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The Anthropocene Reviewed
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The Anthropocene Reviewed

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The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet av John Green

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Green, John. The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet. New York: Dutton, 2021. 274 pp.

On the surface, John Green’s Anthropocene Reviewed goes through 40 to 50 items or concepts from the human world, gives them a decent Yelp-style review, and rates them on a five-star scale. Almost everything is up for grabs, from the movie Harvey to Diet Dr. Pepper to the Lascaux cave paintings and so on. Seems simple, but the part that grabs you is that interlaced in every review a bit of biography and reflection. It seems self-evident that in order to review something, you have to interact with it, and it becomes a part of your life, so all reviews are in some ways autobiographical.

Green’s reviews go deeper, however. We get his pain from his days as a chaplain, his joy in finding family in fellow football fans, his serenity when talking to his children, his fear when admitting that he Googles people before going to their house.

This book is great but suffers from the bite-size/binging problem. Each little review is great for quick dips when you have a few minutes, but I found myself flying through them, about ten at a time. I give John Green’s Anthropocene Reviewed five stars. ( )
  NielsenGW | Jul 19, 2021 |
These essays are structured as reviews of such wide-ranging topics as wintry mix, Super Mario Kart, lawns, the Indy 500, CNN, and staph infections; each item reviewed receives a star rating (1-5) at the end. Green does not shy away from discussing physical and mental health, including his own struggles with depression and OCD. His writing is rich with quotes from other sources, all cited unobtrusively in-text and with fuller end notes in the back matter.

Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking; I give The Anthropocene Reviewed five stars.

Quotes

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO. (Amy Krouse Rosenthal, 6)

Humans are already an ecological catastrophe....We could choose to use less energy, eat less meat, clear fewer forests. And we choose not to. As a result, for many forms of life, humanity is the apocalypse. (17)

...aesthetic beauty is as much about how and whether you look as what you see. (33)

...cooling the indoors warms the outdoors. (re: air conditioning, 75)

...the climate is both something that happens to us and something we make. (76)

...it's amazing what you can believe when you're down the rabbit hole. (footnote, 87)

Because there is always news to report, we rarely get the kind of background information that allows us to understand why the news is happening....This flood of information without context can so easily, and so quickly, transform into misinformation. (129)

There was so much news....that there was never any time for context. (131)

...knowing something abstractly is different from knowing it experientially. (re: the yips, 141)

...the mind/body dichotomy...[is] complete bullshit. (142)

They won't be okay, of course, but they will go on, and the love you poured into them will go on. (comforting the terminally ill, 150)

...one of the flaws of the human character is that "everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance" (Vonnegut, 161)

Home is before, and you live in after. (163)

...More land and more water are devoted to the cultivation of lawn grass in the United States than to corn and wheat combined. (166)

So much that had recently been extraordinary...was in the process of becoming mundane. And so much that had recently been mundane was becoming extraordinary. (re: pandemic, 173)

The fact that our political, social, and economic systems are biased in favor of the already rich and the already powerful is the single greatest failure of the American democratic ideal. (184)

"Each member of a couple is separate; the two come together in double attention." (Donald Hall re: Jane Kenyon and "third things," 185)

There's a certain way I talk about the things I don't talk about. (188)

One of the strange things about adulthood is that you are your current self, but you are also all the selves you used to be, the ones you grew out of but can't ever quite get rid of. (188)

"To have great pain is to have certainty. To hear that another person has pain is to have doubt." (Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain, 201)

...each day, as a human community, we decide not to prioritize the health of people living in poverty.....Disease only treats humans equally when our social orders treat humans equally. (re: cholera, tuberculosis, plague, etc., 207)

"When people say, 'we have made it through worse before' ...all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones / of those who did not make it." (Clint Smith, 213)

"it's been January for months in both directions" (Kaveh Akbar, 215)

"the snow doesn't give a soft white / damn Whom it touches" (e.e. cummings, 219)

What you're looking at matters, but not as much as how you're looking or who you're looking with. (221)

We should get out of the habit of saying that anything is once-in-a-lifetime. (229)

...technology often brags about solving problems it created. (footnote, 232)

...memory is not so much a camera as a filter. The particulates it holds on to are nothing compared to what leaks through. (235)

"We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are." (Anais Nin, 265)

History changes as we look back on the past from different presents. (269) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 13, 2021 |
Gotta give this one 4 stars. Actually some of the pieces only rate three stars, but a few are stellar. Green is a successful novelist. These pieces originally appeared as podcasts. For a self described poor student he is a terrific writer and astonishingly broadly read. The pieces are short, pithy, thought provoking. Delightful. ( )
  brianstagner | Jul 12, 2021 |
John Green’s first nonfiction book is essentially a book of ratings. The introduction explains that we seem to rate everything from movies to restaurants, so he decided to rate humanity in this current geological age: the Anthropocene Age. Much of what he writes is humorous, some is self evaluation, and some is serious reflection about mankind in general. The writing is sensitive and the topics are many and varied. Many won’t care for the tone of some of the pieces, but most will take something away from this book. ( )
  DanDiercks | Jul 6, 2021 |
Really really good. I listened on audiobook but I wished I had read it on kindle to get the quotes (for next time, I'm sure I'll read it again). John green is a very thoughtful person and we have a lot of similar worries about the world. It was cathartic and amazing to hear how someone else deals with it.

When I was thinking who I'd recommend it to, one thing which struck me is you can't approach it with an ironic stance because it's too sincere and, honestly, I think that's a feature not a bug. I can see myself listening to the podcast now. It was also particularly good to read it now because covid-19 is still in the zeitgeist so so much of what he talks about I remember from the last few months.

The piggly wiggly story still freaks me out because of how much a single man went from grocery stores with grocers to the modern self-checkout self-serve grocery story ( )
  Lorem | Jun 12, 2021 |
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Introduction
My novel Turtles All The Way Down was published in October of 2017, and after spending a month on tour for the book, I came home to Indianapolis and blazed a trail between my children's tree house and the little room where my wife and I often work, a room that depending on your worldview is either an office or a shed.

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