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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Historical fiction

Lessons in Chemistry

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Bonnie Garmus, on your first book!

by Bonnie Garmus

Quick take

This novel has the perfect molecular structure: a charming protagonist, humor, a lovable dog, and feminist bonafides.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Brainy

    Brainy

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Buzzy

    Buzzy

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Underdog

    Underdog

Synopsis

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. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

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. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

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Content warning

This book contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Lessons in Chemistry.

Why I love it

I am grateful for books always, but especially lately, these last—well, couple of years now, when all I want is to be elsewhere, doing something interesting in the company of people who make me happy. So I was especially grateful to find myself in the world of Elizabeth Zott and Lessons in Chemistry, a cheerful, cinematic, whip-smart novel about finding one’s family and the ongoing fight for gender equality. (Also, cooking! And television! And teaching dogs how to read!)

Why did I love this book? It’s shrewd and vibrant and carefully plotted. But most of all I loved it because reading it made me feel good, hopeful even. Lessons in Chemistry is, in addition to being a very funny novel, refreshingly earnest, a word I use carefully and as a high compliment. This is a book that is complicit with its reader and takes care of her, allowing her to walk away from it feeling optimistic about being a person in the world.

And did I mention Six-Thirty? He’s one of the best fictional dogs I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, I felt a superlative affection for almost every character in this book and continued to think about them—and root for them—long after I finished reading. In short: it’s a fabulous novel. I hope you’ll read it and relish its companionship as much as I did.

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Member ratings (33,662)

  • Kaitlyn R.

    Orlando, FL

    What a fantastic read. It is seriously such a beautiful book. The characters are great and relatable. I found my self gasping, then laughing, then crying then laughing again ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ amazing story!

  • Ashley C.

    Huntsville, AL

    This book is phenomenal. I loved every bit of it from start to finish. Elizabeth Zott is a force - one can’t help but feel invested in her life. She’s a bit “Eleanor Oliphant” - exactly who she is. ❤️

  • Natasha G.

    NEW HOPE, MN

    I thought the story, the character, and her flaws were brilliant, but my book club was full of mixed reviews; they scoffed her methods of mothering...or rather, lack thereof. It's fiction, guys????????‍♀️

  • Allie C.

    Ogden, UT

    I couldn’t get enough of this book. It sucked me in to the very end. Some things affect you in ways that can’t really be put into words. That’s the hold this book has on me. It’s a beautiful story.

  • Patti D.

    Canton, MI

    Fabulous book! I remember the early 60’s, the women’s fight for equality was uppermost in my mind. This book is funny,sad,educational with a beautiful ending. I can’t believe this is a debut! Kudos!