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The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green


Title: The Anthropocene Reviewed

Author: John Green

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Essays, Environment & Nature

First Publication: 2021

Language: English

Book Summary: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his ground-breaking, critically acclaimed podcast, John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet – from the QWERTY keyboard and Halley’s Comet to Penguins of Madagascar – on a five-star scale.

Complex and rich with detail, the Anthropocene’s reviews have been praised as ‘observations that double as exercises in memoiristic empathy’, with over 10 million lifetime downloads. John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this artfully curated collection about the shared human experience; it includes beloved essays along with six all-new pieces exclusive to the book.

Book Review: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Leave it to John Green to alchemize the most seemingly banal and trivial facets of modern life into profound lyrical reveries on the human condition. With his utterly unique essay collection The Anthropocene Reviewed, the beloved novelist has produced something entirely new and wonderful—a delightfully digressive catalog of observations that manages to feel both tremendously insightful and refreshingly low-stakes all at once.

The premise alone is wonderfully idiosyncratic: Over the course of several dozen musingosities, Green rates various objects, experiences, and phenomena from our current age on a five-star scale typically reserved for product reviews or Yelp soapboxes. Except these aren’t mere straightforward value judgments on the merits of Diet Dr Pepper or CNN’s broadcasting of the Millennium Clock. No, Green being Green, even his most seemingly random discourses bloom into metaphysical excavations peppered with absurdist wit, startling profundity, and enough esoteric factoids to make your local Quizmaster blush.

One second, he’s riffing on the neurological underpinnings of our anxieties about the destabilizing effects of climate change with squirm-inducing candor. The next, he’s short-circuiting into a glorious digression about the poetic origins of the Hawaiian shirt before arriving at some elegant truth about embracing life’s unscripted joys. This collection has a wonderful way of lulling you into fits of laughter and wry recognition, only to leave you floored by some uncommonly poignant insight into the interconnectivity of our modern ails and perseverances.

It also bears mentioning that Green has an uncanny gift for stamping even his most idiosyncratic fixations—be they wheat ruins, the artistic merits of the QWERTY keyboard, or parenting strategies for rats—with an inimitable blend of childlike wonder and sobering existential angst. You’ll swoon at the intricate verbal topography he sculpts in eulogizing a extinct video store, right before catching your breath at some casually profound truth bomb about the precarious futility of nostalgia and our eternal human longing for mundane constancies.

There’s just something so intrinsically soothing and whimsical about Green’s authorial voice, here unfurled in its most meandering and unrestrained iterations to date. You get the sense he’s the rare breed of hyper-articulate soul who hasn’t quite outgrown the habit of staring off into space, utterly transfixed by the hidden mysteries underlying Life’s smallest ephemera. And you’ll be damned if his childlike awe at existence’s fleeting modest don’t start rubbing off on you too after a while.

That’s ultimately the core wizardry at play in The Anthropocene Reviewed—Green’s uncanny ability to trapdoor you into states of poignant introspection over seemingly inconsequential slivers of reality we normally spend our days overlooking or absently consuming. With just the subtlest of nudges, whether it’s an exquisitely-turned phrase or one of his trademark digressions steeped in wistful whimsy, he has this beautiful talent for zooming your lens out to the existential level while simultaneously pulling you deeper into the microscopic details. It’s an authorial superpower of rendering both the Cosmic and the infinitesimal with such tenderness and meticulous care.

Not that Green doesn’t also bring his knack for amped millennial speaks-pièce and sly satirical brio to the equation. Some of the most inspired moments see him depicting modern life’s inescapable corporate banalities—the mandatory TED Talks, productivity hacks, and personal brand gurus—with such deadpan eviscerating humor that even the most broken spirits will be moved to raucous cathartic laughter. His ability to commingle tragedy and whimsy is rivaled only by his endless fascination with the everyday stuff most of us sleepwalk past without a second glance.

And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift The Anthropocene Reviewed imparts—a rekindled sense of awe for this modern existence we so often endure rather than truly inhabiting. Green turns his kaleidoscopic gaze upon the kind uncanny ubiquities and delights you’ve likely allowed to blend into the periphery of late, and suddenly those long-ignored wonders burst forth in full chromatic vitality. You’ll never look at a regional snack food, random Wikipedia rabbit hole, or quirky provincial colloquialism quite the same way again.

In the end, what initially plays like a grab-bag of haphazardly compiled musings coalesces into a slyly resonant mosaic of the modern human condition— an offbeat yet deeply felt love letter to the poignant pockets of humanity that persist even amid the existential white noise of looming environmental peril and garden variety ennui. Green lends a powerfully redemptive voice to the easily disregarded, elevating the mundane to lyrical poetry as he reassesses the vertices where the macro and microcosmic intersect.

Whether memorializing the whimsical musings of a child or penning an elegy for the world’s quietest room, his endless fascination with the overlooked corners of contemporary existence shines through in the most unexpectedly cathartic ways. By the time you’ve laughed, teared up, and turned your gaze inward a dozen times or more, The Anthropocene Reviewed will leave you not only in-awe of John Green as an uncommonly attuned observer of the Mystery in our midst, but more present and appreciative of the fleeting grace notes peppering your own life’s soundtrack.

The Anthropocene may be upon us, but damned if Green’s refracting lens doesn’t find a million and one reasons scattered throughout our modern malaise to rejoice in the stubborn vitality of the here and now. All you have to do is read along with open eyes and an unlocked heart—and let all that inimitable wonderment flow right on in.


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