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 (00:00) to (02:00)


This is it, it's almost over! This is the real deal now.

It's been such a long... I don't know what to say about it except that it's been so long. 500 hours. Nights, weekends, haven't watched a show with my family that wasn't distracted by my signing in two months.

And it's almost over. It's only because of many of you keeping me company in these weird live streams that I've been able to sign my name 249,000 times. Actually 252,000 times because I've had to sign 3,000 times for the United Kingdom.

But it's almost over! Just in the nick of time, since I have to be done today. But it is almost over.

The box fort is gone, most of those boxes are upstairs now. It's really, really close. So, I didn't want to finish alone.

I'm signing sheets... these are called tip-in sheets. So when The Anthropocene Reviewed book, my new book, my first book of non-fiction, when it gets bound at the printer in Virginia, they have a machine that shoots one of these sheets in every time they bind a book. And that is how the entire first printing of The Anthropocene Reviewed book will be signed.

In total, these 250,000 sheets weigh about 2,300 pounds. So it is actually not an exaggeration to say that I have signed a ton of sheets in the last few months.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

I realize that my collar is a little much.

It's a little much. I'm just gonna button that fellow up.

I have signed over a ton of sheets. It's almost over. It's been an interesting experience.

I've learned a lot about the difference between 150,000 and 250,000, which doesn't seem like a big difference when I say those numbers, but is quite a big difference when you're actually doing a project related to those numbers. But we're almost there. I'm really relieved, I'm really excited.

And, yeah. Also, only people in the U.S. and Canada, at least so far as I know...

I'm hearing that people outside the U.S. and Canada have ways of ordering signed copies, and maybe that's true, but I don't think I can vouch for it. Because I just don't know.

Because, I know that I can't vouch for it. That's all I know. But if you don't live in the U.S. or Canada, there will be a way, I'm almost sure, to get signed books through the virtual book tour that I'm gonna do with Hank and Sarah and some other friends. It's gonna be a great time, and it'll cost a little bit more than the book, but not a ton. Just 'cause of shipping.

So there will be a way if you live outside the U.S. or Canada to get a signed copy of the book, I'm pretty sure. Still not 100% positive, but I'm pretty sure.

But if you live in the U.S. or Canada you can just click and pre-order The Anthropocene Reviewed right now, and support your local independent bookstore in the process! Or you can go to , or you can get it pretty much anywhere where you can pre-order books.

So that's the basic update. I'm really excited about that because I know it's been a bummer for people who live outside the U.S. and Canada.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

And I know that there are, like, some people who've worked really hard to build structures around that.

And thank you. But I think there will be a way, and in the meantime, I'm excited to sign the entire U.S. and Canada printing, and there will be lots of signed copies in the U.K. At least 3,000, because I signed those over the weekend.

It's been a pretty challenging couple of months here. Not entirely because the signing. Also because of health stuff.

And you know, I don't have the best brain. So my brain problem has been acting up the last few months, which has been frustrating. But that's life with chronic illness.

It will get better as surely as it will get worse. It's been hard. And also I think there's just a lot of emotion in finishing this book, because The Antropocene Reviewed has really been my...

The book has been both my main distraction and my main way into trying to understand how I feel in this really charged, sad, complicated 14 month year that we've had. Because I really started turning the podcast into a book just before the pandemic started. That's when I really started to think, "Well maybe I do want to write a book." For a long time, I didn't want to write books for a bunch of different reasons.

And then I started to see how The Anthropocene Reviewed could be a book, and how in a way it was this sort of weird memoir that I had written. So I was just starting to think about that right before the pandemic started. And so it's been both my creative outlet and my way into trying to understand how I feel about stuff for these last 14 months.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

And now today is really the day that I say goodbye to it. It's the last day that I can make any, even the smallest change.

Well, I guess tomorrow. Tomorrow is the last day that I can make even the smallest change to the book. Which is always a fraught... it's a lovely moment, because it means that the book will be out soon and that it will belong, as books should, to its readers.

But it is also, I'll confess, a little bit of a sad moment for me because it also is the last time that the book will be mine. You know? Tomorrow is the last day that I'll read it.

