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Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living

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Parks and Recreation actor and Making It co-host Nick Offerman shares his humorous fulminations on life, manliness, meat, and much more in this New York Times bestseller.

Growing a perfect moustache, grilling red meat, wooing a woman--who better to deliver this tutelage than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson? Combining his trademark comic voice and very real expertise in woodworking--he runs his own woodshop--Paddle Your Own Canoe features tales from Offerman's childhood in small-town Minooka, Illinois--"I grew up literally in the middle of a cornfield"--to his theater days in Chicago, beginnings as a carpenter/actor and the hilarious and magnificent seduction of his now-wife Megan Mullally. It also offers hard-bitten battle strategies in the arenas of manliness, love, style, religion, woodworking, and outdoor recreation, among many other savory entrees.

A mix of amusing anecdotes, opinionated lessons and rants, sprinkled with offbeat gaiety, Paddle Your Own Canoe will not only tickle readers pink but may also rouse them to put down their smart phones, study a few sycamore leaves, and maybe even hand craft (and paddle) their own canoes.

340 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2013

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About the author

Nick Offerman

30 books1,593 followers
Nick Offerman is an American actor, writer, and carpenter who is best known for his breakout role as Ron Swanson in the acclaimed NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. For his work on Parks and Recreation, he received the Television Critics Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy.

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5 stars
7,490 (24%)
4 stars
11,072 (36%)
3 stars
8,385 (27%)
2 stars
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1 star
1,064 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,553 reviews
Profile Image for Brandon Schafer.
2 reviews21 followers
December 18, 2013
After reading many of the one, two, and three star reviews on here, I felt I should write a short review to defend Nick and his book. The main complaints I've noticed: 1. Too dry 2. Too opinionated 3. Too profane 4. Degrades "Christians"

Too dry: I bought the audio version of this book, as I enjoy listening to book on my 7 hour drive from school to visit family. When I found out Ron Swanson himself narrated the book, I immediately grabbed a copy. I highly recommend doing the same. This alone reduces the dryness of the book. I could understand how reading the book yourself might be dry, but having the author narrate his own book breathes life into the text. Nick's narration of his own book became a conversation, a story, something you would hear from the old local at the hole in the wall bar in town.

Too opinionated: The subtitle to Paddle Your Own Canoe is a dead give away that this will be a very opinionated book "One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living" another way to look at this is: One man's opinion for delicious living...

Too profane: As I said before, he wrote this book as he would tell a story. Suggestions for overcoming this if your ears are too sensitive for such language... Don't read/listen to the book... Grow up...

Degrades "Christians": First of all, these type of comments about his book are exactly what he's driving at when he talks about christians. He's not attacking your religion in his book. What he is attacking is the hateful agenda you try to shove down the throat of every American such as: anti gay marriage laws, abortion laws, anti premarital sex, birth control laws. He embraces many attributes of religions such as: community accountability, striving to be a better person, loving your neighbor. None of this is mentioned in the hateful reviews, however. He simply wants to remind everyone that church and state should, for good reason, be absolutely separated, and you shouldn't use a book with no proof of legitimacy to establish legislation be it the Torah, Qur'an, Bible, Tao-Te Ching, Sutras, or Suttas.

Though these aren't complete defenses, I feel they are of the same level of arguments against Paddle Your Own Canoe. In conclusion, if you are easily offended when someone uses four letter words or challenges the legitimacy of your religion, if you want your opinionated memoirs to be strictly factual with no opinion of the author, and if you don't have a dry sense of humor, don't read this book. However, if you love quaint anecdotes of life and the lessons one has acquired from said anecdotes, or if you enjoy broadening your horizons by listening to, contemplating, and then agreeing with or respectfully disagreeing with other's individual opinions, then by all means read (rather listen to Nick Offerman read to you) Paddle Your Own Canoe.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
October 20, 2019
come on, humor book, be funny!

i am both a parks and rec fan and a ron swanson fan. his character appeals to me with his gruff and deadpan mannerisms and his abiding love of meat. (although not his hatred of libraries - hhmph)

but reading this book was just kind of a slog - the speech patterns and stylized formality that delights me onscreen are just dead on the page when i am forced to read them for an extended period, even though i can "hear" his voice reading them. i just don't love artificial pomposity. i can't even get through goodreads reviews that read like this:

As is only proper, my years in college saw me undergo a drastic personal transformation, as well as participate in a larger group consummation with those several champions who were to form the Defiant Theatre. Our sage Robin McFarquhar has since asserted that, in the twenty years since our matriculation, he has never seen another band of students with such an unquenchable work ethic, willing to stay up all night regularly to fulfill our artistic missions of mischief and beauty. I am very grateful to hear that I, once again, was in the right place and time to be valued by these peers, despite my relative inexperience onstage. Joe Foust and Christopher Johnson, destined to become Defiant's first artistic director, spearheaded production teams to create pageants of theater both challenging and hilarious.

