The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green
John Green’s latest book is comprised of a series of essays describing and rating different aspects of the Anthropocene—the current geologic age— on a five star scale. Based on the podcast of the same name, The Anthropocene Reviewed tackles everything from humanity’s temporal range to the world’s largest ball of paint. At their core, these essays ponder the ways in which humans are profoundly and irreversibly shaping the world around us—and, by extension, how we too are being shaped by our actions and experiences in the modern age.
If you’ve visited our blog before, you’re no doubt familiar with our deep and abiding love of John Green. When the writer/Youtuber/ die-hard Liverpool fan announced that his latest book was going to be a non-fiction collection of essays, I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed. While I would be happy reading Green’s shopping list, his novels hold a special place in my heart. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by The Anthropocene Reviewed, and especially by the glimpse that it gave us into the author’s life.
Through Green’s novels, we’ve learned a great deal about the author himself. Looking for Alaska provided a backdrop for some of the personal events in his own life. Turtles All the Way Down delved into what it’s like living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Green’s latest book is unique, however, in that his life is not being viewed through the lens of Pudge, or Aza, or Hazel. The stories and insights provided are unencumbered by narratives or characters, and the result is pure, unfiltered John Green.
Obviously, Green is no stranger to sharing personal information with his fans. Aside from his books and his website, he regularly engages with his fans on his Youtube channel, vlogbrothers, that he runs with his brother, Hank Green. Through all of these avenues, we’ve learned a great deal about Green’s life. His latest book differs however, in that it centers around opinions and musings that are deeply and intrinsically influenced by personal experiences. As a result, the author shares a great deal of personal anecdotes and stories about his life.
Another charming feature of this novel is found in its footnotes. I really enjoyed finding and reading the small print hidden throughout the front and back pages providing 5 star ratings about copyright and half-title pages. Beyond this, the back of the page also contains notes and sources for some of the facts and stories Green mentions in each essay. This feature is especially rewarding to the Green fans like myself who are continually amazed and baffled by the amount of diverse knowledge Green possesses about every aspect of human existence.
As a final note, I’d like to add that this book—while a wonderful read for anyone and everyone (since it concerns, well, humanity)—it might resonate more strongly with those who are already fans of Green’s work. I enjoyed seeing glimpses into the author’s early life and seeing connections between his personal experiences and his other novels, for example, which would not be as interesting to someone who knows nothing about John Green. Some of my personal favorite essays included those on our capacity for wonder, the movie Harvey, googling strangers, and Hiroyuki Doi’s circle drawings—all of which struck me as especially candid and earnest. I would recommend this book to any John Green fans, as well as those who enjoy learning obscure details about various facets of human existence.