Nonfiction Reviews: Lab Girl & The Story of More by Hope Jahren

I wish I was better at incorporating nonfiction into my reading habits but in 2020 I did get to listen to Hope Jahren’s two books which tackle science, environment, life and more. Check out book details and my thoughts below!

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Published by Knopf on April 5, 2016

Genres: Science, Autobiography, Memoir

Adult NonFiction

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here  by Hope Jahren

Published by Knopf on March 3, 2020

Genres: Science, Environment, Climate Change, Nature, Sustainability

Adult NonFiction

From the bestselling author of Lab Girl comes a slim, urgent missive on the defining issue of our time: here is Hope Jahren on climate change, our timeless pursuit of more, and how the same human ambition that got us here can also be our salvation.

Jahren’s debut work, Lab Girl, was a riveting combination of memoir and scientific study. There are short chapters on biology (everything from the importance of sugar to what to avoid when selecting a tree to plant) interspersed between the story of her life. From a science driven kid to running her own lab, Jahren catalogues the markers of her life whether it’s one of success or struggle. By far my favorite part of the writing is her partnership with Bill; seeing how it develops from lab assistant to essentially best friend and brother. Lab Girl may not be for everyone but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read that celebrates life in all forms.

While still including fond memories and nostalgia from her life, Hope Jahren’s The Story of More is a much more pointed work tackling climate change. Diving into the details of how we got to this point, Jahren shines a light on factors like population increases, overconsumption, and waste. It’s not just greenhouse gases; it’s species extinction, plastics, cars, etc. and each chapter focus contributes to the problem. This is a stark look at our past, present, and future but the conclusion of the book offers individuals a chance to make a difference even if it’s by changing small things in our daily lives.

Both of these titles are packed with interesting scientific information, deeply worrying trends, and a personal take that makes them compulsively readable. Hope Jahren actually narrates her audiobooks and I’d recommend giving them a listen. It brings such an added personal touch to the words and vocalized the incredible passion she has for science and the environment.

Do you enjoy reading nonfiction? Which topics are you typically drawn toward?

Let us know in the comments below!

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