A ragtag team of puckish miscreants coalesced, membership in which required only an adherence to our collective taste and the willingness to work one's fingers to the bone…We capering fools were drawn inexorably together to weave shows of intelligence and silliness in a way that thrilled us and fed us completely. Joe's was my favorite brain, wickedly clever and funny for days. A naturally magnanimous leader, he had such a great sensibility for utilizing old-school theatrical conventions in a completely fresh way to incite mirth in any audience. He also wielded a fresh perspective that made him a wonderful and sensitive leader, which I have since learned is exactly the type of person in whose service i thrive.


and while some might say it is not valid to dislike a book because it is turgid or overwritten (which of course it is - "overwritten" is generally employed as a pejorative), i am also disliking it because it is not very funny. and as subjective as humor is, a book in the humor section should make me at least want to laugh.

and it did not.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 10, 2020
One thing that this book makes abundantly clear is that Nick Offerman is NOT Ron Swanson. While they may have similar woodworking skills and musings:

My life is always more delicious when I have whiskers on my face, but that might just be because those whiskers tend to accumulate bacon crumbs and scotch, rendering them literally delicious all day long.

This book covers Offerman's early life working on the family farm to his startup as a play actor to his breakout roll of Ron Swanson (the book heavily emphasized the first two and only briefly touched on the latter). We also get his strong opinion on religion, sex, being religious while having sex, pot, swearing, and did I mention religion?

Really, all religious teachings can be boiled down to: “Just be cool. Don’t be an asshole.

At times, it got a bit much (too preachy) for me but overall I enjoyed reading his take on life. There was also a heavy emphasis on gender equality, anti-homophobia and ignoring societal norms. And with that, I will leave you with a poem:

The Bratwurst: A Haiku
Tight skin flute of pork.
Juices fly, explode in mouth.
A little mustard.

Audiobook Comments
--Book was read by the author and his voice was simply excellent. It did make for a slight difficulty in distinguishing his Swanson character from his real-life Offerman persona

The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge: A novel based on a real person

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Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,483 reviews7,780 followers
December 17, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

For anyone out there who wants to claim people who don’t enjoy Nick Offerman’s writings only fall on that side of the fence because they want a “Ron Swanson” book rather than a Nick Offerman book, I have this to say . . . .



Seriously, though, Nick Offerman IS Ron Swanson. At least as far as his character traits go. He grows a great mustache, he enjoys eating animal carcasses washed down by fine brown liquors, he builds shit and he’s married to Tammy. The difference between Nick and Ron is Ron had Greg Daniels to make him funny and Nick isn’t a particularly humorous guy. This book would be great if you’re one of Offerman’s family members, a former classmate, acquaintance, etc. because there’s a very good chance your name has been dropped somewhere. If you’re a regular Joe like me whose only “in depth” knowledge of the man behind the legend is you’re kind of from the same neck of the woods and definitely know what it means to walk beans, you might find this a little meh when all is said and done. I appreciated his take on hot button topics such as politics and religion – and especially liked that he made his point without beating a dead horse about it – but at the end of the day it felt like I had been listening to him talk about pretty much nothing for around 11,000 years by the time the audio was wrapped up. On the bright side, he has a marvelous speaking voice. I highly recommend listening to him as part of the ensemble reading cast of Lincoln in the Bardo if given the opportunity.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,719 followers
February 10, 2015
Gosh darnit if I didn't like Nick Offerman even more after reading his book.

I was already a fan because of his excellent and hilarious work playing Ron Swanson on the NBC show "Parks and Recreation." His memoir, which he calls a guide for "delicious living," is a fun, fast read. He talks about growing up on a farm in Illinois, his wise and supportive parents, how he got his start in acting, how he met his (also hilarious) wife, Megan Mullally, and he offers advice on how to have a more fulfilling life:


Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole, located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra. Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby. Actually, hobby is not a weighty enough word to represent what I'm trying to get across. Let's use discipline instead. If you engage in a discipline or do something with your hands instead of kill time on your phone device, then you have something to show for your time when you're done. Cook, play music, sew, carve ...

