The Anthropocene Reviewed


John Green




Date Reviewed:

March 19, 2022

ohn Green is a successful novelist; the author of the truly excellent The Fault in Our Stars and the overrated An Abundance of Katherines. Apparently, Green has decided to quit writing fiction, and now devotes himself to his blog, and non-fiction writing. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection essays Green has written (and apparently presented on his blog?) about any random subject that catches his fancy. Despite the title, The Anthropocene Reviewed has little to do with the subject of climate change. Instead, Green is merely using the recently dubbed "Anthropocene Era" to describe our present world. Green writes about a particular subject in our modern world, and then gives it a rating from one star (worst) to five stars (best). But because Green includes half stars in his rating, he really grading on a scale of two to ten. This then, is my review of his book of reviews. I grade on a scale of one to five, no half stars allowed. I rate The Anthropocene Reviewed as deserving four stars.

Because is Green is so clever and interesting, he can make seemingly any subject interesting. Green almost seems to be motivated to prove that he can write about anything. There are 44 chapters in this book, including such unusual topics as: Diet Dr. Pepper, Monopoly, Scratch-n-Sniff Stickers or The Notes App. Yet delve into each of those chapters, and the reader will learn such interesting tidbits as: for example, Charles Darrow, lauded as the creator of the game of Monopoly, actually stole the idea from a woman named Elizabeth Magie. Magie's original board game came with two sets of rules. Either all the players can work together to create wealth that is shared amongst all the players. The second set of rules is the only set retained by Charles Darrow, where players work individually for ruthless capitalism, concentrating all the wealth into the hands of one individual while bankrupting all of the other players. Magie was trying to demonstrate to kids how unregulated capitalism led to impoverishment of the masses, but all we know about Monopoly today is its get rich, winner-take-all mantra. Green rates Monopoly as 1 and a half stars. I was never a big fan about Monopoly myself, the randomness of the dice rolls overwhelmed any strategy, I was a bigger fan of Risk.

Each essay is no more than about eight pages. Topics include: Air-Conditioning, Teddy Bears, Piggly-Wiggly, Indianapolis, Whispering, the Mountain Goats (the band, not the actual herbivores that inhabit our mountain ranges). Surprisingly, Green gives Teddy Bears just two and a half stars, which proves that even the brightest person can make severe misjudgments. I rate Teddy Bears as a solid five stars!

I enjoy a book like this because you learn a bunch of interesting factoids. Did you know that the Indianapolis 500, attended by over 250,000 people, is the largest non-religious gathering in the world? The original track of the Indy-500 was paved with bricks (hence its name: the Brickyard) and that there is still a single yard of track still paved with bricks?

Mark Twain was born when Halley's comet was blazing in the night sky of Missouri in 1835. Seventy-four years later, Twain wrote: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." Sure enough, Twain died in 1910 as Halley made its predicted return appearance. Green gives Halley's Comet 4 and a half stars, he is a harsh grader. What's not to love about Halley's Comet?

Green unfortunately suffers from various mental health issues. In the course of these essays, he mentions depression, nervous breakdowns, obsessive-compulsive disorders. Perhaps because these essays were created during the Covid pandemic, diseases keep cropping up in essays on: Staphylococcus aureus (rated as one star), the Bubonic Plague (one-star), viral-meningitis (also one star).

Did you know that Canadian geese nearly went extinct? Hunters used to clip the wings of captured geese so that they could not fly away, and then place these crippled geese in ponds. When wild geese saw these "decoy" geese swimming in the ponds, they would land and be blasted to smithereens by hunters waiting in ambush. The practice of decoy geese was outlawed and the numbers of Canadian geese rebounded dramatically.

Green states that 163,000 square kilometers of land in the United States is dedicated to growing grass for our lawns - an area greater than the size of Ohio. He also asserts that lawns cover more land and consume more water than the cultivation of wheat and corn combined, a statistic I find hard to believe, given that the entire states of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana seem to be exclusively devoted to growing of those two grain crops. The US's most abundant and labor intensive crop is pure, unadulterated ornamentation. He rates Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass) just two stars.

I found this book interesting. Reading the dust jacket, I see John Green won an Edgar Award - he wrote a mystery novel? I should check out Paper Towns to see what mystery he wrote.