I only read two books this month but both were stellar!
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Up until a few months ago I had no idea who Hope Jahren was. When her book was recommended to me by Erin I followed Hope on social media and kept tabs on her book release date. It was released but the library didn’t have copies of it yet, however I put a request in on my Overdrive account for the library to get it if they could and was subsequently put on the hold list. I was thrilled when they did purchase the digital (and hard copy) book and launched right into it knowing I needed to get it read as quickly as possible because it would be a popular book to request and the hold list would get long.
Right away I was entranced by the book. It opens with a little background on Hope’s interest in science while living in southern Minnesota. Her father was a professor at a local community college and her mother had a college background as well but had given that up to raise a family. It is apparent there’s tension in the family situation and Hope doesn’t really dwell on it though it is interspersed throughout. Mainly, she doesn’t want to be stuck in her small town which is dominated by industry. She wants out and college is that way out.
She gets her undergraduate degree in Minnesota and then moves to California to get her PhD. Unless I missed it, I think she skipped the Masters and went right for the PhD. It’s there in California where she meets her future lab assistant and friend and the rest of the book tells the tales of field work, lab work, and becoming a flourshing scientist in the face of crappy funding, sexism, and other obstacles scientists have to face, particularly those while sciencing as a female.
There were a few instances that I thought were a little weird and kind of irresponsible as a professor such as when she has a bunch of grad students out for a lab field trip in Georgia and a grad student suggests their end of field trip excursion be to Monkey Jungle. In Miami. And they go! Sure, great story to reminisce upon, but I gave that serious side eye.
Overall I throughly enjoyed the book. The writing was excellent, the stories were excellent, and it offers a glimpse into the real issues of becoming a tenured professor these days. In the middle of her stories she gives great analysis of plants from a typical botanical perspective but also through the lenses of paleobotany and geobiology. Definitely read this book if you like memoir and science!
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This was another much hyped book but unlike All The Light We Cannot See that I wrote about last month, this one was fantastic! This was another must-read-before-Overdrive-expires books and so I pretty much zoomed through it over Memorial Day weekend. Right off the bat the book hooked me and I was in for the ride. I did not like Louisa’s family at all, though her sister redeems herself a bit towards the end. I just can’t deal with families/people who have ‘smart kids’ and ‘idiot kids’, aka: golden children and scapegoats, because Louisa was not an idiot but she believed it because her family had ‘joked’ that way for years and it had rubbed off. That aside, the interactions she has with Will, the friendship she develops with him—I really loved that. It isn’t like you can’t see what’s coming in the end, that there’s not some formulaic plot built into it, but it works well and the book is easy to get through. I liked it because it didn’t take a lot of thinking but wasn’t completely a ‘beach read’. You are rooting for Louisa the entire book and still, despite knowing in the back of your head what’s going to happen, wanting the happily ever after.
I’m also happy I finished the book just in time for the movie to come out. Not sure when I’m going to see it but I’m happy knowing I am actually ahead of the game on something for once!
And that’s it. That’s all I read last month. I have nothing on my immediate reading horizon but Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir is close to being ready for me to borrow on Overdrive. I plan on organizing my bookshelf at home this month and getting it into better order so I can see what I have and start reading some of the books on my shelves I haven’t read. I’ve also been itching to reread the entire Anne of Green Gables series and that might be a good backburner series to do for the rest of the year.
What are you reading?