I'm here to tell you that we've been duped on a societal level. My favorite writer, Wendell Berry, writes on this topic with a great eloquence. He posits that we've been sold a bill of goods, claiming that work is bad, that sweating and working, especially if soil or sawdust is involved, are beneath us. Our population, especially the urbanites, has largely forgotten that working at a labor that one loves is actually a privilege. To be on the receiving end of this gift of a life complete with human body, mind, and heart is to be indescribably blessed indeed, but all of our conveniences and comforts and amazing technological advances have made us completely soft and fully pusillanimous! If a person can simply discern what it is that he/she loves to do with an eight-to-ten hour day, then a satisfying workday is easily attained.


This is a theme that Offerman returns to several times, and the man has a point. Offerman's own discipline is woodworking — he even has a business selling his crafts (Offerman Woodshop). He said he had always liked building things and working with tools, and he eventually became quite skilled. When he moved to Los Angeles to be an actor, there were several years where he had trouble landing any acting jobs. But fortunately, he had his carpentry skills and was able to earn money that way, and he founded his own woodshop.

There is a lot of humor in this book, and Offerman shares some funny stories about his early acting days and some of the tomfoolery he engaged in. There is a particularly amusing story about the time he got arrested while trying to steal some cassette tapes (it was a stupid game he and a friend were playing, to see who could steal the silliest stuff) but the police didn't find it funny and held Offerman as long as they could to scare him. It did scare him, because Offerman was scheduled to be in a play that night, and he made it to the theater just minutes before he was supposed to be onstage. Whew!

If you have seen the show "Parks and Recreation," you know that Offerman's character, Ron Swanson, is known for his toughness, his masculinity, and his love of meat and breakfast foods. Ron Swanson doesn't f*ck around — he lives by a code and he says what he means and he means what he says.

 photo 3489626e-e72e-4766-9f1e-164c6cd12c9c_zps31zb0b42.jpg
Ron Swanson

Offerman is quick to point out that he is not Ron Swanson in real life, however, he based part of the character on his own father. The sections in which Offerman talks about how much his dad meant to him are moving. I especially liked this story:


About a month into college I was walking across campus and I had to stop and call my dad from a pay phone, and I said, "Dad, I just want to say that everything you've taught me has just landed. I get it all. I'm really sorry I was a bit of a dick to you for the last five or six years. But I just want to say thank you. I'm going to make a good go of this. Everything you and Mom have been quietly instilling into me, despite my resistance — it worked."


I enjoyed this memoir, even though some passages got a little too guy-humory for me, and there were a few too many sections about his drinking shenanigans, but overall, I came away liking Offerman as a person because of his moral code. He has some good sections on growing up in the Midwest, on appreciating the land, on respecting religion but not forcing it on people, on supporting local and organic farmers, on not being an asshole, and on personal responsibility. If you like Ron Swanson, you'll probably enjoy Offerman's book.

Also recommended for fans of moustaches.

Favorite Quotes
"I learned early to respect my tools and my machinery, knowing that with the proper lashing-down and utilization of simple machines — the wheel, the lever, the screw, the inclined plane — there was no job of work that could defeat us."

"I seem to have been associated with certain trains of machismo in the zeitgeist, at least for this brief, golden moment. I find that fact to be somewhat embarrassing, given my firsthand knowledge of my personal failings and propensity for jackass behavior, but I get it, based on superficially perceived signals of manhood, like a full, thick moustache and the ability to use tools. When people ask me questions relating to my 'manliness,' I like to remind them that I am primarily an artist as an actor, writer and woodworker."

"My favorite rule from [an acting teacher] was 'Always maintain the attitude of a student.' When a person thinks they have finished learning, that is when bitterness and disappointment can set in, as that person will wake up every day wondering when someone is going to throw a parade in their honor for being so smart. As human beings, we, by the definition of our very natures, can never be perfect. This means that as long as we are alive and kicking, we can be improving ourselves. No matter our age, if we always have a project to which we can apply ourselves, then we will wake up every day with an objective, something productive to get done. This allows us to go to bed at night in the peaceful knowledge that we have done some good, gained some achievement, however small. Having ears for this lesson has been one of the luckiest pieces of listening I've done, because it has led to my woodworking discipline, one of the greatest joys in my life."
Profile Image for Melki.
6,039 reviews2,390 followers
February 17, 2014
Here's a sometimes interesting, sometimes funny memoir of a minor celebrity with lots to say.

