Books on Tap held its first digital meeting on April 2nd via Google Meet. About a dozen readers joined us as we experimented with book club during social distancing. We discussed Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl, an exploration of one woman’s life as a botanist and the struggles she has establishing and funding a scientific lab. Jahren is an accomplished scientist but also is able to explain complicated concepts to lay readers. She also is able to describe her mental health issues in an immediate and engaging way.
Jahren alternates chapters about plant life with chapters about her own life, connecting the two as the book progresses. We noticed that the hyper focus that makes her at first an excellent lab tech and then an excellent scientist puts her at a disadvantage when dealing with people outside her orbit. Her greatest support is Bill, whom she first hires as an undergraduate lab assistant, and who then follows her around the world as she establishes her own labs. We discussed how this relationship didn’t always make sense to us and thought at times it veered into codependency. Bill is the only person Jahren maintains a relationship with before she meets her husband. She rarely mentions her family after she leaves for college but dedicates the book to her mother. Was this Nordic reticence or was she estranged?
Compared to her family relations, Jahren is an effusive science writer, creating an ode to learning by hand, as one book club member described it. We were encouraged by her final extortion to plant something while we’re in quarantine. Books on Tap will meet again on May 7th. For information about the physical or digital location, please contact Krista Farrell (kfarrell at jmrl dot org).
Books on Tap Information:
- There, There by Tommy Orange (May 7)
- Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (June 4)