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My first book of nonfiction, The Anthropocene Reviewed , will be published in May of 2021 and is available for preorder now:

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

Hello! Hi! I hope that this livestream finds you well. Thanks for, uh, thanks for being here.

I'm got to make sure -- I have to make sure that everyone can hear me. That's always a source of significant stress for me when I'm doing a livestream. Last time I did a livestream, I accidentally had the camera just show the weird rug I use as soundproofing, and I wasn't even visible.

This is a huge improvement over that, at least so far. I even have a light, that Sarah set up for me because I'm a very-- very low level of competence at this stuff.  Okay! Um, first, I want to tell you-- I wanted to give you an update on the circles.

Before we talk about the book, let's talk about the circles. So many of you, on the Nerdfighter subreddit, in Tuataria, on Twitter and Reddit and Facebook -- all over the place, have been making your own circle art, and it has moved me so deeply. Thank you for drawing circles, and sharing them with me.

I hope it brings you the same kind of solace it brings me. Here's my circle update. This is the current situation of the circle.

I'm drawing-- for those of you who don't know, I'm drawing 170,000 circles. Um, it may take a while. But I'm hoping to draw 170,000 circles eventually on this piece of paper.

Now, I've run into a huge problem which is what you're looking at right here is--according to this extremely sophisticated, cunning technique that I use--is 15,500 circles. So this is less than 10% of the circles. But if you're a close observer you'll note that it is more than 10% of the paper.

So...we'll deal with that problem at some point but not today because there's other stuff going on.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

So, uh, I talk about this a lot in the new episode of my podcast "The Anthropocene Reviewed", but just to say the stuff I guess at the beginning before I talk about how the book came to be--I have a book coming out.

It's a book of nonfiction; it's a book of essays they're inspired by--and in most cases taken from--my podcast "The Anthropocene Reviewed". It's my first book of nonfiction, and I am very excited and nervous, and I have been excitedly and nervously waiting to tell you about this for a couple months, so yeah.

I started writing "The Anthropocene Reviewed" which is a podcast that Stan and Rosianna and I make with wonderful collaborators at WNYC--I started making it back in 2017. I wrote the first one in December of 2017, and so for almost the last 3 years I've been making this podcast where I try to write about the places, I guess, where my life intersects the larger forces that I see, you know, moving the human story. So whether I'm writing about history or sports, I try to write about what it's like in this little corner of the anthropocene--what it's been like for me.

It's been an incredibly fulfilling project. It's the most fun I've had writing since before I started--um, before I published "Looking for Alaska". It's been purely joyful and the response to the podcast has been overwhelming and extremely generous and--and I, I just love making it.

I am taking a break. This is probably not like you know-

 (04:00) to (06:00)

I suspect that if you were to read a book marketing handbook, it wouldn't tell you to like take a break from producing the podcast that is your central way of marketing the book for 6--for some months before you uh, so that you can focus on the book but that's what I'm doing.

I'm taking a break from new episodes of the podcast after next month. I'm finishing this month's episode now--or next month's episode now and then I'm gonna take a break so that I can focus on expanding some of the existing reviews and revising them to make the work better in book form, to include stuff that I've learned from listeners who've sent emails into the podcast.

And also just to include stuff that I, I find interesting but didn't work in an audio format. I will try to see some of your questions coming. I want to read a little bit from the book to you, just for those of you who may not know the podcast.

But also I find it really helpful to read stuff to an audience and then I go back and I look at the things that you said which I can't really see now, but I will go back later and look at them. And it will help me to understand somethings about the book, so I appreciate that in advance--your responses and, and everything. And I really love having an opportunity to talk, like read out loud in--in an early draft kind of way.

That's something I did a lot with "The Fault in Our Stars". And then you know, and I really valued it. So--and with "Paper Towns", and uh lots of things.

So anyway, I will try to anticipate some of your questions about the book. The book comes out in May of 2021. It is available for pre-order now.

Um, and, uh, it will be published by Dutton.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

There's like a distinction between adult books and books for teenagers and this is an adult book as opposed to a book for teenagers.

That's largely a distinction that lives inside of publishing houses, not that lives inside of like the minds or lives of actual readers a lot of the time. So my editor is the same editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel who's edited every book that I've ever written.

And so I get to work with the same people and, but at the same time you know the book will be, like shelved appropriately or whatever. I--that stuff isn't as important to me. But I get to work with the same people, which I'm really excited about.

Now some of you will be asking, especially those of you who have maybe heard the episode of "The Anthropocene Reviewed" where I talked about having signed my name half a million times and why I've done that and the obsessive drawing of the Japanese artist Hiroyuki Doi whose work I'm very interested in and actually whose work inspired these, these circles here. Hiroyuki Doi is the, I think it's safe to say the world's greatest obsessive circle painter. And yeah, so some of you will be wondering about like pre-signed copies.

