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The Anthropocene Reviewed
Cover of The Anthropocene Reviewed
The Anthropocene Reviewed
Essays on a Human-Centered Planet
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A deeply moving and insightful collection of personal essays from #1 bestselling author John Green.
The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale—from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.
Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity. As a species, we are both far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough, a paradox that came into sharp focus as we faced a global pandemic that both separated us and bound us together.
John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.
A deeply moving and insightful collection of personal essays from #1 bestselling author John Green.
The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale—from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.
Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity. As a species, we are both far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough, a paradox that came into sharp focus as we faced a global pandemic that both separated us and bound us together.
John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.
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  • From the book From the Introduction
     
    When I reviewed books, “I” was never in the review. I imagined myself as a disinterested observer writing from outside. My early re­views of Diet Dr Pepper and Canada geese were similarly written in the nonfictional version of third-person omniscient narration. After Sarah read them, she pointed out that in the Anthropocene, there are no disinterested observers; there are only participants. She explained that  when people write reviews, they are really writing a kind of mem­oir—here’s what my experience was eating at this restaurant or getting my hair cut at this barbershop. I’d written 1,500 words about Diet Dr Pepper without once mentioning my abiding and deeply personal love of Diet Dr Pepper.

    Around the same time, as I began to regain my sense of balance, I reread the work of my friend and mentor Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who’d died a few months earlier. She’d once written, “For anyone trying to discern what to do w/ their life: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO. That’s pretty much all the info u need.” My attention had become so fractured, and my world had become so loud, that I wasn’t paying attention to what I was paying attention to. But when I put myself into the reviews as Sarah suggested, I felt like for the first time in years, I was at least trying to pay attention to what I pay attention to.

    •••
     
    This book started out as a podcast, where I tried to chart some of the contradictions of human life as I experience it—how we can be so com­passionate and so cruel, so persistent and so quick to despair. Above all, I wanted to understand the contradiction of human power: We are at once far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough. We are power­ful enough to radically reshape Earth’s climate and biodiversity, but not powerful enough to choose how we reshape them. We are so powerful that we have escaped our planet’s atmosphere. But we are not powerful enough to save those we love from suffering.

    I also wanted to write about some of the places where my small life runs into the large forces of the Anthropocene. In early 2020, after two years of writing the podcast, an exceptionally large force appeared in the form of a novel coronavirus. I began then to write about the only thing I could write about. Amid the crisis—and writing to you from April of 2021, I am still amid it—I find much to fear and lament. But I also see humans working together to share and distribute what we collectively learn, and I see people working together to care for the sick and vulner­able. Even separated, we are bound up in each other. As Sarah told me, there are no observers; only participants.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from May 21, 2021

    In these essays, the Anthropocene is defined as the era in which humans decided that humanity was the most important influence on the world. It is a circuitous definition, the humor and despair of which is not lost on Green (Turtles All the Way Down). In his first foray into nonfiction, Green explores the joys, sorrows, and inconveniences of being human, through essays reviewing things he has encountered in his life, from Diet Dr Pepper to viral meningitis. Each review is less about its central object or circumstance and more about how it reflects on the user or observer (we also learn Green's true feelings on wintry mix). The book is a review of humanity: how we grow, how we build, how we destroy, and how we observe ourselves. Many books succeed at making the personal universal, but this one also makes the universal personal. With these essays, Green reveals his internal life in vignettes, with the hope that one of his stories will spark recognition and connection among readers. VERDICT This is a book about culture, about science and medicine, about Green himself, but really it surpasses these designations. It is essential to the human conversation. John Green whispered the truth of humanity onto the page, and as with all good secrets, you'll need to lean in closely to hear.--Ahliah Bratzler, Indianapolis

