The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of essays by popular young adult author John Green on the impact that humans have on the planet that we inhabit, and how things natural and human created impact us. In a way, the Anthropocene Reviewed also serves as a collection of vignettes from John Green’s own life, thought over in his characteristic flowery prose.
Humanity really is the only thing that ties together all of the reviews which range from Diet Doctor Pepper to the opening to the Penguins of Madagascar to the now-extinct Kauaʻi ʻōʻō. The book started out as a podcast and it shows- each chapter can be read as a standalone in no particular order. The only sense of progression in time through the book is the references to the COVID-19 pandemic scattered throughout, from the early chapters where lockdown has just started to the ending where John talks about humanity’s triumph over smallpox through vaccination and the hopefulness that came with the beginning of the vaccine rollout at the beginning of the year.
The episodic origins of the essays played a hand in how I read (listened to) this book. Rather than wanting to read through the relatively short book in one setting, I found it enjoyable listening to a few essays a day over the course of a couple of weeks.
For a book of “reviews”, the Anthropocene Reviewed is a deeply personal book. Though each chapter includes a history of the thing being reviewed, it also includes John’s personal experiences and thoughts on the subject. These are not unbiased reviews, and the book is the stronger for it.
Something to note for regular readers of John Green: The Anthropocene Reviewed is written for an adult audience, not Green’s normal young adult audience. There isn’t anything objectionable in The Anthropocene Reviewed that readers wouldn’t find in Green’s YA books, but the tone is slower and more contemplative than your typical YA book. It also has some heavier themes of death and depression that aren’t addressed in a way that’s inappropriate for teens, but the discussion is geared towards a more mature understanding of the topics.
Despite the fact that The Anthropocene Reviewed goes over humanity’s many failings, it never fails to bring a hopeful perspective to the human experience. Humanity has had many dark days, and a lot of them are of our own doing. But Green never fails to point out that humanity is also strong, resilient and hopeful.
I give The Anthropocene Reviewed 4 stars.
I listened to The Anthropocene Reviewed on the Digital Library of America. It was read by the author.