Tuesday, August 10, 2021



Rating: 5/5 stars

I’ve been a fan of John Green for years. I’ve read and enjoyed all of his fiction books, but this is the first piece of nonfiction of his that I’ve consumed. I haven’t listened to any of his podcasts, and I’ve only seen a handful of the Vlogbrothers videos, so I’m actually not very familiar with him outside of his young adult novels.

The Anthropocene, if you weren’t aware, is the name for the current geological era. John Green compiles 44 essays in this book (plus an introduction, postscript, and extensive notes) about human nature and life on our planet in the present day. Because of the number of essays, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on each one individually, but I will give star ratings for each (since the idea of reviewing and giving star ratings is pervasive throughout the book and the whole point of the book) and I’ll share quotes and notes for the essays that stood out to me. 

First off, I’d like to mention that I loved this book. I don’t read very much nonfiction, but I do think The Anthropocene Reviewed is worth a read. Green comments on and analyzes aspects of everyday life that never occurred to me, opening my eyes and giving me a new perspective on many different subjects, and I actually feel like I learned so much. Just read through the titles of the essays to get an idea of what John talks about—and I learned something new in each essay. He writes about how our planet has been affected by humankind over the centuries and how we as a species are impacting the world today. 

This book is highly quotable as well. Even just in the seven-page introduction, there were so many lines I was highlighting because I wanted to share them and remember them. I obviously can’t share them all (that would be the whole book so just go read it for yourself), but I will insert one that really stood out:

“Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” This isn’t even a quotation from John, but it made me stop and think nonetheless: what am I spending my time focusing on? What do I pay attention to? 

I learned so much information while reading this book, and many of the essays inspired me to lookup more about that topic. So often when I’d see the title of a new essay I’d think, “That doesn’t sound interesting. How could I possibly care about ___?” But then John Green would write about the topic in such a way that I genuinely was interested, and he would bring his own experiences in to make it more personal. I was surprised by the sheer number of essays I liked that I didn’t expect to like based on the title alone. 

I love the way John writes and the way his mind works. I really connected with what he had to share in these essays, even though they are all seemingly unconnected. And even though the title tells us so, I found myself surprised that some of the essays are simply reviews of things that John has witnessed, like the reviews of The Great Gatsby, that Beatles song, the Lascaux cave paintings, the salt flats, even sunsets. He reviewed each topic like it was in a blog or something, which I found to be pretty funny but also very unexpected. I expected philosophical essays throughout but the essay topics range widely. Even surprised by it, I still really enjoyed this book and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it. 

Even though my individual ratings average out to be 3.59 stars, the overall book was a 5-star experience. I enjoyed my time with it, I learned a lot, and I’ll absolutely be returning to these essays in the future. Therefore the book as a whole gets 5 stars from me. 

Introduction—5 stars

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”—2 stars

Humanity’s Temporal Range—3.5 stars

Halley’s Comet—5 stars
One of my favorite essays. Love the science in it.

Our Capacity for Wonder—4 stars
Very interesting analysis of The Great Gatsby. I don’t like The Great Gatsby but I liked this essay.

Lascaux Cave Paintings—4 stars

Scratch ‘n’ Sniff Stickers—5 stars
A surprisingly fascinating essay about smells. One of the best in the book. 

Diet Dr Pepper—4 stars
I went out and bought Diet Dr Pepper for the very first time after reading this essay.

Velociraptors—2.5 stars

Canada Geese—3 stars

Teddy Bears—2 stars
This essay, I’m pretty certain, has math errors in it. Green claims, “The total combined weight of all living humans currently on Earth is around three hundred and eighty-five million tons.” How can this be possible though when there are over seven billion people on Earth, each person averaging at roughly 150 pounds? That’s at least a trillion pounds, or about 540 billion tons. Someone please explain his math to me because there is no way he’s right.

The Hall of Presidents—1 star
Least favorite. Just don’t care about presidents I guess.

Air-Conditioning—5 stars
“Like an expensive painting or a fragile orchid, I thrive only in extremely specific conditions.” If this isn’t me…

Staphylococcus aureus—5 stars
I weirdly love learning about the history and science behind medicine, so this essay was fascinating to me.

The Internet—4 stars
There couldn’t be a proper book about our time without an essay about the Internet. “When you’re living in the middle of history, you never know what it means. I am living in the middle of the Internet. I have no idea what it means.”

Academic Decathlon—3.5 stars

Sunsets—2 stars
“You cannot see the beauty which is enough unless you make yourself vulnerable to it.”

Jerzy Dudek’s Performance on May 25, 2005—2 stars
Even though the essays about sports were among my least favorite, this one still prompted me to go look up this exact moment and wonder at it. 

Penguins of Madagascar—2.5 stars

Piggy Wiggly—5 stars
This was one of the most interesting essays in the book. It was about the advent of modern grocery stores, which doesn’t sound exciting but it really was, and I knew nothing about this beforehand.

The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest—3 stars

CNN—4 stars

Harvey—3.5 stars
I genuinely want to go watch Harvey now.

The Yips—2 stars
I have never heard of the “yips” before now. What an interesting phenomenon.

Auld Lang Syne—4 stars

Googling Strangers—4 stars

Indianapolis—3 stars

Kentucky Bluegrass—4 stars
This essay made me realize how much I do NOT want a yard in front of my house.

The Indianapolis 500—3.5 stars

Monopoly—5 stars
A very interesting history of Monopoly. I hate the game, but I loved the essay.

Super Mario Kart—4 stars

Bonneville Salt Flats—4 stars
“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.”

Hiroyuki Doi’s Circle Drawing—5 stars
This was so fascinating! I seriously love the way John Green writes. I also loved the circle drawings, which I just discovered and spent ten minutes looking at pictures of online. 

Whispering—4.5 stars

Viral Meningitis—4 stars

Plague—3 stars

Wintry Mix—5 stars
I really enjoyed that parts of this essay were told in future-tense. This was one of the best essays, in my opinion, based just on John Green’s writing style alone, but the story he tells is also very interesting.

The Hot Dogs of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur—5 stars

The Notes App—4.5 stars
“It occurs to me that technology often brags about solving problems it created.”

The Mountain Goats—3 stars
I looked up the band after reading this essay and . . . 1.5 stars. Not my jam at all.

The QWERTY Keyboard—4.5 stars

The World’s Largest Ball of Paint—4 stars

Sycamore Trees—3.5 stars

“New Partner”—3 stars

Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance—2 stars

Postscript—4 stars

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