Tag Archives: Science

Review: Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Lab Girl
By Hope Jahren
Knopf Publishing Group, 9781101874936, April 2016, 304pp.

The Short of It:

What I especially liked about Lab Girl is that it read more like a novel than a memoir, plus it’s filled with fascinating facts about dirt, trees, and plants of all kinds.

The Rest of It:

I’m not sure what I expected when I pitched this to my book club. We don’t read much non-fiction and science tends to be pretty interesting as long as it’s not too heavy on math or complicated formulas so I took a chance and pitched it and it was selected. However, I wasn’t able to  make the meeting that night due to my daughter’s volleyball banquet.  Sigh.

That said, I read it on my own and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Most of the book focuses on Jahren’s quest to run and maintain her own lab. She does this through various faculty appointments and mostly through grants. She touches on this a few times in the book because funding for science labs that do not produce an actual product, tend to be limited.

What does she study? Jahren is a geobiologist.

Geobiology is a field of scientific research that explores the interactions between the physical Earth and the biosphere.

It’s a relatively young field. Jahren’s lab partner steals the show, so to speak. Bill is not your typical scientist or maybe he is. Not sure. He’s entertaining but in a very gruff, humorous way. It’s apparent while reading that Bill is much more than a lab partner but never once did it “go there”. Bill is like a brother to her and that’s made pretty clear as she tells her story.

The book is split into three sections:

  • Roots & Leaves
  • Woods & Knots
  • Flowers & Fruit

Each section includes a bit of science but Jahren also manages to work in bits of life here and there. For example, Roots & Leaves details her early life and how she came to love science. She had a brief stint working in a hospital pharmacy and this part was especially interesting as she outlined the sterile procedure for preparing the medicated saline bags for patients. I’m telling you, fascinating stuff.

The only thing that I felt was missing was the struggle. Hope Jahren is an optimist and living up to her name.  Her story is told in a very hopeful, uplifting way. Bill brings a lot of humor to the more dire situations for sure but I felt like maybe some of the more difficult challenges were left out.

In any case, I enjoyed the book and if you like to learn while reading Lab Girl is a good one to pick up.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: Zero K

Zero K

Zero K
By Don DeLillo
Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781501135392, May 2016, 288pp.

The Short of It:

Death is inevitable but some choose sooner, rather than later.

The Rest of It:

This is the second book I’ve read this year about cryogenics. I’m not sure why my attention flits over to that subject every now and then but when it does, I find myself fascinated by the topic and this book was no exception.

Jeffrey finds himself supporting his stepmother’s decision to be cryogenically preserved. You see, Artis is dying anyway, but she’s chosen to give her body to science and unfortunately for Jeffrey, Jeffrey’s father has decided to join her in death.

This story explores the idea that there is a purity in death that cannot be achieved in life. For me, the purity aspect is further supported by the clinical nature of the procedure itself. There is a starkness to it, a coldness if you will. Everything is sterile and clinical and without fanfare. The body stripped of clothes is just a body. No longer father or mother but just skin and bones and a glimmer of what used to be.

This book reminded me a lot of Never Let Me Go.  I felt somewhat detached while reading it but it’s not nearly as depressing or dark. This has a much more positive feel to it, although you have a dig to find the positivity within it.

Some of the writing really made me think about civilization as it stands now. How do the events of the past shape the future? How can the decisions we make as a society today, impact us later in life?

Overall, this was a good, interesting read but it’s a little deep and I may not have gotten all of the meaning behind it. There were times where I could not tell if something was happening for real or if it was in a dream or some created reality. It’s that kind of book.

Have you read it?

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.