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Fall Books 2018: Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl

October 4, 2018

As we move into fall, it’s time to settle in by the fire and read!

Or more likely, here in sunny southern California, sit at the beach and read…

In late August, I devoured Lab Girl by by Hope Jahren, the book selected by Ventura College for our “One Book One Campus” program. That means faculty are encouraged to use the book in their classes across disciplines and to make public special events and speakers, particularly during the month of October. 

Jahren’s publisher describes Lab Girl as “a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable 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.”

Jahren is one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” and her national best seller was named “A TIME and Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016 So Far.”

  • National Bestseller
  • Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
  • New York Times Notable Book
  • Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science Books & Film Prize for Excellence in Science Books
  • Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
  • One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post,, NPR, SlateEntertainment WeeklyNewsdayMinneapolis Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews

I considered having the whole class read this book together, but in the end, I’ve decided that we will all just read the first chapter– and I hope this will inspire them to read more (extra credit!) As I came to know the students in both classes, I realized that as much as I LOVE THIS BOOK it doesn’t mean that my students will, and so I went with what I usually do — offer several choices and then form book clubs of 4-6 students based on those choices. The groups will do a group presentation; individually they will write a review of the book.

Today I will give students a chance to do some research into the books by watching several trailers (here) in class and then offering class time in the lab to do more research before writing me a note detailing:

1. which book is first choice to read and why,

2. which book is second choice to read and why

3. which book is a NO NO NEVER and why,

4. who to work with and why

5. who NOT to work with

6. whether who to work with is more important than what read.

I’m also going to ask them which is their reading on writing group, who is in it, and what they like best about that book — and their group.



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