John Green, left, speaks Saturday with L.A. Times writer David Ulin at the Festival of Books. (Bret Hartman / For The Times)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: ‘The Anthropocene Reviewed’ is a book entirely made of reviews

"The Anthropocene Reviewed" by John Green is a personal review of life's struggles and joys: it manages to be unique, yet resonates with the soul of everyone who reads it.
<a href="" target="_self">Hannah P.</a>

Hannah P.

June 20, 2023

Disclaimer: This article contains minor spoilers for “The Anthropocene Reviewed.”

A perfect combination of reviews on anything and everything, The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Plant features personal stories from John Green, the history-buff-turned-amazing-author. The New York Times #1 best selling author combines the sheer wit and history fun facts (akin to Green’s Crash Course YouTube series), while wringing out your heart with the beautiful, delectable quotes that are a hallmark of his fiction-writing (look no further than Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to start crying).

How? In “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” Green approaches real-life things, such as Halley’s Comet, Canada geese and sunsets, from an intimate point of view. And Green treats each subject like a review, never failing to lay down his judgment with a rating on a scale of five stars.

Until my latest Barnes & Noble adventure, spelunking into its cavernous shelves, I had been completely unaware of Green’s latest book. When I saw its reddish-purple cover, representative of sunsets and interlocking paths, I snatched it off the shelf faster than you could say “John Green.”

Sure, I was a little hesitant. Of course, Green would have different perspectives, points of view and ideals of morality: wouldn’t I end up disagreeing with his ratings? What if I ended up hating him, for Pete’s sake, because he gave a strawberry-banana smoothie zero stars when I’d give it five? (Disclaimer: he didn’t.)

I flipped open the crisp, first chapter… and I blinked. The first review was about the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” I read about how Green had his own personal memories locked into it, such as the fact that he sang it many times as a die-hard Liverpool fan and how it meant volumes for so many different people.

But the reason why I’d been so surprised is that the title evoked a whirlpool of memories in my own heart. That song had been the closing number for the choir, Les Belles Voix, that I had sung for during my freshman year. I had performed the solo for the piece, and while I was reading about Green’s personal connection to the song, I relived all the singing lessons, shaking nerves and silly flapper costume that had been a part of my experience of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” To me, it had just been an inspiring song from a vague musical and a highlight of my high school experience. Yet, as I read on, Green educated readers about its ironic history, broke down its lyrics and described how the song’s title became etched above the gates of the Liverpool stadium.

That’s what made this review — and all the others — so special. If you choose to read the book, you’ll learn oodles and oodles of awesome factoids and origin stories. And, you’ll also be reminded of your own unique experiences with many of the topics, whether it be with a meaningful song, delicious hot dogs or mental health struggles.

And it doesn’t even matter if you agree with Green or not: in fact, I can barely remember the ratings he stamped on each entry. What I do remember is Green’s creative, lovely and hilarious commentary. Here’s a line from his famous review of Canadian geese (featured on his podcast before he even had the idea for the book): “With a song like a dying balloon and a penchant for attacking humans, the Canada goose is hard to love. But then again, so are most of us.”

The book is quite morose and soul-wrenching at times. He painted his despair with such clarity and familiarity that I found myself on the edge of tears.

“Looking through the Sprite bottle at the green parabolic rectangle of the kitchen window…I watched the bubbles inside the bottle clinging to the bottom, trying to hold on, but inevitably floating up to the top,” Green wrote. “I felt the pain pressing in on me, like it was an atmosphere.”

I can’t give away all the topics beforehand: it’ll spoil the beauty of the reviews. But if you feel even the slightest pinprick of interest in Green’s book, I wholeheartedly recommend it. To anyone. Everyone. Your aunt’s dog, even. This book is expertly and beautifully written: the only thing I can find fault with is that I relate to it too much (I’m sure you will, too!). With much love and admiration, I give “The Anthropocene Reviewed” five stars.

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