I have been a John Green fan for a long time. Typically found in the YA section, Green has been writing about love, friendship and all types of human relationships since his first novel, Looking for Alaska (a personal favourite of mine), was published in 2006. “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is his first foray into the world of nonfiction, a world I don’t often dive into. Even though Green is one of my most read authors, I was still hesitant to pick this one up, but I am quite glad I did. “The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet” is a collection of essays by John Green on various topics that concern the human influence on the world as we know it. The collection is based on his podcast of the same name, with some essays coming straight from the show itself, others newly written for the book.
The first thing I did, before even opening up this book, was find a definition for “Anthropocene”. I knew it would have something to do with humans, but I wanted to fully understand the word before beginning the book. A quick definition search tells us that “Anthropocene” is “the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment”. This book reads as part nonfiction-essay-collection and part memoir, as the essays Green writes almost all tie back to his life in some way. Green narrates his journey that led him to starting the podcast and subsequently writing this book here (which also serves as the introduction to “The Anthropocene Reviewed”), which is a charming, very John Green story, and gives you a good sense of the tone of the book as well.
Every essay in “The Anthropocene Reviewed” ends with the topic receiving a star-rating out of 5 from Green. While reading these essays on the human influence, we go through a wide variety of topics; everything from the movie “Penguins of Madagascar” (4.5 stars) and Scratch ‘n’ Sniff Stickers (3.5 stars) to Lascaux Cave Paintings (4.5 stars) and Staphylococcus aureus (1 star) are covered in this collection. Some of my personal favourites include his commentary on Canada Geese (2 stars) – a creature that terrifies Green to no end, as well as Diet Dr. Pepper (4 stars) – of which he has a deep and profound love for. A small subtlety that I love about this book are the small reviews Green has hidden throughout – the font used for the book (found on the copyright page), autographs (as he signed several copies of the book, including TBPL’s copy), and the “half-title” page, which are all pages that the average reader likely flips past without a second thought.
The stories that Green writes about in his essays often contain something seemingly unrelated, but always circle back to the main topic. I love this aspect of the book – it reminds the reader of the connection between us all, the Butterfly Effect of various aspects of life all helping and propelling each other. Green starts his essay on “Penguins of Madagascar” by talking about whether Ringo was the best Beatle or not. Seemingly unrelated, but he does go somewhere with this! The whole concept of this book is to reflect on the connections and influence humans have had on the world and each other, and I think his small stories-within-the-story do just that. If you’re looking for your next great nonfiction read, pick up John Green’s “The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet” today!