I'm in--for the US edition, which you, you cannot necessarily get internationally even if you ship from the US for very complicated reasons. But if you're in the US, the whole first printing will be signed. So there's no like, signed special edition ISBN, the whole first printing will be signed, and that's how I'm gonna do it to keep it simple.

And also to give me an excuse to sign my name as many times as possible. Because I enjoy doing it, it's more fun than regular work and also I think it's nice. I think it's a way of saying thank you to people who are pre-ordering the book.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

I'm sorry if you live outside of the United States that I cannot promise you a signed copy.

It's, it really is just the physical machinations of how book printing and shipping happen that just make it impossible unfortunately. I, I investigated this extensively and it just isn't possible.

So I'm really sorry but if you live in the U. S. and you pre-order it you should get a signed copy. Or if you order it in the first like week after it comes out.

Um I don't know how many signatures I'm gonna have to do, but I do know that I'm going to enjoy listening to some--(chuckles)--high quality podcasts. And, uh and, it'll be fun! I mean it won't always be fun it will be a sine wave that is more fun at some times than others.

But I enjoy repetitive, uh physical movements and it'll be fun. Okay. (reading off-screen) 'No signed copies for Candians.' Oh James, you've identified the, the great--you've identified the great in-between place. I feel like right now, based on what I know currently, I cannot promise signed copies for Canadians.

That said, I am working on that. I am working on getting more clarity about that. I mean look, another way of thinking about this, James, is that unsigned copies will be much more rare than signed copies.

So in a way you're getting the, the cooler one. Um but yeah, okay. But yes only in the United States, sorry about that.

The book is called the "Anthropocene Reviewed". The Anthropocene is arguably the current geologic age in which humans have become such an important force in the planet-

 (10:00) to (12:00)

-that we are now...yeah, overwhelmingly, that we, that yeah we now are a geologically significant phenomenon. Or some would say a geologically significant problem.

The book will come out internationally: it will come out in lots of different countries.

It's just that this, the signed copies, because of the way that international printing happens will be in the United States. I don't know where it will come out, this is all just been announced today. I did not have a great night of sleep last night because I was very worried about this and I'm worried about whether people would be happy or be mad, just feeling a lot of kind of insecurity and everything.

But um, but it's been a really lovely day. And, also I know lots of people who care about the podcast, I-I knew that they were going to be disappointed to know that it was, it was taking break. But people have so far at least been really kind and understand.

And I was just really nervous about that episode on the whole because it's personal and I talk about, you know, the experience of writing and publishing "Turtles All the Way Down", which was pretty-pretty challenging for me. And I talk about, well you can listen to the podcast. But uh, you can google the podcast.

If you don't listen to it, it's called--well, I can't google it because I can't spell "The Anthropocene Reviewed". But I'm sure somebody in comments can spell 'anthropocene'. It was a horrible mistake to name the podcast "The Anthropocene Reviewed", but now I'm naming the book that too.

So um, I think, I think that's most of the questions that people may have. So a lot of the essays in the book come--or I guess maybe I could talk a little about how the book came to be. So when I started making the podcast "The Anthropocene Reviewed" back in December of 2017, I was just recovering from this extremely serious-

 (12:00) to (14:00)

-and really terrifying, um uh, inner ear disorder called 'Labryrinthitis' that...was profoundly disabling and could have, could have been permanently so.

But I've been very lucky so far, and uh only had sort of some like, sort of slight to moderate complications. But if you have, anybody who's had an inner ear disorder knows that when your balance fails and your eyes can't--my eyes were shivering in their sockets like this so, my eyes couldn't like, couldn't focus on anything.

And to the extent that they were focused, it felt like the earth was in this like, constant massive earthquake and I was throwing up all the time. I couldn't, couldn't walk. I had to be hospitalized.

It was, it was challenging.  And as I recovered from that, I started to think about what, if anything I wanted to write, now that I'd written "Turtles All the Way Down". And I eventually found myself going back to these, these reviews that I'd written. These like 'Yelp-style', sort of jokey reviews I'd written or parts of the world around me.

Because you know, I'd seen the rise of the 5 star review where you know, people aren't just reviewing the spatulas they buy or the books they read, they're also reviewing the haircuts they get. They're also reviewing the, the public restrooms. They visit, you know the bench of which a part of "The Fault in Our Stars" movie was filmed has hundreds of reviews on Google.

And so I was thinking of the way--I started out in my writing life as a book reviewer working for 'Bookless Magazine'. And I wrote hundreds and hundreds of book reviews over a 6 year period there.