Offerman stars as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.

description
My Burning God of Love, Ron Swanson

He also appeared in my favorite scene from HBO's Deadwood.

description
Yes, I saw it WITHOUT the dot!

The book offers up Offerman's, NOT Swanson's! philosophy of life, and it's an interesting, shoulder-shrugging, live-and-let-live philosophy. I truly enjoyed the chapter entitled Hail Mary, Full of Beans, as Offerman's views on organized religion mesh nicely with my own:

I'm going to type this in boldface to try to make it as clear as possible: If you read the Bible and go to church, or subscribe to any other religion, that is fine with me. I like nice people, and if you are endeavoring to be one, I say, "Great!" I, too, am endeavoring to be a nice person. The thing that makes me mad is when a person suggests that I CANNOT be a nice person or live a life of goodness WITHOUT reading the Bible and attending church.

Yeah! What he said!

Several chapters detail the author's youth and youthful indiscretions, such as imbibing a bit too heavily of legal and illegal substances. A few chapters made me yawn while Offerman essentially listed every stage and screen role he has ever had, and every fellow actor he's ever had the pleasure of acting or auditioning alongside.

Chapter 14, Romantic Love, depressed the hell out of me. Offerman prattles on and on about his love and admiration for his wife. He brags about her beauty, talents and accomplishments. He writes her POETRY, for crying out loud! Sigh! My husband refers to me as "The Old Lady" and loves to tell people about the time I accidentally melted a plastic dish drainer in the oven. Double sigh!

For those of you who are Swanson fans and were starting to worry, YES - there is a chapter about MOUSTACHES!

description
The author demonstrates the importance of porn-stache maintenance. The comb is available here - http://www.offermanwoodshop.com/

To repeat - this book is purely OFFERMAN! If it's Swanson you're looking for, you'd probably be better off with Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America.

In truth, this is probably only a three-star read, but because it's SO REFRESHING to come across a celebrity who talks incessantly about GOOD BOOKS and THE IMPORTANCE OF READING THEM, I'm tacking on an extra sparkly.

There you have it...a book written by a happy man, living a life he loves.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,183 followers
January 11, 2019
If you are anything like me, you first heard about this book because you've watched more "Parks and Rec" than is strictly reasonable, and Ron Swanson has made you laugh and cringe. While I don't always agree with the cantankerous character, he is nevertheless my favorite and I love Offerman's deadpan delivery. I was very curious to know what a guy who can pull off such a fantastic mustache would have to say about delicious living...

Now if you plan on reading this, my advice is: don't. Get the audiobook, read by Offerman. His voice, gravitas and occasional giggles make this memoir/manifesto/collection of hilarious and excellent advice an incredibly entertaining experience. I also think that his writing style might feel a bit ponderous on the page, as where read out loud, it is quite charming and fun. Also, easily offended ears beware: there's a lot of cussing, many discussions on the topic of oral sex and some very strong opinions about religion (A lot of reviewers seem to have gotten their panties in a twist about that aspect of the book: I didn't, but mostly because I actually agree with his thoughts on organized religion in general, and the weird fucked up version of Christianity too often encountered in certain regions of the US of A specifically. He was preaching to the choir with me - pun intended - but I can see how anyone attached to their fixed ideas on faith and the Church would get upset by his thoughts.).

I already liked Offerman, and listening to 10 odd hours of his thoughts made me like and respect him even more: the man is hilarious, smart, hard working, kind-hearted and a hopeless romantic. I loved hearing his stories about growing up in rural Illinois, learning his craft in college, and eventually in Chicago and LA, meeting his wife Megan Mullally - and of course, growing epic facial hair. He also takes care to make sure his listeners know that despite a common love of pork products and fine scotches, he is most definitely not Ron Swanson: he eats salads, for one thing, and does not punch socialists.

Offerman is quite opinionated, but also humble, more than willing to admit that a lot of luck was necessary for his life to unfold the way it did, and spends a lot of time expressing his gratitude to everyone who helped, supported and encouraged him. His love for art, his family, the various crafts he is passionate about and his darling wife really shines through (his "Rainbow Song"! My heart!). While his advice can occasionally feel a tad preachy, it comes form a reasonable and well-meaning place; it's just loaded with smart-assery and sarcasm, which I appreciate tremendously.

