Lab Lit Book Club

The Lab Lit Book Club

About the Book Club

UO’s Lab Lit Book Club is modeled after a monthly science book club at the Royal Institution in London.  We will discuss literary fiction, science communication, and the narrative challenge of pairing accurate science with a compelling story.  We aim to attract a diverse group. So please feel free to invite your friends and family members, if they are book lovers, as well as colleagues in other departments.


Current Reading

Fall 2020

Real Life Cover ImageChoose between two equivalent meetings in Week 8: Monday, November 16th at 7 pm, and Wednesday, November 18th at 4 pm. Zoom link:

This term, we’ll discuss Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Real Life is the story of Wallace, a graduate student in a nematode lab, who is working towards a Ph.D. in biochemistry. This critically-acclaimed novel is also about racism, homophobia, and underrepresented groups in STEM.




Past Readings

Winter 2020

This term, we’ll discuss a play—Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

Arcadia is about the science (and art) of reconstructing past events, and the perils of publishing before all the data are in. It was described, at its 1993 debut, as “Stoppard’s finest play in years” and was once nominated for the honor of “the best science book ever written.”



Fall 2019

Image result for the gold bug variationsThis term, we will be discussing Richard Powers’ The Gold Bug Variations. Powers’ novel is in part set in the mid-1950s (post Watson and Crick’s 1953 paper), in a lab aiming to unravel the DNA code.

The story also explores music, love, and the science of information retrieval in the 1980s, pre-internet.

As a bonus: A special guest reader from the School of Music and Dance will be joining us to answer questions about Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the role they play in the story.

(As a second bonus: There will be codon table-themed cupcakes.)


Summer 2019

During summer, we’ll read The Devil’s Garden by Edward Docx. In this novel, a scientist studies ant behavior at a South American research station, but his work is backdropped by political upheaval.

In summer 2019, Lab Lit Book Club will meet on August 7 at 7 p.m. in Room B042 of the Price Science Library.




Spring 2019

In the spring, we’ll discuss Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, a novel that traces the friendship between Mary Anning (1799-1847), “the greatest fossil-hunter ever,” and her collaborator Elizabeth Philpot.





Winter 2019

Winter term, we’ll read Harry Thompson’s account of Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle. This work of historical fiction has been published under two titles: To the Edge of the World (US) and This Thing of Darkness (UK).





Fall 2018

Join us at 7 pm on Wed. Nov. 14th in Room B042 of the Science Library (PSC 042), when we’ll discuss Dava Sobel’s The Glass UniverseThe Glass Universe is a history of Harvard College Observatory, and “tells the fascinating story of a brilliant all-female team who helped toredraw the universe – and a woman’s place in it.” Everyone is welcome; just read the book and come prepared to discuss it.




Summer 2018

Our summer term book is The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. The Last Days of Night is a work of historical fiction, set in the late 19th century, and it tracks a legal battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over patent No. 223, 898—a patent for a light bulb. Nikola Tesla is another major character, and even Alexander Graham Bell makes an appearance.

We’ll meet to discuss The Last Days of Night on Wednesday, August 8th at 7 pm in Room B042 of the Science Library. Everyone is welcome.


Spring 2018

Join us at our next meeting on Wednesday May 9th, at 7 pm, in Room B042 of the Science Library, when we will discuss T. C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done.

When the Killing’s Done is the story of Alma Boyd Takesue, a conservation biologist with the National Park Service, who organizes an effort to remove invasive species from the Channel Islands of California. But her work is vigorously opposed by an activist group, For the Protection of Animals, which objects to the killing of animals under all circumstances.




Winter 2018

Join us at our next meeting, 7 PM Wednesday 2/28 in the Science Library Room B042, where we will discuss The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. The Periodic Table is a memoir of an Italian chemist and Auschwitz survivor, and was once voted “the best science book ever written” by a panel at London’s Royal Institution






Fall 2017

At our first meeting, Nov. 29 at 7 PM in LISB 217, we discussed Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

“In Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, ‘Flight Behavior,’ a central character is an entomologist tracking the effects of global climate change on monarch butterflies…There’s a love story, of course, and a coming-of-age story…But the take-away of this novel is that nature is off kilter, spinning out of control, changing before our very eyes.” – NY Times