2020 Big Read – where our community gathers around a book

Title: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Introduction to Lab Girl from the NEA Big Read:

“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life”—from Lab Girl (p. 29)

Lab Girl is a nature lover’s story about digging in dirt and discovering new things about old growth. It’s a scientist’s story about running experiments and waiting and wondering and asking for funds and fending off doubt. It’s a Midwesterner’s story of moving south and east and west and noticing the differences. It’s a girl’s story about growing up to be what she wants to be. And it’s a woman’s story about fighting stereotypes, sacrificing, feeling vulnerable, trusting in friendship, getting sick, getting help, finding love, and writing it all down. “I used to pray to be made stronger,” Jahren writes in Lab Girl. “Now I pray to be made grateful” (p. 256).

The prologue to Jahren’s memoir is an invitation to the reader: to look out the window; to see something green; to home in on that vision of green—a tree, say; to look more closely at a leaf; and to ask a question about that leaf. “Guess what?” she then writes. “You are now a scientist. People will tell you that you have to know math to be a scientist, or physics or chemistry. They’re wrong…. What comes first is a question, and you’re already there” (p. 4).

View our past NEA Big Reads here!

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.