I had a lot of fun listening to this! 4 and a half stars.
Profile Image for Chip.
47 reviews2 followers
December 11, 2014
Sweet mother of mercy, the religious wackos have put a dent in the average reviews for this fine tome. If you've heard Offerman on the Nerdist podcast, then you know you'll find earthy goodness, sharp (and well-said) opinions against corporate farming & the ongoing erosion of church-state separation in this country, etc., within said literary product. If that offends you, I suggest you go read something for vegans or by Joel Osteen.

It's a bio/manifesto & it's full of fun stories: Kabuki theater, woodworking, how to excel at the arts of love, praise for Wendell Berry, and of course, the legend of Tick-Tock & Flip-Flop, lords of the 80's Midwestern Breakdance.

Some of the latter 3rd does bog down in career highlights/inside Hollywood baseball-ism, but overall, Offerman is an inspiration for plugging away at what one enjoys until one doggedly falls ass-backwards into success. What's not to love?
Profile Image for Kaci.
36 reviews
February 9, 2014
Better title would be "Nick Offerman Hates Religion, Loves Intoxicants"
Profile Image for Gavin Breeden.
352 reviews71 followers
November 7, 2013
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this (other than some good laughs, which it only occasionally delivered) but it turned out to be a bit of a baffling book. Part memoir and part manifesto, Offerman pulls his personal philosophy of life from his own biography while seeking to remind us that he is NOT Ron Swanson, but, yeah, he and Ron do have a lot in common like their mid-western sensibilities and shared love of woodworking, meats, and brunette women. But it's a pretty profane book and Offerman seems to lean too much on using profanity as a prop for being funny so the book turns out to not be all that funny either. The parts where he talks about his father and his relationship with his wife and how he landed the role of his lifetime on "Parks and Rec" are all pretty good. But I must admit I'd probably have enjoying reading this more if he hadn't launched into a rant against Christianity (one of several in the book) before hitting page 30. The decision to include that so early in a book is one I'm still scratching my head over. Offerman's anti-religious rants are neither original nor profound, but simply muddled regurgitations of arguments you've read in superior form elsewhere. But their worst flaw-- considering the type of book they're appearing in-- is that they aren't funny and so they end up sounding self-serious and preachy (and this critique coming from an actual preacher) which is not necessarily a tone the reader wants to find in a book whose cover seems to promise fun times and laughter.
Profile Image for Sarah.
368 reviews93 followers
November 26, 2021
Book-Song Pairing: Barret’s Privateers (Stan Rogers)

I love Nick Offerman's first book - and what’s not to love?

There are tales here of: stagecraft, woodcraft, crafting whiskey, and love as the ultimate craft. Interspersed through it all is a funny-haha mix of Midwest pragmatism and West Coast progressivism.

But more than anything else, there's the confounded tenderness of the man himself, hiding always beneath the surface of his big, bushy mustache and endless jokes on voluminous jugs and dirty balls.

One moment, he’s completely disgusting; the next, unspeakably sensitive. And it always catches me off-guard: the way he rhapsodizes over his wife, loves his parents, takes care to spotlight each friend to whom he is loyal.

So why, you may wonder, only a four-star rating?

Well, I needed to take day-long breaks between most chapters. Yes, it’s funny. Yes, it’s smart. And yes, it’s so dang tender.

But it's also packaged in Offerman's trademarked, whiskey-drinking-red-meat-eating-canoe-building schtick... and I required frequent rests from all the flannel and wood shavings.

In the final analysis, Mr. Offerman: Like a rollicking sea shanty refreshes the soul, so your gruff woodsman-with-a-gooey-middle softens the heart. And soft hearts are in great demand these days, so I'm in favor of... well, YOU.
Profile Image for Joe Janca.
2 reviews
October 31, 2013
I feel strange assigning a star rating to this book, as I haven't finished reading it. The thing is, I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. I am a huge fan of Mr. Offerman as an actor and a human being, but apparently not as an author. Perhaps the problem is one of expectation. I went into this book hoping for insights and anecdotes from Nick's life--in other words, memoir. Instead, what we get is more manifesto. I only got through the first two chapters, but the rambling (and somewhat preachy) nature of the writing started to grate on me after a while. Just when I would start to get into the portrait of his small town early life he was painting, Mr. Offerman would hop on his soapbox and tell me what I was supposed to have gleaned from the picture, rather than fleshing things out in a way that might resonate more organically with a reader.

The book is not without its charms, and odds are that if you're more a fan of Nick Offerman than of memoir or literature in general, you will eat it up. I suppose I just expected a bit more.