I don't wanna read my work after it comes out. I can't bear to. Also there's lots of good books written by other people.

So there's no need to. But it is a little sad to say goodbye to a book and to know that, for better or worse, whether it's good or bad, or good in some ways or bad in other ways, that it's about to be frozen in time. But in some ways this book is different.

I mean, it's different from my other books in a lot of ways. It's so much more personal. It's actually about me.

But it's also an attempt to reckon with this strange, awful thing that happened in the middle of writing it. And in that sense, I hope it will be something that my kids can go back to if they wanna try to remember what now felt like. Or how we got through the first fourteen months of it.

And something that other people can go back to. You know, it's the first thing that I've written that I have self-consciously been aware of trying to make for people of the future, whether that's my kids or my nephew or whomever.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

Or just readers, you know, in the hopes that I can say something about what it felt like on the inside of it. Because in retrospect, it will feel very different, and we'll have vastly different ways of understanding it.

My friend Stan Muller always says that when you're in the middle of history you never know what it means, and I really believe that. I don't think anyone knows what history means when you're living in the middle of it.

You can make your best guesses. You can go with your values. You can try to live in accordance with a set of moral structures that you've created for yourself, or that's in line with the ones the social order has created or whatever. But you never really know what history will mean when you're in the middle of it.

And I don't know what the pandemic will mean. I don't know how we'll look back on this time, and I can't know.

But for people who want to know what the inside of it felt like for one person, this is my attempt partly to chart that, alongside charting lots of other experiences from childhood—looking at Halley's Comet through my dad's birding binoculars in the Ocala National Forest, all the way to adulthood, and being a father myself, and the soul-splitting joys of watching your kids grow up and grow away from you.

So yeah, it's a strange, I mean it's a weird little book of course. Any book that is basically comprised of extremely earnest in-depth Yelp reviews is going to be a fairly weird book. But I hope people like it, and I'm excited for it to be out in the world.

 (10:00) to (12:00)

But I am going to be a little sad tomorrow when I have to truly, completely say goodbye to it.

I mean, the book's been done for a long time. It's not like I'm writing new material or anything 2 months before the book comes out.

But there is always this moment where they basically take it away from you and say you can't futz anymore. No more moving commas, no more reworking the sentence, and so on. And that's the place where we are, so... it's a goodbye.

It's also a goodbye to signing, which I feel—I have to say—less ambivalent about. I'm pretty excited to not sign for a while. Maybe, maybe? I mean, I don't know, maybe ever? I don't know.

The thing about not signing ever again is that then I couldn't use the LectroJogger. And so, part of me feels like, well I can't do that, I got to use the LectroJogger.

It's weird—I'm nervous about finishing. Like, what am I going to do with myself? What am I gonna do on Saturday if I'm not down here listening to an audiobook for 12 hours signing my name over and over again? Guess I'll have to get reacquainted with my family.

Which, probably, they won't be bummed out about. I bet I'm gonna go upstairs on Tuesday afternoon and they're gonna be like: Hello. There is a lot of laundry. Can't help but notice that you have done none of it for many, many months.

[reads a question from the chat]

Um, I don't think Hank has a LectroJogger just because I've seen Hank's signed sheets, and they're not very well organized.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

I think he jogs by hand which is far, far inferior.

[reads from chat] Scott says maybe I can do 50,000 next time around.

Yeah it's funny, I'm spoiling the entirety of tomorrow's vlogbrothers video so I'm going to have to make this live stream unlisted after I do it because I don't have the wherewithal to make another video tomorrow. I'm pretty cooked physically, spiritually, and mentally right now. I'm pretty exhausted.

But anyway, what I was going to say is that this whole time, Sarah has been saying, you can't do this again, this is way too much. This was, you know... it just became a huge, huge undertaking.

Because I still have a job, like I still have to work most of the day during the day. Not everyday, but a lot of days I have to work most of the day. And so, how are you going to fit in 450 hours of signing your name? The answer is mostly at night and on the weekends.

So I've been like, yeah of course, I could never do this again. It was a good experience, I'm glad I did it, but my hand's older and I'm not in a position to do this anymore.

