensely. Hope Jahren is that kind of writer and I look forward to reading another book by her.

Here's a picture of the biggest tree on PEI, found in Victoria, PEI. Sorry there are no leaves but our trees spend a good portion of their lives dormant. You can read the book to understand that whole process in more detail.