 (14:00) to (16:00)

And, you know I, when I started out, the idea of being a book reviewer was like a very specific thing and you know, then I kind of looked up 10 years later and discovered that everyone is a book reviewer.

And all of us are participating in this review economy. And it seemed like an example of waters that we're swimming in, but we don't necessarily like, pay close attention to.

And the other thing that, I guess, that went into my thinking because I was immobile at the time--largely imobile--was I was thinking about how I wanted to try to, I wanted my life to get a littler quieter? You know, my life had been so build around being loud for so long, in Youtube videos where you almost, back then at least you almost have to scream at the camera to hold attention--still a lot of Youtubers, especially Youtubers that are popular with younger people--do they scream at the camera. They cut out every--I cut, I still cut out almost every breath out of ever Vlogbrothers video to minimize the number of frames of silence.

And in general just my life felt, felt really loud and my attention felt really fractured and I was pulled in a million different directions at once. And I wanted to write in a way that was more meditative and that required more consistent attention, that demanded me attention of me. And so I...yeah I started writing these weird little reviews.

Like about the Taco Bell breakfast menu or the history of Piggly Wiggly--arguably the most important grocery store in the history of the world. And that's not to say by the way that I like, dislike making Youtube videos. I love making Youtube videos.

I like cutting out my breaths. I like the fact that I can say a lot of words in 4 minutes and-

 (16:00) to (18:00)

-and interact with people every week.

It means the world to me like, Tuesdays are the highlight of my week every week. So it's not to say any of that, um, but yeah.  I wanted to try to pay a different kind of attention, I guess.

And "The Anthropocene Reviewed" over the last 3 years has given me the opportunity to pay that kind of attention, but it was only in the last year that I found myself like going back to some of the old reviews: adding stuff in, just wanting to like write more--like wanting to write more about Haley's comet and Edmund Haley, and wanting to write more about the history of Piggly Wiggly and why it reshaped the like, literally reshaped the microbiome of humanity. Wanting to write more about how, uh...cholera is a disease that, like so many infectious diseases is not so much a, um--is not so much a disease caused by bacteria--as it is a disease caused by injustice. Like infectious disease much of the time is an expression of injustice more than it's an expression of you know the human limitations on our capacity to treat disease.

So all these, all these things, wanting to write all these things, and then also more recently wanting to find ways to write about now. What it feels like to live in a suddenly different world. What it feels like to live with tremendous uncertainty.

And so, you know, in the last few months, I've tried to find ways to write about that--not directly, because I feel like there's no shortage of um, you know hot takes on, uh that speak directly to that stuff.

 (18:00) to (20:00)

But more, more trying to find the places where my little life brushes up against the big systems that shape contemporary human experience and the big forces that are shaping it.

So that's how I cam to, uh, eventually start to think, 'well maybe I do want to write a book,' and um, and now I have! I mean it's not finished, so when I read to you today, I'm going to be reading from a--just to emphasize this, a profoundly unfinished work.

Like it's going to be, some of you will maybe remember live streams from 2010, 2011 when I would read, but I would also maybe stop myself every now and again and think like, 'I need to put a note there, because that sucks.' or 'I need to change this.' So it won't have the flow of like, listening to good prose. But, it's the best I can do for now.  So, some people in comments will be able to answer a lot of questions like, think890 says, 'will there be signed copies?' All copies of the first edition--of the U. S. edition--will be signed, so we're the first printing.

So if you pre-order the book in the U. S., you'll get a signed copy. Outside of the U.S. you can't. This is a critically important question, asked--'that's not Diet Dr. Pepper.' Oh yeah, I know this isn't Diet Dr. Pepper, maybe you're not familiar--are you not familiar with the Diet Dr. Pepper shortage? You can google it.

It's a very, I was about to say it's a very big issue but it's not. It's literally the smallest problem that the pandemic has caused. But there is a massive shortage of Dr. Pepper--and Diet Dr. Pepper especially--in the United States. It's, uh yeah.

There-it is not available.

 (20:00) to (22:00)

Um, so you know, uh there are worse things about life than drinking Diet A&W Root Beer.

The, uh, ain't Diet Dr. Pepper.

Let's say that. But yeah, I see that uh, I see that--I see that the chat absolutely exploded. I can't believe y'all don't know about the Diet Dr. Pepper shortage. (chuckles) Um yeah, so there is a Diet Dr. Pepper shortage. It's not a crisis.

Everything is going to be fine. Diet Dr. Pepper has released a statement, uh, trying to explain why there is a Diet Dr.

Pepper shortage and saying that it will get better.  Oh right! The audiobook. There will be a U.K. edition. Yes, the U. K. books won't be signed, but there will be a U.K. edition, I think. I mean, I assume. There will be.