EDIT: After walking away for a couple days, I forced myself to continue on with this book because a) I paid for the damn thing and b) I really wanted to find some redeeming qualities in it. And to my surprise, I did. While my previous criticism stands, there are passages which are truly delightful and some which are even motivational. Now, I did find myself skimmimg through entire chapters when things got a bit too preachy/expositional (a technique I strongly suggest for anyone trying to get through this book), but I ended up appreciating much of the material once Nick got off his soapbox. As such, I've tacked another star onto my rating. Had this been written as strictly memoir, it might have been a consistently great read. A reader shouldn't have to skip over huge sections of text to get to the good stuff. But, in this case, that stuff ends up being pretty darn good.
Profile Image for Barnabas Piper.
Author 11 books937 followers
April 19, 2019
A sad case of mistaking fame for intellect. His humor doesn’t come through super well in writing either. Generally a disappointing, flat book about nothing.
Profile Image for Andy.
22 reviews6 followers
July 2, 2013
Paddle Your Own Canoe was exactly what I wanted it to be, Nick's delicious recipe for living an outstanding life. Eat red meat, go outside, and find some good love. Repeat.
Profile Image for Anthony.
190 reviews12 followers
November 25, 2013
Boring. Nick is a one trick pony who is smart to strike while the iron is hot. I have seen clips of Parks & Rec and understand the Ron Swanson character. Why not use that character's voice to write your memoir? But it doesn't work. Another reviewer stated earlier (and correctly) that a few lines of "Ron" a week is good enough. A whole book of Nick dragging "Ron" along for the ride does not work. Nick likes to cuss throughout the book but it doesn't add anything to his attempts of humor. It is distracting and only points out how unfunny he is. He also likes to throw in the occasional SAT word but this too is distracting. It is sad he thinks of himself as a humorist. Mark Twain he is not. I am glad I got this book from the library. i would have been pissed if I dropped any money on it. He also loves to preach about his typical Hollywood, anti-Christian, pro drugs, etc views. And if you don't agree with Nick then you are stupid or in his words "an ignorant fool." Nick, this is not how you gain more fans. As Nikki Finke would say, "And click, half the country just turned it off." Nick, a humorist entertains the WHOLE audience, not half.
Profile Image for Amy Sheridan.
51 reviews9 followers
December 20, 2013
It seems like people were expecting this to be a comedy book of personal anecdotes like Tina Fey's Bossypants, Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat, or anything by George Carlin and while Nick Offerman is great in comedy roles, he's not a comedian - he's a theater actor and a woodworker and a reader of maps and a guy who is almost nauseatingly in love with his wife. And that's what this book is about. I don't think I'd even call it a memoir since he's not a thousand years old nor does he have any salacious stories about a dysfunctional family or dirty Hollywood gossip.

I'm a huge Parks and Recs fan and I would read anything written by anyone on the show, but I wasn't expecting this to be written by Ron Swanson. It was an interesting book and Offerman has an interesting, opinionated voice. Admittedly, my eyes glazed over a bit when he was going on about the theater stuff, but that's just because it's not really my scene (although, my stepmom was a big old theater geek back in the day so I bought a copy of this book for her for Christmas).

I'm not a big audio book fan, but I think I'd listen to this just because Nick Offerman's giggles sound like angels peeing on cotton candy.
Profile Image for Kevin Baker.
1 review
October 24, 2013
I think everyone's complaints are asinine. They either did not know what Nick was about, what the book was about, or just suck at life.
Profile Image for Michael.
837 reviews615 followers
November 7, 2013
Nick Offerman is best known for playing Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. This is his first memoir where he muses about life, manliness, wood work and how to best grill meat. Find out about Offerman’s childhood in small town Minooka, Illinois, his love of the theatre, his love of wood work, his wife Megan Mullally and the deadpan comedic style that made him a star.

If you are a Parks and Recreation fan, and in particular a Ron Swanson fan, then this is the book for you. Just to be clear my favourite character is April. Most of Ron Swanson’s quirks and history are taken right out of Nick Offerman’s life so it is almost like learning about the history of the Pawnee Parks Department director.

I got the audiobook of this and I highly recommend you do the same as Offerman narrates this himself. So it feels like Ron Swanson is narrating the book and then you get that Swansonesque chuckle when he tells a joke or a funny story. Listening to Ron Swanson was the best part of the book and I was actually interested in Offerman’s life.

Paddle Your Own Canoe goes further than just talking about Offerman’s life; he also talks about his personal philosophies and what he considers to be the real makings of a man. There is a lot of talk about equality, treating everyone equal, no matter religion, sexuality and so on. It was really interesting to listen to him talk about respect and not being an asshole. I was really impressed with his views on life. not all of them, but he seemed like a really down to earth and stable guy.

