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John Green’s first work of nonfiction, The Anthropocene Reviewed, came out in the spring of 2021, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. I listened to the audiobook – narrated by Green – in one big gulp and then bought a hardcover so I could read it at a more leisurely pace and underline with abandon. It’s a beautiful collection of essays, thoughts, and histories about different facets of the Anthropocene – the geological age of the human – all rated on a 5-star scale. It’s a unique book, so it required a lot of consideration to come up with this list of books like The Anthropocene Reviewed.
There’s more to the Anthropocene than the doom and gloom of climate change and global disease pandemics and wars. Green muses about Halley’s Comet and Diet Dr. Pepper with equal importance and eloquence. Piggly Wiggly, the Indianapolis 500, viral meningitis, scratch-and-sniff stickers – no stone is left unturned. Each is as invaluable as the next.
Because of all this, the book does not fit neatly into any boxes when it comes to subject matter. It’s a stunning look at the beauty around us and a reminder that the world is worth learning about. Even when – especially when – everything feels dark and terrible and hopeless.
The Anthropocene Reviewed helps me remember that the world is full of wonder, as long as I open my mind to it. Here are some books that fit that vibe and will hopefully get you to explore the world a little more, too.
Books Like The Anthropocene Reviewed
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Fumi Nakamura
World of Wonders is, I think, the most comparable to The Anthropocene Reviewed. It’s a stunning collection of lyrical vignettes about nature by the poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, complete with gorgeous illustrations by Fumi Nakamura. Learn to love the beauty in the strangeness of axolotl, corpse flowers, and dragon fruit alongside moving personal stories.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Matt Haig is a treasure, and Reasons to Stay Alive is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. It’s composed of bite-sized chapters, lists, and anecdotes about the big and small joys that come with being alive. It’s a book to keep in your pocket just in case you need a reminder to stay.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
This is maybe cheating, since it was an early pick for Green’s Life’s Library book club, but it gives me the same yearning for adventure that I got with The Anthropocene Reviewed. Sue me. Rebecca Solnit contemplates walking, wandering, and getting lost in the absolutely gorgeous A Field Guide to Getting Lost. She muses on the ephemeral experiences that take place in static, permanent places, and how sometimes getting lost is the way to being found. Much of my copy of the book is underlined.
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Ross Gay recorded every little joy he experienced from one birthday to the next. Like life, The Book of Delights covers a swath of human experience, from his fear of living in America as a Black man to the joy of pickup basketball games. We can all take a page out of Gay’s book and look for those tiny delights amid all the bad in the world.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, Translated by Philip Gabriel
Let me preface this by saying I am not a runner and I cannot comprehend how people can love such an activity. But What I Talk About When I Talk About Running got me to see the beauty running can contain for the people who love it. Haruki Murakami writes intimately about writing and running, and how he’s deeply obsessed with both, as they are equal parts of his daily routines. Murakami’s musings make this one of the more delightful books like The Anthropocene Reviewed.
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon
Austin Kleon is known for his genius writings on creativity and art. Keep Going is full of perfect mantras to learn (or try) to separate your brain from the tiny computer in your pocket. Start a daily routine, go for a walk, pay attention. His rules sound simple, but are so hard to follow.
Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations by Jonny Sun.
In this lovely collection of illustrated essays, Jonny Sun gets vulnerable about mental health, productivity, loneliness, and happiness. Goodbye, Again feels like having a close friend whispering in your ear that everything will be okay, much like The Anthropocene Reviewed does.
The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Physics, but make it Black and feminist: that’s what Chanda Prescod-Weinstein created in The Disordered Cosmos. Because society and science cannot exist without each other, it’s only fitting that the two be studied together, which means confronting the systemic racism in both places in order to see a more just world. But just because you acknowledge the ugly does not mean you can still see the beauty.
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
Suzanne Simard is an ecologist with a focus on plant communication and intelligence. Finding the Mother Tree is her stunning manifesto about the communal nature inherent in forests. She posits that forests are social, with trees communicating with each other just like human society. But in order to fully grasp that, humans – scientists in particular – must understand their place in the world. Simard writes beautifully about her life and what she’s learned. You’ll find yourself daydreaming of forests as you read.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty, charming mortician of the internet, traveled the globe to witness all manner of death and burial rituals. She attends an open-pyre funeral in the US and visits a body farm where researchers are perfecting human composting. From Here to Eternity is a beautiful tribute to human life and death and the ways we tend to our dead. This may not be the most obvious of books like The Anthropocene Reviewedbut I think it’s a perfect fit: Humans at their most vulnerable, following tradition.
For more John Green, check out these soul-warming quotes and 99 books he’s recommended.
And if you find yourself in need of book recommendations based on vibes, be sure to check out Tailored Book Recommendations, our subscription service with magical book fairies who love reading as much as you do.