A definitive ranking of every single John Green book


This is me beaming with my signed copy of “The Anthropocene Reviewed.” (Photo Credit: Isabelle Brookshire)

Mary Nassar, News Editor, Creative Writing Editor

I want to start this article off by stating a very well known fact: John Green is an absolute GENIUS.

Yes, you heard me, a GENIUS.

In my opinion, he’s the Albert Einstein of literature.

Don’t believe me?

Well then, allow me to change your mind.

As someone who’s read every single thing this man has written, I’m going to rank all of his books from my most to least favorite and give you a little more insight into each of his books, so you can truly understand what a mastermind of a writer he is.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Tied for #1: “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault in Our Stars”

Yes, yes, I know having two books tied for first place is extremely anticlimactic, but I just couldn’t choose between the two. “Looking for Alaska” is told through the perspective of Miles Halter, a 16-year-old boy from Florida obsessed with famous last words, who decides to attend a boarding school in Alabama called Culver Creek, to search for what Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” When he arrives at Culver Creek, much awaits him there, including Alaska Young. Alaska catapults Miles into his journey toward the Great Perhaps…and shows him how very quickly one can get lost in that search. I recently read “Looking for Alaska” a second time, and I had almost forgotten how engrossing of a read it is. I had finished it within the span of a week and was left with my heart broken and healed all at the same time. Because “Looking for Alaska” reminded me that there’s so much pain and suffering in this life. Pain and suffering I’ve already begun to experience. However, “Looking for Alaska” also reminded me that there’s so much hope, and wonder, and joy in this life. That the pain and suffering is never permanent. But the decisions we make because of that pain and suffering can be.

And that’s why “Looking for Alaska” is tied for my favorite John Green book. Because it’s an important reminder to embrace life as it is: with all of its joys and sorrows. To embrace it all because life is such a precious gift.

And I want to enjoy every second of it.

Also tied for first place is “The Fault in Our Stars.” Now, this is arguably John Green’s most famous and beloved book, and it’s clear to see why. “The Fault in Our Stars” is told through the perspective of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, who attends a Cancer Kid Support Group, seemingly content with allowing her terminal diagnosis to control her life. Until Augustus Waters appears at her Support Group one day. What follows is a friendship that will change how both Hazel and Augustus view cancer, love, and the way they want to live the rest of their lives. Fully.

I’ve reread many parts of “The Fault in Our Stars” multiple times, and each time I reread it, I’m absolutely blown away by how beautifully written and how emotionally charged it is. The thing I love best about John Green is that not only is he an incredible but also a master at weaving together stories that speak so much to the human condition. He manages to verbalize human experiences that I could find no words for. And that’s what he does so well with “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s about not allowing your trials or sufferings in life to define who you are. It’s about finding purpose, finding joy, in life despite all the pain and suffering life throws your way.

And that’s why I think “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault in Our Stars” are tied for my favorite John Green book. Because they both speak to the harsh reality of pain and suffering in life. But they also manage to show readers a way forward, to the light just waiting beyond the shadows.

#2: “Turtles All the Way Down”

Honestly, I almost put “Turtles All the Way Down” also tied for first place as my favorite John Green book, but even I think it’s a little too much, so here it is as my second favorite John Green book. “Turtles All the Way Down” is told through the perspective of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old girl, who sets out with her best friend to uncover the mystery behind fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, while trying to deal with her obsessive-compulsive disorder and the ever tightening spiral of her own thoughts. Now, I’ve read “Turtles All the Way Down” twice, and both times reading it taught me something new about mental illness and the reality of what it looks like living with OCD. What I love most about “Turtles All the Way Down” is the brutal honesty of what mental illness can look and feel like and the conversation it starts about how living with a mental illness isn’t what defines someone or their ability to live a full, happy life.

“Turtles All the Way Down” is an important reminder to destigmatize the conversation regarding mental health and mental illness, and to open ourselves up to having a dialogue about ways we care for our own mental health and the mental health of those around us.

#3: “The Anthropocene Reviewed”

This is John Green’s most recent book released on May 18, 2021 (and his first non-fiction book), and when I tell you I ran to my local Barnes and Noble to grab this gem, I RAN. And I was able to snatch a signed copy of it, which I will forever consider to be my greatest accomplishment and most prized possession in life. “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is a collection of essays where John Green reviews different facets of the Anthropocene (the current geologic age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity) on a five-star scale–from the QWERTY keyboard to CNN to Diet Dr. Pepper. This is truly John Green at his finest and most honest, and reading it a year into the pandemic, John Green gave me the smallest spark of hope that there’s still light and laughter in this world, brighter than all the darkness and shadows combined.

Ms. Barclay also read “The Anthropocene Reviewed” and loved it. She commented, “I plan on making my AP Lang write an essay like one of the ones in this book. I did the audio version and hearing John Green in his own words talk about things that are special or that should be appreciated really moved me.  It was a great experience.”

#4: “Paper Towns”

Okay, so from here on down, I haven’t read these books in a while, so I will do my best to relate what I remember about my experience reading these next few books to the best of my ability.

“Paper Towns” is told through the perspective of Quentin Jacobsen, who has spent his whole life loving his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman (from afar). After a wild night of pranks and exacting revenge on classmates with her, Quentin arrives at school to find Margo has mysteriously disappeared. What follows is a plan to find her–while learning along the way that maybe she wasn’t the girl he thought he knew. What I remember liking most about “Paper Towns” is of course the mystery and epic road trip Quentin and his friends take to find Margo, but I also loved the message that when we start putting people on a pedestal and thinking of them as more than just a “person,” we end up creating a false image of them, damaging the friendship or relationship, which Quentin must learn the hard way.

#5: “Let it Snow”

“Let it Snow” is a collection of three short stories; John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson each writing one of the stories; all intertwined with one another. Now, while I only checked out “Let it Snow” at the library to read John Green’s story (sorry Lauren and Maureen, but not sorry), his short story was absolutely adorable and is the perfect short read if you’re looking for a Christmas romance to get you in the mood for the holidays. So, when you sit down with the book, cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket, and enjoy.

#6: “An Abundance of Katherines”

Okay, so I only read this book once, and it was in 8th grade, soooo I’m going to be completely honest here: John Green didn’t slay on this book. Even though I said he’s a genius (which he still is), this book just didn’t do him justice and was pretty unmemorable.

#7: “Will Grayson, Will Grayson”

Again, I only read this book once, and I think it was also in 8th grade, so I don’t have too much to say about it other than this: I’m going to assume that because John Green wrote this with David Levithan, his literary genius was unable to fully shine through (no shade to David Levithan). Again, “An Abundance of Katherines” and Will Grayson, Will Grayson” aren’t terrible books at all; they just pale in comparison to John Green’s other literary masterpieces.

And there you have it folks! Did you agree or disagree with my ranking? Let me know your favorite John Green books in the comments!