When he talks about Megan Mullally is one of my favourite parts. The love he has for his wife and the respect he shows her is beautiful. He talks about their courtship and their marriage and it is all so wonderful I don’t think I could bare it if they ever separated. He is a little sleazy and even tells the reader to Google Megan Mullally’s breasts, but over all you can see how much he adores her.

I didn’t think I would enjoy reading a memoir of an actor, especially a comedian but I thought this was wonderful. I wonder if reading a memoir of a really amazing actor would be as good. This is light hearted, fascinating and surprising. I never thought Nick Offerman would have such a love for the theatre but now I want to see his deadpan style on the stage. Fans of the show or Offerman will love this; I’m not sure about everyone else.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...
1 review1 follower
October 19, 2013
I wanted to give this 1 star based on my impression of the book after chapter two, but the fact that I like Ron Swanson the character and did enjoy the book once it gots past the preachy, ultra-liberal parts.

I really had high hopes for this book, but was left disappointed. Obviously, I expected the book to pepper in profanity, but there were times when profanity seemed to be added just for the sake of it. It was like that person you know who always says fucking before everything. Like "Oh man so I was going to the, the fuckin' grocery store yesterday." Those people. We all know at least one.

Anyway, profanity aside, which wasn't the biggest problem for me, was the lack of actual life "experience" recounting, which would lead us to certain bits of advice. Instead, it was a long stream of very strong opinions, not subtle at all. In chapter two, he says "the fact that creationism can even be a conversation is a goddamn shame" and blemish on America. something like that.
It was just a bit too-far in the preachiness.
It's fine to include a lot of opinion in a memoir, but he flat out says that people who think differently are idiotic. He pretends to shield it with "Everyone can believe what they want. That's fine," swiftly adding a "BUT if you do..." you have no brain and are ignoring intelligence, etc.

It was too preachy with the left-wing stuff for me. I'm politically moderate, with some leftward leanings here and there, but I also respect and can understand the opinions of those on the right. There are good arguments out there for every way of thinking. And the fact that he's so bold as to imply that those who think differently than him are dumb and un-American is annoying, and too far for me. Sure, someone's political and social and religious biased will always come through in a memoir-style book, but he went beyond recounting opinion into blatant telling readers what is and isn't American and what is and isn't intelligent belief.


There are some funny parts about his relationship with his wife, and some good ideas about making homemade gifts. Other than that, there is a lot of preachy BS.
Profile Image for Cheree Moore.
240 reviews3 followers
November 25, 2013
I didn't finish this book, but wanted to share my thoughts...

I am a pretty curious person and read a wide variety of material. I think it is important to shape my beliefs by reading and then discussing opinions different from my own (typically in person).

The book in question is Paddle Your Own Canoe, a memoir by comedian Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation fame). My problem with this book came in the second or so chapter. Offerman is very clear in his disdain for religion. I get that not everyone chooses to believe in a greater being, or the Bible, or anything for that matter; but I find it childish when adults choose to resort to name calling.

Offerman calls the Bible a book of fairytales that teach morality that is only believed by idiots. Calling a group of people idiots for believing in something you don't is straight up bullying and I am tired of it.

There are books and web sites and news stations that I refuse to watch or read because of this type of behavior (even when it comes to ideas that I agree with). I find it very unpalatable to engage in anything that stoops to name calling. I wouldn't allow my son to call other people names and I wouldn't continue a conversation with someone who was resorting to calling people names.