And then, yesterday as I was packing up all the boxes and carrying them upstairs, which was quite an undertaking, I found myself thinking, "Ehh maybe I could do 50,000. Maybe I'm done doing 6 figure signing enterprises but I could do 50,000 right? That's like 2 hard weeks. Like 2 focused weeks. I could do 50,000."

 (14:00) to (16:00)

So yeah, I might do 50,000. But don't tell Sarah just yet. I don't think she's ready for that.

Writing a book—this is true for any book—writing a book is—am I doing these upside down? [Flips through pages] no—

Writing a book is a deeply collaborative effort, right? We always think of books as being written by individuals, but no book was ever written by an individual in true isolation.

Like, one of my favorite books is called An Island to Oneself. It's about this guy named Tom Neale, who lived on an island alone for 7 years, and then wrote a book about living on the island for 7 years.

And then incidentally after that, he came back, wrote the book, published it, and then went back to the island and lived there for like 14 years until shortly before he died.

But even An Island to Oneself, which is written wholly in isolation, is still a profound collaboration. Not just with the printer, the publisher, the editor, the copyeditor, the cover illustrator, and all of those people, but it's also a collaboration with every book that you've read that informed your ability to survive on an island, and every book that you read that informed your ability to write your account of surviving on an island, and everyone you've met over the years who inspired this weird ambition and everything.

Every book is a massive collaboration. One name usually ends up on the cover, but that's not the truth of how books get written. There's no way to acknowledge the extensive, massive collaboration.

That's one thing I try to write about in The Anthropocene Reviewed book: how we lift up individual genius so much when what's really interesting about humans is the systems we build and the collaborations we have.

 (16:00) to (18:00)

And if you look at Newton for instance, what you're really seeing—you're seeing obviously an extraordinarily bright person—but what you're really seeing is a historical moment, and the system being built around—in the case of Isaac Newton—this system being built that transferred and shared knowledge more efficiently among well-educated elites in the form of the Royal Society, and lots of other things that were happening at the time.

It's not to take anything away from Isaac Newton's contributions to the history of science. They are obviously hugely important. But there are times when I think, instead of emphasizing what particular individuals did, which is so narratively compelling, we really need to emphasize what systems accomplished. 

Right? Like there's a way to tell the stories, the history of the human species without ever saying the name of an individual. And it would capture a lot of what's at the core of the human experience.

Anyway, what I was going to say is that this book is obviously a massive collaboration with every... people at WNYC Studios, with Stan, and with Rosianna, and with Niki Hua who helped me so much with researching stuff, and with all the poems I've ever read, you know? And with a Robert Frost essay about what poetry is, and with John Ashbery, and Octavia Butler, and a million other people.

 (18:00) to (20:00)

But most of all, and most deeply, it is a collaboration with my family. In the same way that when Sarah was writing You Are an Artist, the kids and I had to find ways to be supportive and ways to help the burden of that work.

They have done that for me in a big way over the last 6 months especially. We would've had to move the publication date of the book if they hadn't.

Sarah's been a huge part of the book on every level: helping pick the font, helping develop the cover, helping, everything. Reading every essay and offering notes on them. And then from the beginning of the process—

I mean Sarah's the reason The Anthropocene Reviewed exists in the first place because she was the person who gave me the central insight that allowed me to write the book, which is that I was thinking that I was going to write reviews of all these facets of the human-centered planet, and I was going to write them as an authority.

In fact, if you go way, way back in vlogbrothers, there's a video when we're on tour for Turtles All the Way Down, before I got labyrinthitis, before my life blew up at the end of 2017.

We were on tour for Turtles All the Way Down, me and Hank, and we're like backstage before some show and Hank's making a video.

And we've been talking about this idea on the road at this point for like a month: this idea of writing extremely in-depth Yelp reviews that are serious and that never wink at the camera, for lack of a better term.

 (20:00) to (22:00)

You can see like, Hank does a video where he does a few of these reviews. He reviews traffic cones and a few other things. He does it very much in the voice that I was imagining for it.

