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Book Review: "The Anthropocene Reviewed"

By Julia Barth, Features Editor

John Green’s newest book “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is much different from a typical John Green book, diving into the realm of nonfiction as a means of storytelling. What started as a podcast in 2018, "The Anthropocene Reviewed" covers different topics each chapter — topics that are completely random from the outside, but all have a deeper meaning to Green himself.

Chapter by chapter, Green talks about the impact certain things, places and experiences have had on him, and by the end, he gives it a rating out of five stars. He got this idea from working as a book reviewer when he was younger, as well as all of the times he has relied on five star reviews throughout his life (restaurants, shops, hotels — we all do it).

The Anthropocene — a fancy way of denoting the current age we are living in, where human impacts on the world and the environment are at their greatest — to Green is a lens to look at life through. In some chapters he reveals the depths of his despair and existential dread, but in others he focuses on lighter topics: small things that make him happy in a world where you can find bad around every corner.

Each chapter is a short essay on a particular topic of his choosing. He not only describes the thing that he is covering, but his perspective on it and the context that led him to rate it five stars or one star or anything in between. Some chapters include “Canada Geese,” “Googling Strangers,” “Sunsets,” and “Our Capacity for Wonder.” There are many more to read, and you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, since each is about something different.

What makes this book special, however, is the personal flare Green adds to his accounts. I don’t necessarily relate to his love for Diet Dr. Pepper or his experience with viral meningitis, but the surface-level topics give way to deeper understandings of the human experience that Green is a master at articulating. He was able to make each chapter relatable, drawing on moments from his bouts with anxiety and depression as well as his experiences as a brother, friend, husband and father.

The 2018 podcast was similar to the book in that each short episode covered a different topic, and some topics overlapped with ones he included in the book. He stopped the podcast in August of 2021 to focus solely on the book adaptation, but the episodes are still available to listen to if you prefer audio over books.

"The Anthropocene Reviewed" is a major change for the author, whose famous works include teenage romances like “Paper Towns,” “Looking for Alaska,” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” These novels gained him his fame, but fans stick with him because of his insights into the deeper meanings of life and how he lives to feel content with himself and his place in the world.

This book might not be one’s usual go-to since it’s a nonfiction collection of essays, but Green tells readers from the start that this book is for anyone and everyone. After all, in the Anthropocene, “There are no disinterested observers; there are only active participants.”

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