By Haley Stiles | Contributor
Bestselling author John Green recently announced that he is coming out with a new book, “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” on May 18, his first non-fiction book to date. It shares the name and premise of his podcast, which reviews facets of life during our current geological age defined by human development.
I met John Green in 2014, at a conference that’s name I will not mention due to extreme embarrassment for my 15-year-old self. When I approached his table, I asked if he was having a good time at the event. His answer came with a great deal of bewilderment (ostensibly due to the fact that he himself organized the event): “I’m more concerned about whether you’re having a good time!”
His kindness left an impression on me, and I still have my copy of the book he signed: “The Fault in Our Stars.”
I was introduced to this book, and John Green, the year before, when I was in eighth grade. My friend was reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” and, sure that I was never going to read it myself, I asked how it ended.
The joke was on me because when I read it later that year, I knew Augustus would die at the end and agonized the entire time over what was coming. (Knowing the end didn’t make it any less painful — my heart still hurts for Hazel Grace.)
While Green is a very successful author, writing numerous New York Times bestsellers and having his novels adapted into blockbuster movies, his books … aren’t my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his works I’ve read.
However, my favorite John Green content is delivered weekly on YouTube, through a shared channel with his brother, Hank. The pair make videos on a wide range of topics, from how to dress in cold weather and why nerds win at life to the seriousness of climate change and the health crisis facing Sierra Leone.
While any one of these topics may not interest me personally (I’m not dying to know the proper use of prepositions in the English language,) I’ve watched the majority of videos John has posted over the past 10 years. This is because, whatever he may be talking about on the surface, Green never fails to place the ordinary in context of the biggest things in life: hope, community, resiliency, creation.
My personal favorite is a fairly generic stream-of-consciousness 2010 update from John, talking about the Chilean miners surfacing from the wreckage of their collapsed tunnel, an algorithm born from his novel, “An Abundance of Katherines,” and his creation of an uplifting playlist.
Near the end of the four-minute video, he plainly states some of the most impactful words I’ve heard in my entire life: “The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy.”
John Green’s podcast, “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” follows this same format. While the show features Green ranking various facets of our current, human-dominated geological age (from board games and 200-year-old songs to major news networks and the human capacity for wonder,) like his videos, he isn’t really talking about these random items and ideas. Rather, Green is talking about the human condition, in all its complexity.
Above all, Green talks about hope. Hope that we will be good to each other, and make decisions that benefit many rather than only ourselves. Hope that the things weighing heavily upon us in the present will be lightened in the future, and the way forward will bring joy. Hope that the world, even in its broken state, will become a little more whole through our words and our actions.
The good news, for lovers of the podcast, fans of Green and collectors of dead trees, is the publishing of his new book, named for the series. This collection of essays will follow and expand upon the premise of his podcast, reviewing life as it unfolds before us and stitching together the narrative of humankind’s development into the 21st century.
“The Anthropocene Reviewed” will be available on May 18, and is currently available for pre-order. He posted a video announcing the book to his subscribers — but of course, he couldn’t just make a video announcing a new book.
As he does, Green also wove into the video in his own personal journey to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths of 170,000 fellow Americans as a result. He can’t help it — he has to contextualize his experiences and place them within the greater picture of human existence with honesty, as well as resounding kindness.
John Green was kind to me when I met him all those years ago, and I have no doubt when I read his new book, I will be met again with his kindness and his ever-hopeful view of this broken world.