Author John Green is well known for his young adult fiction novels, including #1 New York Times Best Sellers The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down. As of Tuesday, May 18th, Green’s newest book is now available, titled The Anthropocene Reviewed. It is a nonfiction, memoir-style review of well-known aspects of the “human-centered planet.” It features essays describing and rating a variety of topics, including Diet Dr Pepper, Sunsets, and Humanity’s Temporal Range.
Long-time John Green fans like myself will note that this book is significantly different from the coming-of-age fiction novels that characterized my awkward middle school years. Instead, The Anthropocene Reviewed consists of a series of essays that Green began writing for a podcast of the same title in 2018. Green uses the term “anthropocene” to refer to our current geological era, in which humans wield unprecedented power to shape life on Earth. While this sounds like an enormously vague concept, Green walks his readers through the idea in bite-sized pieces as he reviews familiar subjects like sycamore trees and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores.
Through these short essays, Green acknowledges tremendous obstacles faced by humanity, referencing the climate crisis and general issues of economic disparity, as well as the more recent global pandemic. Though these are weighty subjects, Green’s overall tone is far from depressing. His essays explore small pieces of day-to-day life and evoke feelings of joy and childlike wonder by including humorous personal anecdotes. Additionally, Green has included several “hidden” reviews within the novel for the reader to discover. One such hidden review is written in fine print at the bottom of the half-title page. In a small paragraph, Green briefly describes the historical purpose of half-title pages and his personal impression of them before declaring, “I’ll give half-title pages two and a half stars.” The inclusion of these easily overlooked reviews reminds the reader of the small joy of discovery in unexpected places.
Another way Green has personalized his book is by autographing all 250,000 copies of the first printing in the United States. I picked up my own copy on Tuesday, complete with the loops of a cursive J and scribbled signature written in green sharpie on the first page. In the most recent episode of his podcast of the same name, The Anthropocene Reviewed, Green explains, “signing is . . . an attempt to acknowledge the connection that must be forged for any book to work. It’s not much, but here is a piece of paper that was touched by both reader and writer. Here is an attempt to say thank you.” By leaving these thoughtful touches scattered throughout his book, Green is able to use this collection of essays to connect with the reader on a personal and meaningful level. In the spirit of John Green’s five-star reviews, I give The Anthropocene Reviewed five stars.