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Titles similar to The Anthropocene Reviewed
The Anthropocene, according to the National Geographic Society, is “an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.” Significant is putting it mildly. Environmentalists might say catastrophic, even apocalyptic. John Green, an award magnet for his six beloved, best-selling young adult novels, including Turtles All the Way Down (2017), channeled his curiosity about disparate aspects of our lives on our “human-centered planet” into a podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed, the foundation for this essay collection, his first nonfiction book and first book for adults, though YAs will avidly read and revel in it, too.
Why “reviewed?” Green explains that his fascination with reviewing stems from his time working at Booklist, where he “became fascinated by the format” of our succinct reviews, which we call the haiku of book reviewing. Wryly contrasting the challenges of writing concise yet nuanced reviews with the ubiquitous, rather questionable five-star scale used to rate everything from restaurants to doctors, he thought, why not review the world?
When is a Booklist Review of the Day not exactly a review? When the Booklist editor writing it worked with Green during his time on staff. So this is reportorial, not evaluative. I can state, therefore, that Green combines stories from his life, including a distressing number involving his suffering through such wretched ailments as labyrinthitis, viral meningitis, and depression, as well as tales of being enthralled, as a boy bullied at school, by scratch ‘n sniff stickers, then a bit later, the CompuServe Teen Forum. Green delves into the impact of the months he spent at age 22 as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital. That experience turned him away from his intended path to a life as a minister, but there is something of the sermon in his essays as he mixes curiosity and erudition with confession, compassion, and wit, searching for illuminating life lessons amid life’s dark chaos. His particular mix of irony and sincerity enables him to embrace both the sublime and the ridiculous.
Green’s reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic include an inquiry into historic pandemics as well as his tracing of the life of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, as it was taken up by fans of the Liverpool Football Club (Green is a soccer devotee), then sung by British paramedics to encourage coworkers in the intensive care unit. Green fits a remarkable amount of facts, observations, and feelings into his tightly constructed essays as he ponders an array of subjects, from The Great Gatsby to the Lascaux cave paintings, air-conditioning and climate change, teddy bears, rivers, and Indianapolis, and shares indelible moments with his parents, his friends, and his wife and their two children. And each essay concludes with a five-star-scale rating. One star for plague. Piggly Wiggly gets two and a half stars. What merits five stars? The movie Harvey (there’s a Booklist story behind that). Sycamore trees. When a book receives a “starred” review in Booklist, one star says it all. This is not a review. But if it were, it would carry the Booklist star.
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