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John Green's THE ANTHROPOCENE REVIEWED - A Rating of a Book of Ratings


Book cover of John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)


I knew before I started reading that I would be giving John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet (Amazon | Bookshop.org) five stars. How did I know?


I've been a long-time John Green fan. I started with The Fault in Our Stars (Amazon | Bookshop.org), in 2012, as the book was becoming a sensation. I picked up the novel, not suspecting the effect it would have on me, and didn't put it down until I finished it, ugly crying, alone in my upstairs bonus room. My husband came up to ask me a question and asked instead what was wrong, convinced that something horrible had happened. I felt as if it had. Few books have affected me so much.


That same year, in the fall, I took the members of my student book club to the National Book Festival—it was my first trip to the Festival, when it was still being held on the National Mall in a sprawl of white tents. Authors worked two events: they had a time to speak and then a time to sign. We managed to arrive part-way through John Green speaking (you can watch his talk here), and though one of my students was desperate to ask him a question, she wasn't selected. As we were walking to our next event, Green was being transported via golf cart to his signing location. My student waved and indicated (somehow?) that she had a question. Green asked the driver to stop and spoke to her for a moment. Though he didn't have to be kind—he could have kept driving, and we all would have understood—he took the time to talk to this teenager, and it meant so much to her.


The line to get Green's signature was so long that the organizers kept having to expand the space, shifting other lines over and back to make room. Authors typically signed for 50 minutes. Green agreed to stay and stay. He ultimately signed for three hours. My student got her book signed.


I, of course, have gone on to read all of his books and to become aware of his YouTube fame with his brother Hank. I've used his Crash Course: Literature videos in my classes over and over. What always strikes me—and the reason I told the story about the Book Festival—is Green's genuine kindness and sincerity. He's not a perfect person (who is?), and he's made some missteps. But every time someone online begins to criticize him, I get defensive because I think he's always doing his best to learn and to help people and to do better.


When Green began his podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed, I immediately subscribed. What a joy. His intention: to rate things in the human-centered world on a five-star scale, resulted in personal, thought-provoking, and moving episodes. The basic structure was that a short (maybe 30-minute) episode would be split in two parts, and he would review something different in each part. These are funny and wry, well researched, illuminating things I hadn't thought of before.


The day he announced that he'd writing a book based on the podcast, I pre-ordered it. And it is perfection. As with the podcast, I laughed, I cried more than once. I rarely read books at a leisurely pace, but this one I did, not wanting it to end too soon. (That never happens for me!) Some of the essays are versions of podcast episodes, and others are new. I love both equally.


My book is signed, and while I don't care much about signed editions, I love reading "Hiroyuki Doi's Circle Drawings," in which Green reflects on the process of signing his books, and listening to episode 34 of his podcast, "Icelandic Hot Dog Stand and Signing Your Name 250,000 Times," where he talks about signing this book in particular.


In the Notes for The Anthropocene Reviewed (yes, I read the Notes), Green writes about "Penguins of Madagascar" and its opening scene, featuring Werner Herzog, "I am such a fan of the unshakable earnestness of Werner Herzog's filmmaking, and also of his simultaneous ability to be self-aware enough to make a hilarious cameo. . . ." (285). I feel the same way about John Green.


In a move that will surprise no one, I give The Anthropocene Reviewed and John Green both five stars.


#bookreviews #jensreviews #nonfiction #essays #yalit

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