2017 Winner: Young Adult Science Book

Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

Reading Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl is almost like reading three books for the price of one. In addition to being a memoir by a three-time, Fulbright-winning geobiologist, it is also a fascinating tutorial on botany, paleontology, and soil studies. Of even greater value to school- and college-age readers, as well as parents and teachers, is how well the author describes the life of a real scientist as one who “doesn’t perform prescribed experiments,” but “develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge.” The author’s obvious love of science and the book’s exquisite writing show how thoroughly she has channeled and extended her parents’ interests. Lab Girls begins with Jahren accompanying her father to his teaching lab, with table surfaces so solid they couldn’t be damaged with a hammer and includes her undergraduate and graduate education, subsequent teaching positions, and research postings as far afield as an isolated Arctic Ocean island. Jahren also addresses the compound challenges she faced as a woman scientist in a male-dominated profession, coupled with her eventual diagnosis as a manic-depressive. This book is one of the very few scientist memoirs that are also a great read.

About the Author

Hope Jahren has received three Fulbright Awards in geobiology and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the earth sciences. Named by Popular Science in 2005 as one of the "Brilliant 10" young scientists and by Time magazine as one of their "100 Most Influential People," she has taught and pursued independent research at universities around the world. She is currently the Wilson Professor at the Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics at the University of Oslo.