Penguin Random House: LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, Our Spring Title Wave Pick, Now GMA Book Club April Selection

Bonnie Garmus’ LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, our Spring ’22 Title Wave Pick, has now been named Good Morning America’s April GMA Book Club Selection, it was announced by ABC-TV’s Deborah Roberts. This represents the latest acknowledgement of the ever-growing popularity of this book, which was published by Doubleday on Tuesday, April 5, and is our Igloo Book Buzz title for this week.

In the pages of LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, we learn chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six.

Praise from The New York Times Book Review: “Feminism is the catalyst that makes [Lessons in Chemistry] fizz like hydrochloric acid on limestone. Elizabeth Zott does not have ‘moxie’; she has courage. She is not a ‘girl boss’ or a ‘lady chemist’; she’s a groundbreaker and an expert in abiogenesis …To file Elizabeth Zott among the pink razors of the book world is to miss the sharpness of Garmus’s message. Lessons in Chemistry will make you wonder about all the real-life women born ahead of their time—women who were sidelined, ignored and worse because they weren’t as resourceful, determined and lucky as Elizabeth Zott. She’s a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.”

“The inspiration for LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY came from a bad day at work,” says author Bonnie Garmus. “I’d endured some fairly average sexism during a meeting—nothing hugely out of the ordinary—but on that particular day, I couldn’t seem to shake it off. When I returned to my desk to work, I sensed Elizabeth Zott was sitting there. I knew her a little from a previous novel I’d started and shelved, but she’d been a very minor character. But now she was definitely the star. ‘You think you’ve had a bad day at work?’ she seemed to say. ‘Well, get a load of mine.’ That’s when I wrote the first chapter of LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY.”

The book was edited by Lee Boudreaux, Vice President & Executive Editor, Doubleday, who shares, “When I first heard about LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY—a scientist becomes the reluctant star of a 1960s cooking show—my thoughts went immediately to two things. First, remembering my mother, by some lights just an ‘ordinary housewife’ in rural Virginia in the 1970s, cooking Julia Child’s coquilles saint jacques. There is no question that Mastering the Art of French Cooking fed my mother’s soul as much as it fed the family. And, second, being an editorial assistant for the Modern Library in the late 1990’s when they pulled together their list of “Top 100” books published in the English language in the 20th Century. Carolyn See, indefatigable member of the Modern Library board, made an impassioned but unsuccessful plea to include The Joy of Cooking as a book every bit as ground-breaking as anything else appearing on that list. There’s just something radical simmering right beneath the seemingly placid surface of a mom cooking dinner, isn’t there?

“But the real magic lies in what Bonnie, a copy writer by profession, does with every sentence in this book. There is no way to adequately describe one’s first encounter with Elizabeth Zott making coffee (see page 143). No one who’s read the book hasn’t commented on Six-Thirty, a canine hero for the ages. Elizabeth Zott just keeps doing the unexpected, the unprecedented, and—to the devotees of the status quo—the unacceptable. In the end, you love Elizabeth like a dear friend, you want to be more like her in your real life, and you just can’t stop laughing whenever she’s around.”

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