Um, the audiobook. The audiobook is also available for pre-order in at least in the United States, and it will be read by me. Um, the details of the audiobook I think are still getting worked out.

Like in a, in a perfect world--which (chuckles) I mean, that-that phrase should be banned. We can't, we're not allowed to say 'in a perfect world' in 2020. But um, in hope--it's very loud, our garage door needs to be, uh, needs some WD-40.

My hope is that--the audiobook will be read by me--my hope is that it will be a little bit different from the print book because there are certain essays that I would really like to include in the audiobook that just don't make sense for the print book. Because the essays are built around sound.

And so, I hope that the audiobook--this is, again, still being worked out--but my hope is that the audiobook will be, you know, a different experience and a more audio-specific experience than the, than the print book-

 (22:00) to (24:00)

-which I want to have be like a print-specific experience.

So like, with the print book there will be lots of little, like you know jokes like, reviewing the copyright page on the copyright page. And reviewing the font on the page where, you know fancy books always talk about their font on the last page.

And then on the audiobook I want to be able to include the...yeah, just--not, not a lot but just a few clips of audio that are really important to me and that, that I think add a lot to the experience of listening to the podcast. Okay. Um, so Lauren says 'Signed, no signed copies coming to Jamaica?' Oh, I mean, unless I come to Jamaica and sign some for you, Lauren.

I really, I would, I would like to be in Jamaica right now. Um, so I'm sorry that I don't have signed copies. But maybe, maybe we can--maybe we can figure something out.

Um...okay. Um...uh...yeah. So not, this is not to say that the-the audiobook will be shorter.

Uh, it will probably be longer. It will probably have more stuff in it, not less stuff. But, yeah.

I-I-I want them to work as their own works, I guess. Um, okay. So what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna read uh...

I'm gonna read but I guess I-I will need you to um recommend what you'd like to me to read. So I'll read and then you can recommend--so if you have a recommendation, like if you have read "The Anthropocene Reviewed", or listened to "The Anthropocene Reviewed", and there's one that you'd like me to read, maybe I'll read that one.

 (24:00) to (26:00)

Oh the yips, says Homsa, I like the yips. I don't know if the yips have come together yet. Oh there's a lot. Ok, oh I... oh, wow ok. Wow, I didn't know so many of you listened to this, I'm flattered. Thank you. Umm... ok. There's a lot of uh, a lot of emphasis on the sad ones. I can't read the saddest ones, it's too much. Um, I-it's I can't read the saddest ones, it's too much but um, ok, um alright. That's-that's a lot alright! I'll just uh, um. One of the first ones was to reccommend the Bonneville Salt Flats. I don't know if this is any good, but it is in the book (laughs) at least currently. So I'll-I'll give it a try. Will I? Yeah. I'

So the Bonneville Salt Flats for those of you who don't know, are uh, uh, are a vast expanse of um salt encrusted very flat earth, in Utah at the edge of the Great Salt Lake. And um, I wrote this essay not about the Bonneville Salt Flats but about um childhood trauma and surviving childhood trauma um and being an adult who lives in the uh in the shadow of it I guess. But it's ostensibly a review of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

In the winter of 2018, I accompanied my wife Sarah on a trip to Utah for the Art Assignment, the PBS digital series she produced. We were there to see the land art of the American West. Monumental artworks like Nancy Holt's -

 (26:00) to (28:00)

Sun Tunnels and Robert - On the evening in question I was playing with a woman from the Texas panhandle named Marjory. She told me that she'd been married for 61 years, and I asked her what the secret was, and she said: "Separate checking accounts." I asked her what brought her to Wendover, and she said she wanted to see the Salt Flats, and the casino, of course. She, and her husband gambled one weekend a year. I asked her how it was going, and she said, "You ask a lot of questions." Which I do, when I'm gambling. In every other environment, I am extremely averse to encounters with strangers. I don't strike up conversations with airplane seat mates, or cab drivers, but put me at a Black Jack table with Marjory, and suddenly I'm Perry Mason.

The other person at my table - 87 year old Anne from central Oregon - also wasn't much of a talker so I turned to the dealer, who was basically required to talk to me as a condition of his employment. He had a handlebar mustache and a nametag identifying him as James. I couldn't tell if he was 21 or 41. I asked him if he was from Wendover. "Born and bred," he answered. I asked him what he thought of it, and he told me that it was a nice place - lots of hiking, great if you like hunting and fishing. And the Salt Flats were cool of course, if you liked fast cars. And then, after a moment James said, "Not a great place for kids though." "Do you have kids?" I asked. "No. But I was one."

There's a certain I talk about the things I don't talk about. Maybe that's true for all of us. We have ways of closing off the conversation so that we don't ever get directly asked what we can't bear to answer.

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