Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016) has been named Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science Books & Film Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Ms. Jahren received the award during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, February 16, 2017.
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.
Through a variety of subjects, the winning books demonstrate examples of outstanding science writing and illustration. AAAS and Subaru of America, Inc. co-sponsor the prizes to recognize recently published works that are drawn from and inspired by sound science.
The award program, now in its 12th year, seeks to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books that engage readers across all age groups and leave readers with a richer understanding of all corners of science.
Sara Levine, author of Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers, a children’s picture book that won the author and illustration prizes, captured the mission of the award, writing in a blog post: “In the lab, once students learn to differentiate types of teeth, they can identify them on individual skulls and use this to determine the animals’ feeding patterns. And, then, for fun, they can guess what kind of animals the skulls come from.”
The five prizes are awarded for their significant and lasting contribution to children’s, young adult and adult science non-fiction literature. Prizes are awarded in the five categories: Children’s Science Picture Book (author and illustrator), Middle Grades Science Book (author), Young Adult Science Book (author), and Hands-On Science Book (author).
Lab Girl earned the New York Times Notable Book designation and was a Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
The work was also called one of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, TIME.com, NPR, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews
Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.