One of my favorite shows of the last several years is Parks & Recreation. I was heartbroken when it ended last year but happy the story was able to be finished and we were able to say goodbye to characters I loved. One of the more unique things about the series was that most of the main cast saw a huge increase in their exposure and popularity. In addition to the most striking example, Chris Pratt, you also have Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Offerman seeing a big jump in the projects they were being offered. In Nick’s case, I think his portrayal of Ron Swanson, the Director of Pawnee Parks & Recreation, has indelibly connected Nick’s actual personality with Ron’s. Paddle Your Own Canoe both refutes and affirms this notion.
Part memoir and part guide to living, Paddle Your Own Canoe is a terrific book that you won’t help but read in Offerman’s trademark deadpan. Starting with his early days growing up in Minooka, IL (near Joliet), Offerman goes in to a detail about early jobs in farming, playing sports, theater, his time at the University of Illinois in their theater program, all the way through today. Well, a “today” of 2013. The book is brisk but detailed enough to keep the reader entertained. Offerman goes in to his own philosophies and outlook on life in more detail at the end of each chapter. No topic is off the table and he happily delves in to his religious views, political views, and ways to live a delicious life, as he puts it. I was happy to find most of Offerman’s views closely parallel my own.
He talks quite a bit about how he got in to woodworking and how he survived while working as a struggling actor for years. It’s a story we’ve heard a lot and there is no surprise here. He finally become successful through perseverance. The jobs he was able to land he did his job professionally so those in the crew remembered him for future projects. He got Parks & Rec because show creator Mike Schur remembered him from when Offerman auditioned to play Michael Scott on The Office several years before. The latter half of the book Offerman goes through how he and his wife, Megan Mullaly, met during a play they were both cast as the lead for. He recounts their long courtship and it’s all quite adorable.
I expected the book to be funny and it is. There aren’t many laugh out loud moments, but there are several chuckles and I was entertained the whole time. What surprised me the most was how inspiring the book is. He talks about how important it is to have a hobby, something you can sink your creative energy in to if your job doesn’t do that for you. As a Midwesterner he is a big proponent of working hard and doing the best you possibly can on any job. Those are the same values I was raised on as well so I found it easy to identify with his philosophies.
The book gets pretty raunchy at times which surprised me a bit. He doesn’t shy from dropping some well timed F bombs and talks a lot about sex. So if you think it’s going to be home-spun wisdom in the vein of Garrison Keilor you may want to re-think the purchase of Paddle Your Own Canoe as a gift for your grandmother. Unless she’s a particularly awesome lady than by all means go for it. Just remember to include that bottle of Lagavulin 16 as the perfect accompaniment.