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2021
    The bestselling author offers a miscellany of essays on life and letters in an environmentally fraught time. Green, who admits to a certain amount of OCD, opens charmingly with a telling instance: It took him 30 days to create a path through the woods behind his Indianapolis home to reach a treehouse less than a minute away: "It took me a month to build a fifty-eight-second walk in the woods." He might well have conjured the critic Morse Peckham, who once observed that a futile activity isn't so futile if it puts off recognizing its own futility. It's one of few bookish allusions Green misses in this pleasing book of essays personal and cultural. The author notes that we are at a moment when everything is rated thanks to the pernicious influences of Amazon and Yelp and such; Green calls a bout of labyrinthitis "an unambiguously one-star experience." The ratings continue: He gives humankind a four-star chance of surviving the present era of mounting catastrophes, the Anthropocene. His register of references is far-ranging. Among dozens of other topics, he discusses Shakespearean evocations of clouds, the origins of the "pathetic fallacy" in the writings of John Ruskin, and the world's largest ball of paint, which can be found not far from Green's home. There are fine moments throughout, as when the author writes appreciatively of Indianapolis as a place he loves "precisely because it isn't easy to love" or when he ponders the social basis of genius, by which artists such as Michelangelo flourished because others were making advances in the study of human anatomy and Julius Caesar "became a dictator because...over time the empire's soldiers felt more loyalty to their military leaders than to their civilian ones." In a treat for die-hard fans, each copy from the first print run will be signed by the author. A grab bag, but one that repays reading and reflection and a pleasure throughout despite occasionally dark moments.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 7, 2021
    YA novelist Green (Turtles All the Way Down) makes his adult debut with this perfectly calibrated collection that reviews and rates various aspects of the current epoch. Taking on the style of a Yelp review, Green assigns a five-star rating to each topic he covers. “Our Capacity for Wonder,” for example, gets three and a half stars (due to humans’ general lack of attentiveness), while Diet Dr. Pepper gets four—Green loves the drink, but finds consuming it feels like “committing a sin.” His review of the video game Mario Kart gives way to a discussion of privilege and a consideration of the role videos games played in the male friendships of his youth: “We didn’t need to talk about Mario Kart, but we needed Mario Kart to have an excuse to be together,” while CNN gets two stars for its failure to report “background information that allows us to understand why the news is happening.” Each short review is rich with meaning and filled with surprises—”Sunsets,” for example, draws on several poems to ask “what should we do about the clichéd beauty” of a setting sun— and together, they amount to a resonant paean to hard-won hope. Green’s legions of fans will be delighted.

  • Booklist

    May 20, 2021
    The Anthropocene, according to the National Geographic Society, is "an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth's history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet's climate and ecosystems." Significant is putting it mildly. Environmentalists might say catastrophic, even apocalyptic. John Green, an award magnet for his six beloved, best-selling young adult novels, including Turtles All the Way Down (2017), channeled his curiosity about disparate aspects of our lives on our ""human-centered planet"" into a podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed, the foundation for this essay collection, his first nonfiction book and first book for adults, though YAs will avidly read and revel in it, too.Why ""reviewed?"" Green explains that his fascination with reviewing stems from his time working at Booklist, where he "became fascinated by the format" of our succinct reviews, which we call the haiku of book reviewing. Wryly contrasting the challenges of writing concise yet nuanced reviews with the ubiquitous, rather questionable five-star scale used to rate everything from restaurants to doctors, he thought, why not review the world? When is a Booklist Review of the Day not exactly a review? When the Booklist editor writing it worked with Green during his time on staff. So this is reportorial, not evaluative. I can state, therefore, that Green combines stories from his life, including a distressing number involving his suffering through such wretched ailments as labyrinthitis, viral meningitis, and depression, as well as tales of being enthralled, as a boy bullied at school, by scratch 'n sniff stickers, then a bit later, the CompuServe Teen Forum. Green delves into the impact of the months he spent at age 22 as a student chaplain at a children's hospital. That experience turned him away from his intended path to a life as a minister, but there is something of the sermon in his essays as he mixes curiosity and erudition with confession, compassion, and wit, searching for illuminating life lessons amid life's dark chaos. His particular mix of irony and sincerity enables him to embrace both the sublime and the ridiculous.Green's reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic include an inquiry into historic pandemics as well as his tracing of the life of the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, as it was taken up by fans of the Liverpool Football Club (Green is a soccer devotee), then sung by British paramedics to encourage coworkers in the intensive care unit. Green fits a remarkable amount of facts, observations, and feelings into his tightly constructed essays as he ponders an array of subjects, from The Great Gatsby to the Lascaux cave paintings, air-conditioning and climate change, teddy bears, rivers, and Indianapolis, and shares indelible moments with his parents, his friends, and his wife and their two children. And each essay concludes with a five-star-scale rating. One star for plague. Piggly Wiggly gets two and a half stars. What merits five stars? The movie Harvey (there's a Booklist story behind that). Sycamore trees. When a book receives a "starred" review in Booklist, one star says it all. This is not a review. But if it were, it would carry the Booklist star.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Essays on a Human-Centered Planet
John Green
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