I get the impression that John Green had a very intense few years. He became well-known by YA readers after The Fault in our Stars was published in 2012 (it became a movie in 2014). He has said that he felt a lot of pressure whilst writing Turtles all the Way Down, his next book. Once that book was out, he stopped being able to write.
So he turned back to reviewing; he started his writing career by reviewing books for Booklist, and this was a return to that, sort of. The Anthropocene Reviewed reflects on various aspects of the human-centered world, ranking them on a 5-star scale. The short essays cover everything from the Lascaux Cave Paintings to The Plague to Diet Dr Pepper. It’s quite random.
The project started as a podcast in 2018 – I would download the episodes, make a cup of tea, and go sit on my front porch while listening to him ponder whatever he was pondering that week. Time passed, and it became 2020 and then mid-March 2020 and beyond, his thoughtfulness about the world and the pandemic and the things changed by it helped me. He talked about only being able to write if he sat next to a local creek, so he would bring a camp chair with his laptop and sit and type away, and I felt that same bizarre anxiety. We all came up with our own ways of getting through: why not a camp chair and a laptop in the middle of nowhere?
The essays included in the book are mostly from the podcast. There may be slight tweaks to them, but by and large they’re the same. Most don’t mention the pandemic, but some do, and it’s jarring to realize that we’ve come so far from the unknowingness of spring 2020 while still not being wholly out of it. I wasn’t sure I was ready to read about how I was feeling last year yet, but I read those essays anyway.
John Green’s earnestness and sincerity and thoughtfulness about everything he writes about makes this book moving and worth focusing on. It’s like a good meditation session or maybe a good sermon, one that moves you and isn’t so long your mind wanders. He communicates what he thinks and why he cares and you start to think that maybe you should too.
I give The Anthropocene Reviewed four and a half stars.