For the eighth year of the Common Read program, incoming first-year and transfer students will join their peers in reading “Lab Girl” by author and acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren.
The winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, “Lab Girl” is a memoir that infuses personal narrative with science writing. The story follows Jehren from the North Pole to the tropics of Hawaii as she studies plant life, persists through disappointments, makes friends, starts a family, builds a career and finds joy in learning new things.
The selection of “Lab Girl” provides an opportunity to engage incoming students in meaningful conversations about their intellectual curiosities and passions, learning and discovery at college, thriving through challenges and disappointments and the ways in which adapting can lead to success.
The Common Read program supports new students with their transition to college. Each incoming student will receive a customized UMass Amherst version of the book when they attend their New Students Orientation (NSO) session during the summer. International students and students who are unable to attend summer NSO will receive their copy of the book at orientation in September.
The shared experience of Common Read intentionally engages students in connecting with their peers, faculty and staff, introducing them to the intellectual culture of our campus community and helping them reflect on significant topics they will be discussing throughout their time at UMass Amherst.
“Lab Girl” was selected through a collaborative selection process involving students, faculty and staff. Drawing from many books nominated by the campus community, the book selection committee narrowed the field down to four finalists. The finalist books were read and reviewed by students, faculty and staff. Based on its exceptional fit with the chancellor’s Common Read themes of community, connection and active engagement, “Lab Girl” received final approval from the chancellor, provost and vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life.
Jehren, who has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, will visit the campus to deliver a keynote talk on Sept. 24.