In May 2021, popular young adult novelist John Green released his first work of non-fiction “The Anthropocene Reviewed.” This book is a collection of essays written about facets of the “human-centered planet,” as Green refers to it.
I am a fan of John Green’s work, and this is one of the most moving books I have ever read in my admittedly short-lived, but arguably well-read life. This book combines a sort of dry humor with the ever-human feeling of being a small part of something much, much bigger than you are.
The essays in this book range from reviews that are seemingly shallow, covering topics such as Canada geese or scratch n’ sniff stickers, to reviews of more conceptual ideas, like the act of Googling strangers or art pieces like “Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance” and the world’s biggest ball of paint.
You might see the focuses of these essays and imagine they’re not particularly interesting. A review of viral meningitis sounds like it would be easy to imagine. “Was very sick… 1 star.” No, it’s nothing like this. Green’s essays are deeply personal and extremely touching. The first essay in the book had me teary-eyed and imagining the world from a different perspective.
The essay is about Halley’s Comet, and Green relates information about the famous recurring celestial body to an anecdote about his childhood. In this essay, Green also writes about mortality in relation to the length of time between sightings of Halley’s Comet. He then wraps up the essay with a review on a five-star scale, as he does with all of the essays featured in both “The Anthropocene Reviewed” and in his podcast of the same title.
Having read the physical copy of the book (of which the entire first printing is signed by the author) as well as listening to the audiobook edition, there are some fun differences in what is included.
In the audio recording of “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” there are a couple extra reviews that aren’t included in the physical copy of the book, like an essay on the concept of mortification, an extinct bird called the Kauai O’O and the smallpox vaccine.
If you only have the hard copy of “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” there are some extra Easter egg reviews in there as well, including one written on the copyright page in small type for the folks who decide to take a look.
All in all, I would absolutely suggest both the audio and the physical version of this book. Having been originally a podcast, “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is a wonderful auditory experience. John Green’s voice is extremely relaxing, and since the book is an odd sort of memoir, it has a very personal feel.
The physical copy of the book is also pretty fantastic, especially when reading Green’s review of “Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance,” it is easier to see exactly what he is referring to visually about the photograph.
Both the audiobook and the physical book make for a positive experience, and either would make a good reading experience. Many of the reviews that are featured in the book are already published as podcast episodes of “The Anthropocene Reviewed” and can be listened to on whatever platform one would normally find podcasts. Although the podcast features many of the reviews in the book, obviously not all of them are available for free in this way.
If you are looking for a deeper connection to humanity and the way we all interact with the world around us, then you should give “The Anthropocene Reviewed” a read (or a listen). With Green’s dry humor and trademark earnest use of language, I know I felt quite a bit more human after reading this book, and maybe you will as well.