Lab Girl has an interest approach. Jahren mixes biographical chapters with science chapters on plant biology (trees). I get the feeling she did this because the work would be too short without it, but I think it made for a more enjoyable read, and also points out a future as a science writer. She’s a good non-fiction writer, especially the science. Her personal story was hit or miss. Some parts were interesting but some were not. There a number of chapters that deal with field research that could be expanded, and even the lab work could be expanded upon. Jahren has a bad habit of glossing over the important work and droning on about her relationships without getting to the point. I would love to read a Biology book by her. A follow up to “Lab Girl“.. not so much.
Excerpts from Kindle
I started out studying literature, but soon discovered that science was where I actually belonged. The contrast made it all the clearer: in science classes we did things instead of just sitting around talking about things. We worked with our hands and there were concrete and almost daily payoffs. Our laboratory experiments were pre-designed to work perfectly and elegantly every time, and the more of them that you did, the bigger the machines and the more exotic were the chemicals that they let you use.
It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.
“We’re looking for leprechauns,” I answered pensively. “Keep your damn eyes open.” I was getting lost, confused by streets with names like “Sráid Eibhlín” and “Seansráid and Chláir,” but I didn’t care. I wasn’t trying to find anything; I was waiting for something to happen.
Such recurrent pronouncements have forced me to accept that because I am a female scientist, nobody knows what the hell I am, and it has given me the delicious freedom to make it up as I go along. I don’t take advice from my colleagues, and I try not to give it. When I am pressed, I resort to these two sentences: You shouldn’t take this job too seriously. Except for when you should.
Tina Bennett has been more than my agent: she taught me the difference between a bunch of stories and a book. [More than a little Ironic.]