I didn't know at the time if it was going to be nothing, like most of our ideas turn out to be, or if it was going to be a collaboration between Hank and me, or what, but the way he did it was very much the way I was going to do it.

Like, here's information about traffic cones and why they work, and now you're an expert on traffic cones just like I am. And I'm over here, Mr. Smarty-Pants, stating my opinions as if they were facts. Not acknowledging perspective, not acknowledging positioning, not acknowledging the ways that who I am and where I look at the world from affect what I see and my critical judgements.

So I wrote a couple of these early versions of essays: one about Canada geese, one about Diet Dr. Pepper—

And Sarah read them, and she was like, "These are good!" And she's always nice. She's always like, "You're a good writer." That's always a bad sign when she says that. 

She goes: "Yeah these are good! Very funny and good sentence-to-sentence and everything. But you act like you're a disinterested observer of the anthropocene."

She said, "And in the anthropocene, there are no observers. There are only participants."

This was the critical insight for me in writing the book and in making the podcast. That when you're writing a review, what you're really doing is you're writing a memoir.

 (22:00) to (24:00)

You're talking about what my experience was getting a haircut at this barber shop, or what my experience was eating at this restaurant on this day.

You're not a disinterested observer making a critical judgement. You are a participant, and understanding that has really been the key to what I hope is good in the book. That I had to put myself in it. I had to acknowledge the ways in which I was a participant in these systems.

And many cases—in some cases, a beneficiary of systems, even very unjust systems. In fact, probably especially unjust systems.

So throughout the process, that collaboration that's at the center of my personal life is also at the center of my professional life.

And I think Sarah would say the same, you know? Like Sarah—right now she's not writing another book I don't think, but she's making art. And every day I go up to the studio, and we talk for a long time about what she's made today, and what I like, what I respond to, what I got questions about, and that collaboration is just a really fortunate thing in my life. Like probably the biggest good fortune I've had.

Because I mean, I knew Sarah was cool when I married her. But I didn't know how effectively we were going to collaborate, or how we were going to be able support each other so much in the making of things.

 (24:00) to (26:00)

People always ask me, what advice do you have for couples who are getting married or getting serious? Making commitments to each other or whatever?

And I think my parents advice to me was very good, which was pay attention to your value system, and pay attention to your partner's value system. And it's really, really helpful if those value systems align or at least have a lot of overlap.

And then, secondarily, something that was said to us in premarital counseling that we still talk about all the time: the idea of mutual generosity, of making sure that you're giving to your partner.

I think that's what's been hard about, about these last few months, is just not being present in the way I want to be present for the kids or Sarah because I've been so far down inside of this book and the signing.

So, like I said, in some ways it'll be really sad to say goodbye to it tomorrow and to know that now it's frozen. It can never change. I'll never read it again, all that stuff.

But in some ways it's really happy because it;s good that these things end. It's good that the book stops being mine and starts being yours.

That means that there's a readership out there, which is incredibly fortunate and something I should never ever take for granted. But it also means that there's a life for me outside of just trying to make this book. Like the book isn't the only thing that matters to me.

 (26:00) to (28:00)

And I know some writers who are like, "Ah you gotta make the book everything. And you gotta prioritize your writing and give everything to it." And I'm just not that way. I never will be.

And maybe that does limit what I can do, but it's just not the way that I look at it. To me, it's work that I love, that I'm really glad I have, and that I would be sad to lose.

But it's work, man. It's not everything. So there's stuff, there's stuff that has value.

Well, this got way too personal so now it's definitely gonna be unlisted. Okay.

[reading from chat] "Did his dad die?" If that's about me, no. My dad is still living. Both my parents are still living. So yeah. And they're doing well, at least last I saw them, which was yesterday. They're doing good. I'm sure they would say hello. 

Okay, so this is about how many I have left. You can see that's about 20 minutes.

[reading from chat] "Is your voice okay?" Not really. it's been a long few weeks. I haven't slept a lot, and that always affects my voice. But I gotta go in and record the audiobook [laughs] in like a week.

And so, I got to recover my voice. Because I have to go record the audiobook. And I want to sound like myself. Not like a person who, has been sleeping only a few hours a night for like 40 days, so I don't know.

