The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green: A review

 

Here's a contribution to my attempt to keep my pledge to read more nonfiction this year. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a series of essays by writer John Green that actually gives ratings using the one- to five-star method regarding various elements and events, past and present, of human life on Earth. 

The Anthropocene, of course, is the name given to the geological age in which we live. Its name recognizes the impact that human activity has had in shaping the planet and its biodiversity.

The subjects of Green's essays are wide-ranging, to say the least. He jumps around from topics as diverse as hot-dog eating contests to his relationship with his brother Hank to why we have the QWERTY keyboard and many more just as random. He makes each of his topics personal and relates them in such a way that they have emotional impact while never overloading them with subjectivity. It's a delicate balance and for the most part, he succeeds, I think.

The essays are short and briskly written. Each one pulls you along because you want to see where he is headed with this subject. In most instances, I found them well-reasoned and thought-provoking. I frequently found myself wanting to read more on a particular subject. 

And so we hear from Green about Canada Geese, about air conditioning, about the game of Monopoly, about plagues from Covid to Cholera, about the Yips, the Lascaux Cave paintings, Halley's Comet, the Penguins of Madagascar, and about his own struggles with OCD. Well, you get the idea. As I indicated, "wide-ranging" hardly even begins to describe it. The essays are not all of the highest quality. Some of them drag a bit, but overall, I would say that each of them had some valuable information and/or wisdom to impart.

John Green is, of course, most well known for his YA fiction writing. His best-known books are probably The Fault in our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down. I haven't read either of those or, in fact, any of his fiction, but I think that is probably his forte. This book, I believe, was his first venture into nonfiction and it is not a bad beginning. He kept his essays brief. They are of a length and substance that one could easily read one or two just before retiring at night and that is usually the time that I chose to read them. If he decides to do more essays in the future, I would look forward to adding them to my reading list.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 


Comments

  1. I will keep my eye open for it, Dorothy. I will check with the library to see if they have it.

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    1. There are a number of essays in the collection that you might find interesting, David.

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  2. I have not read The Anthropocene by John Green, but it is on my radar. It sounds interesting. However, I've been skeptical about reading this book by Green as he is known for his novels (I've read both The Fault in our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down, which I've enjoyed). Additionally,I do like bite sized essays that can be read and enjoyed rather quickly as the appeal for me anyway is that I can learn a small amount of information and then decide to do further research later on a specific if I am so inclined... So maybe I should read The Anthropocene? The jury is still out whether I'll read this book or not.

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    1. If you can get it from the library and just dip into, I think you might find it quite interesting. There is such a great variety of topics covered, there is something to appeal to almost everyone.

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  3. He does write about everything! I like essays when they're well-written, but I have to admit, I hardly ever read them any more.

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    1. I occasionally read essays such as op-eds, but it isn't often that I'll sit down and read an entire book comprised of them. But I did find this one interesting.

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  4. I guess I'm not drawn to this one too much. But I did read The Fault in our Stars - and I'm sure Green has a talented mind etc. though perhaps too much teen angst for me. But far-ranging essays is tough ... perhaps only Ann Patchett can pull it off? ha

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    1. It was a bit hit or miss. Some of the essays were really good; others not so much.

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  5. I'm not the biggest non-fiction fan. It has to be reaaally good to have me hooked. I just finished a memoir by Steve-O from Jackass and it didn't do much good in the terms of a good rating. Writing that review somewhere next week...

    I'll pass up on this one.. :)

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    1. Well, I can't honestly say that this one was "reaaally good."

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  6. I absolutely loved The Fault in our Stars. Turtles All the Way down was a DNF for me (I just got bored a little bit into it and can't say why) but I may try it again one day. So I was thinking about The Anthropocene Reviewed but I already have three books I plan to read in the near future, Right now, I am reading Booth, by Karen Joy Fowler. It's due in four days and I'm barely halfway through it. So I appreciated your review. I won't be in a rush to read it.

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    1. The great thing about books is that it'll be there when (if ever) you are ready for it.

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  7. I loved The Fault of Our Stars even though I am not much of a YA fan. Sorry this didn't work that well for you, I hadn't even considered it.

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    1. As indicated, I really liked some of the essays and others not so much. On the whole, I found it just meh.

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  8. I've not read anything by him, thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

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    1. He has some very well-known fiction books to his credit but this was his first foray into nonfiction.

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