“The Anthropocene Reviewed,” by John Green is a series of essays about a variety of subjects that have influenced Green in some way over the years. He reflects on 44 topics in short chapters, ending each with a 1-5 star review, a popular rating form for just about everything from restaurants, to movies, to items sold on Amazon.
“Anthropocene” is a term given to the current geological age, in which human activity has greatly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. Green personalizes his essays by reflecting upon the impact of each subject on his world and ours. He provides historical information that may not be known to most people.
For example, within the chapter called “Teddy Bears,” Green tells the story of how cuddly cloth teddy bears as we know them got their name. He includes the brief history of our relationship with bears, the real (and harrowing) story of President Teddy Roosevelt’s hunted bear, and ends with giving the teddy bear 2 ½ stars.
In another short chapter, Green reviews the song “Auld Lang Syne.” He provides a history but personalizes it by referring to his job as a book reviewer, his friendship with the late author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and the song’s message that life and love will survive, even though we won’t. He gives the song 5 stars.
Other chapters are called “Googling Strangers” (4 stars), Indianapolis (4 stars and Green’s hometown), CNN (2 stars), and air-conditioning (3 stars).
Green writes with grace, poignancy, and honest reflection about his own life which includes suffering from a mental illness. Some of Green’s stories were taken from a podcast he recently ended, also called “The Anthropocene Reviewed.”
The beauty of this book is that it causes one to pay close attention to everyday things. For example, I know that as I sit here and type on my MacBook Pro, behind it is a story that likely stretches back a hundred years, not just to 2006, and probably has some unsavory history attached to it.
Were I writing as Green, I would reflect that it is a miracle invention that allows me to communicate with my mother through its Facebook app as she remains isolated with COVIDin a nursing home miles away. (I give the MacBook Pro 5 stars.)
About the Author: Green is the author of the award winning young-adult books, “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Turtles All the Way Down.” “The Fault in Our Stars” was made into a movie in 2014. The novels are based on Green’s own experiences as a young chaplain in a cancer ward and his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.