 (28:00) to (30:00)

I don't know how it's gonna work. Maybe I'll just sound bad. And to be honest, my husky voice and my regular voice aren't that different.

I've got an instrument that plays one note, and it's sort of a melancholy, slightly grizzled baritone, and that's it. That's the only thing that it—that's the only noise that it makes.

Okay. Alright. Here we go. 

"Should I do a sleep stream?" Oh God, that feels a little dystopian, to be honest with you.

"Are you gonna go on a book tour?" Yeah.
[reads from chat]

You can see the cover, but to see the cover you gotta Google it, cause I don't have one—they haven't given me one yet. But you can google it. It's beautiful. Grace Han designed it. I think she just did a phenomenal job.

I can't remember the other question because my brain's pretty spoo-de-dee-boop.

[reading from chat] "Are you still Episcopalian?" Yeah, I mean, they dont let you change that stuff really, you know? I'm 43 years old, I'm not gonna like—I mean, maybe, who knows, but I can't see myself waking up tomorrow and being like I think I'm gonna become Catholic now.

I think the Episcopalians are stuck with me, for better or worse. But I am still Episcopalian. I imagine that I will continue to be a Episcopalian, but I don't know; I've been wrong before.

[reads from chat]

My hand does not hurt.

"What's the difference between the podcast and the audiobook?" Well, the audiobook has 6 new essays, and all of the other essays have been rewritten.

 (30:00) to (32:00)

The book has about 20,000 words that are not in the podcast. A lot of that is new reviews but a lot of it is just new stuff that I wrote about old things, you know?

So, new stuff that I wrote about Halley's Comet because I learned a lot more about Edmond Halley, or new stuff that I wrote about humanity's temporal range because my feelings about our temporal range shifted a little bit in the last year [chuckles]. Obviously.

So yeah, there's a lot of new stuff. Some of it's new stuff about old reviews, and some of it's just new reviews. But listen, if you're not looking to pay $20 for an audiobook I 100% support you listening to the podcast for free. That's no problem for me at all. I would be happy if you listened to the podcast. Super happy.

[reading from chat] "How about the vinyl record?" Ugh, Troy, we're working on it. We've been working on it for a year and a half. It's been a really bad time to try and make a vinyl record, and I'm really sorry.

Okay. Alright.

[reading from chat] "What are gonna do to celebrate the book?" Umm, oh right the book tour.

Well I'm going on a book tour, Izzy, but it's not like a regular book tour. It's a Zoom book tour? But it supports independent bookstores, including a lot of independent bookstores that have been hugely important to the success of my books over the last 15 years.

And I wish I could be at those bookstores in person to say thank you as I have tried to do each time I have a new book come out, but I can't do that right now obviously. So instead we're going to do this virtual book tour.

 (32:00) to (34:00)

I don't quite know how it's gonna shake out yet, but you should be hearing more about it soon.

It'll be fun. It will not be like a Zoom call. We'll try to make it more fun than the average Zoom call. And it'll come with a free book.

Well, I mean you'll pay for the ticket—you'll pay for the book and it'll come with—

It either comes with a free virtual book tour event, or it comes with a free book, depending on what you construct yourself as paying.

So there will be a book tour, and I guess that's how we will celebrate the release of the book. And we did that for Sarah's book when it came out in April, and we did it for Hank's book when it came out in July.

And it feels good? It does feel like a celebration. It does feel like an opportunity to mark the publication of the book.

But I will also be forthright and acknowledge that it does not feel as good as actually being with real people on a book tour. But that's just the reality.

There will come a day when in-person events are possible again. And when they are, I'm slowly trying to build up support for my big idea, which is:

Sarah had a book come out during the pandemic, at the very beginning, at the worst possible moment, when like every bookstore in America was physically closed. Hank had a book come out in July, also during the pandemic, and also had his book tour cancelled. And then I had a book come out in May, also no book tour.

And I think it would be really, really wonderful if when things are better, and in-person events are happening, if Hank, Sarah, and I, and hopefully Katherine, could go on a short but really fun book tour to celebrate all 3 of those books.

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