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In which John does not know how to talk about his new book The Anthropocene Reviewed, but needs to figure it out soon. Preorder wherever books are sold or at bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-anthropocene-reviewed-signed-edition-essays-on-a-human-centered-planet/9780525555216
p.s. A new episode of the podcast comes out on Thursday.

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That's not like, a rhetorical question — I really don't know.

Good morning Hank. It's Tuesday.

So in wonderful news, The Anthropocene Reviewed book is here! It's so beautiful! I'm so grateful to the people who made this book. There are so many wonderful details — like these are the end papers — they're based on my circle drawings, and then if you go to the end paper opposite the signature page, there's a review of autographs.

And yes, even my copy is signed, because there are no unsigned copies. I got just a regular green signature, by the way, but ehhh, it's a good-looking signature. I mean, I'd say it's like a 3.5 star signature.

Okay. So writers are often told to distill their work into an elevator pitch. Like if you had a short elevator ride with someone, to tell them about your book, what would you say?

And I think this is always pretty hard, because books aren't usually about whatever they're about, right? Like Turtles All the Way Down isn't really about the disappearance of a local billionaire; it's about mental illness and free will and how it feels to have your consciousness attacked by intrusive thoughts. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing isn't actually about its plot either. This is actually one of the things I wanted to write about in The Anthropecene Reviewed — we want to distill life down into single data points or elevator pitches, but the reality of human experience is so nuanced and multitudinous.

So what do I say? Like here's my actual elevator pitch — being human in 2021 is very weird.

It's weird because we are unprecedentedly powerful but can still be brought to our knees by a strand of RNA. It's weird because we are like, made out of earth. And it's weird because human attention itself is weird — how we pay attention and what we pay attention to ends up shaping the world we share in ways we often don't pay attention to.

So I tried to write a book about that.

But if I say that, people don't know the premise of the book, so maybe instead I should so maybe instead I should say that The Anthropocene Reviewed is a book of essays that take the form of extremely in-depth Yelp reviews except instead of reviewing, like, barbershops and restaurants, I'm reviewing viral meningitis and this photograph and the first five minutes of the movie Penguins of Madagascar.

Or maybe I should just stick to explanatory facts, like it's my first book of non-fiction and most of the reviews are adapted from a podcast I write but some are new to the book.

Or maybe I should just quote the blurbs like I can hardly do better than my podcast hero, Anna Sale of Death, Sex, and Money who said The Anthropocene Reviewed somehow satisfies all the contradictory demands I have for a book right now — it stimulates my brain while getting me out of my head, while taking me to far away places, while grounding me in the wonders of my everyday.

That's... lovely.

But I wonder if I should also say that like, the book is intended to be like, a memoir? It begins in my childhood when I saw Halley's Comet and smelled scratch-and-sniff stickers and moves through my adolescence when I became fascinated by the internet and then through my twenties when I worked at a children's hospital and survived a mental health crisis, and then, into adulthood, and becoming a parent.

And so, in that sense, it's a really personal book, but it's also about like Canada Geese, and the Black Death, and this particular kind of wintery precipitation called "Graupel."

I don't know what the book is about. I guess it's about whether E.E. Cummings was right when he wrote that "Snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches." It's about how it feels to live in what Mary Oliver called this, the one world we all belong to, where everything, sooner or later, is part of everything else.

It's about the terror of time passing, and me with it. It's about the silliness and indispensability of the five star scale, and it's about how this last year changed all the past ones, and also, all the future ones.

But that all makes it sound quite serious, when hopefully, it's often funny. So yeah, I don't know. If you've listened to the podcast, maybe you know what the book is about and can tell me in comments, because I cannot seem to figure out how to talk about it.

I do know, however, that signed copies of The Anthropocene Reviewed are available for preorder now and that Grace Han's cover is so, so lovely.

Alright Hank, I'm off to figure out what The Anthropocene Reviewed is about and pretend that I knew all along. I will see you on Friday.