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Learn how to preorder a probably signed copy of Turtles All the Way Down, which comes out October 10th: Or order a definitely unsigned copy wherever books are sold!

In which John Green reads the first chapter of his new novel, Turtles All the Way Down. In it, we meet Aza, a young woman whose obsessive thought spirals do not seem to make her a particularly good detective.

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Preorder John's new book, Turtles All the Way Down, out October 10th 2017! You can find links to both the signed and unsigned editions here: and information on how to (probably) get a signed copy here:
Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

And this is the first chapter of Turtles All the Way Down, which I'll be reading to you today. Okay, I think all you need to know is that this story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl named Aza Holmes.

Also, it starts with an epigraph from Arthur Schopenhauer, "Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills."

Chapter 1:
At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publically funded institution on the North side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time, between 12:37 and 1:14 PM, by forces so much larger than myself, that I couldn't even begin to identify them. If those forces had given me a different lunch period, or if the table mates who helped author my fate had chosen a different topic of conversation that September day, I would have met a different end–or at least a different middle. But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.

Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, "I now choose to go to lunch," when that monotone beeps rings from on high at 12:37, but really, the bell chooses.

You think you're the painter, but you're the canvas. Hundreds of voices were shouting over one another in the cafeteria so that the conversation became mere sound, the rushing of a river over rocks. And as I sat beneath the fluorescent cylinders spewing agressively artificial light, I thought about how we all believed our ourselves to be the hero of some personal epic, when in fact, we were basically identical organisms colonizing a vast and windowless room that smelled of Lysol and lard.

I was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinking a Dr. Pepper. To be honest, I find the whole process of masticating plants and animals, and then shoving them down my esophogus kind of disguisting, so I was trying not to think about the fact that I was eating, which is a form of thinking about it.

Across the table from me, Michael Turner was scribbling in a yellow papered notebook. Our lunch table was like a long-running play on Broadway. The cast changed some over the years, but the roles never did.

Michael was the artsy one. He was talking with Daisy Ramirez who played the role of my best and most fearless friend since elementary school, but I couldn't follow their conversation over the noise of all the others. What was my part in this play?

The sidekick. I was Daisy's friend or Miss Holmes' daughter. I was somebody's something.

I felt my stomach begin to work on the sandwich, and even over everybody's talking, I could hear it digesting. All the bacteria chewing the slime of peanut butter, the students inside of me eating inside if my internal cafeteria. A shiver convulsed through me. "Didn't you go to camp with him?" Daisy asked me. "With who?" "Davis Picket," She said. "Yeah," I said. "Why?" "Aren't you listening?" Daisy asked.

I am listening, I thought, to the cacophony of my digestive tract. Of course, I'd long known that I was playing host to a massive collection of parasitic organisms, but I didn't much like being reminded of it. By cell count, humans are approximately 50 percent microbial, meaning that about half of the cells that make you up are not yours at all.

There's something like a thousand times more microbes living in my particular biome than there are human beings on Earth, and it often seems like I can feel them living and breeding and dying in and on me. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and tried to control my breathing. Admittedly, I have some anxiety problems, but I would argue it isn't irrational to be concerned about the fact that you are a skin-encased bacterial colony.  Mychal said, "his dad was about to be arrested for bribery or something, but the night before the raid he disappeared. there's a hundred thousand dollar reward out for him." "And you know his kid," Daisy said. "knew him." I answered.

I watched Daisy attack her school-provided rectangular pizza and green beans with a fork. She kept glancing up at me, her eyes widening as if to say, 'Well?' I could tell she wanted me to ask her something, but I couldn't tell what because my stomach wouldn't shut up which was forcing me deep inside a worry that I'd somehow contracted a parasitic infection. I could half hear Mychal telling Daisy about his new art project, in which he was using Photoshop to average the faces of a hundred people named Mychal, and the average of their faces would be this new one hundred and first Mychal and it was an interesting idea and I wanted to listen, but the cafeteria was so loud and I couldn't stop wondering if there was something wrong with the microbial balance of power inside me
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