The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this collection of essays adapted and expanded from his podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale--from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.
As a premise it’s clever, and in the hands of another writer, the conceit might stop at cute. But Green is a ravenous and tender polymath, and the tiny essays are like winding mountain passes that lead you through unexpected landscapes, both in subject and in emotion. His reviews create a collage of factoids and a window into one person’s longings, fears and loves. An entry on Academic Decathlon (4½ stars) had me in tears, and a review of Canada geese (two stars) contains a line that had me doubled over in belly laughter. Each review is his version of Proust’s madeleine, unlocking the author’s sense memories ... The trauma to the Anthropocene of 2020 makes everything look different, from the war he wages against his garden groundhog nemeses to the point of creating art anytime at all, let alone in the midst of large-scale death ... The book makes the wondrous small — see his essay on Halley’s Comet — and the small wondrous — like his ode to Scratch n’ Sniff Stickers. The breadth of Green’s musings at times feels like a late-night dorm-room conversation, like his attempt to contextualize just how brief of a period we have been fumbling about the planet. But those conversations were fun, weren’t they? The Anthropocene Reviewed is the perfect book to read over lunch or to keep on your nightstand, whenever you need a reminder of what it is to feel small and human, in the best possible way.
How to live in the midst its uncertainty without falling into despair is the open question. In his new book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green uses humor, wisdom and a keen sense of connections to offer us something like an answer ... Each essay is a web of salient and unexpected connections ... What Green is really telling us with these unexpected stories about Sycamore Trees, Canada Geese and Dr. Pepper is how much there is to love in the world and why that love is worth the effort.
Throughout the book, the scale works to give cohesion and suspense, as the reader anticipates the result at the end of the written commentary. It is a cleverly interactive device. At times I found myself nodding in agreement with ratings for things I’ve never experienced ... Green’s skills as a novelist and communicator are put to good use...He blends the personal and political with ease. Many of the reviews work as jumping off points for memoiristic writing that deals sensitively and viscerally with topics that range from bullying to depression to obsessive compulsive behaviour. The result is a moving, entertaining and mind-expanding collection that looks at the role of the individual in the world at large ... Green has a Gladwell-esque ability to explain complex phenomena to the masses. The broad and seemingly random scope of his book also bears comparison to the writings of Bill Bryson. Green’s sense of humour and eye for life’s absurdities bring lightness to difficult and sometimes harrowing topic ... very much a book of the moment, which is to say timely and compelling. I suspect I won’t be the only critic to end the review the following way. Nevertheless, I give The Anthropocene Reviewed five stars.