So, I didn't finish this book and have no intentions to, nor would I recommend it. The world is full of great content, I am not going to waste my time with someone who resorts to name calling while insisting their own beliefs are superior.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,452 reviews473 followers
April 12, 2017
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living - Nick Offerman   Offerman is a lucky guy would had a good childhood, a good and meaningful college time, followed by the rest of his life, working hard at work and crafts he appreciates (which is mostly being silly, but also involves building canoes). He has a good work ethic and a seemingly kind heart, as well as a seriously advanced sense of humor. It's delightful to read a memoir by someone who understands that his life is very good and that he's lucky to have so many sources of pleasure.
On the downside, he has a very strong personality which won't appeal to all readers and which can become rather much of a muchness. Everyone's mileage is likely to vary a great deal.
Library copy
Profile Image for Thomas.
26 reviews
April 6, 2019
How does anybody not love this book?
Answer: They didn't understand the disclaimer about this being a book about Nick Offerman, NOT Ron Swanson.
Mr Offerman eats vegetables and likes drugs. But he's an actor for christ sake, he lives in LA. Are you really that surprised?
The blurb also states that it deals with his views on religion. If his views were 'it's all fine and dandy', it wouldn't be blurb worthy.
If you pick up a biography and give it a bad review because of the person being too honest about the things they have done in a well written way, you don't understand how biographies work.
It's like these people pick up the Arnold Schwarzenegger biography and give it one star because it turns out he is not a robot from the future.
Profile Image for Tanya.
500 reviews271 followers
December 11, 2020
Firstly, I had no idea the man was so good with words—it reminded me a bit of a less posh, American Russell Brand, the language was quite different from what I expected it to be, especially from what I am used to from similar memoirs (e.g. Amy's, Tina's, Mindy's). Secondly, I had no idea he had such a solid background in theatre (which is what the biggest portion of the book focuses on), so that was surprising and really interesting. It was a delightful read that I enjoyed immensely, especially the latter chapters on Megan and his break into the TV/movie world. I've been a fan since Parks & Recreation, but now I'm sorta smitten with the man (and I kind of want to build a table).
Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,330 reviews97 followers
February 23, 2018
“Pursue decency in all dealings with your fellow man and woman. Simply put? Don’t be an asshole.”

I’ve seen never seen an episode of Parks and Rec (I know, I’m lame!), but I knew Offerman was a funny and I love memoirs, so why not?? I’m a fan now. I particularly loved his candid, intelligent, funny comments on religion. This was funny and brash, but there were some very thoughtful bits, too. I want to hang out with him and Megan Mullally so bad.
Profile Image for Milton Public Library.
539 reviews15 followers
July 25, 2022
Nick Offerman, not Ron Swanson, tells the tale of his success as an actor with life lessons sprinkled throughout. As he discusses his formative years you begin to understand just how he became the decent human being that he is today. Right off the bat, I knew that I would like this book as I am a fan of Nicks work and have read other books authored by him. I appreciate how candid and straight-forward he is about life and humanity. I tend to agree with much of what he says so it is also no surprise that I liked the book. Be prepared to hear political, religious, and personal views by Nick that you may not agree with, and that is ok. If you are a fan, you won't be disappointed.

Find it in our SHARE Catalog today!

Ashley C. / Milton Public Library #CheckOutMPL
Profile Image for Katy.
116 reviews7 followers
June 1, 2014
This was more of a 3.5 for me, and usually I round down, but the number of asinine 1&2 star ratings compelled me to round up.

Let me first address those who were filled with such disgust and offense that they couldn't read more than two chapters of the book, and then I'll commence with the review. First, you realize that what you're doing, i.e. decrying him as a terribad person simply because of his personal beliefs and opinions, is exactly the thing of which you are accusing him. Which, at best, makes you a hypocrite. Second, his general beliefs, both explicitly and implicitly, boil down to "Believe what you believe; as long as you are living with the goal of being a decent person." Even if you don't agree with his means, you can certainly agree with his conclusion, and that conclusion is a far more important thing than whatever belief system takes you there. And if you disagree with THAT, then you have problems I cannot address within this space.
More than that, his statements regarding separation of church and state, while inflammatory to some, are true. Separation of church and state benefits BOTH parties. Creationism is not something we should be debating in schools, or really, anywhere. If that is part of your faith, fine, but don't try to sell it to someone who has no stakes in your religion.
And you know what? Leviticus CAN blow me, people are NOT required to consider your delicate sensibilities before cursing, and stories of high times and hijinks ARE amusing.

Moving past that, this is not a typical comedic-actor-writes-a-book-book. It is not a series of comedic essays along the lines of Bossypants or Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. It isn't the typical comedian-writes-a-book-book either, like Sleepwalk With Me and Other Painfully True Stories or anything by George Carlin. For that reason, it was hard to immediately get into this book, and get a sense of what it was. Part memoir, part advice-guide, part something-else-I-couldn't-put-my-finger-on. It never quite found its footing for me, lingering too long in some places, and buzzing by others too quickly. It was rarely laugh-out-loud, but it was a quick read that did capture my interest, at least most of the time. Stories concerning his family, Megan Mullally (his wife), and his theatre (always -re) friends were painted the most vividly, and were therefore the most engaging. Overall, it wasn't what I expected, but it wasn't a exactly let-down, either.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,027 reviews2,047 followers
November 15, 2013
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic fan of Parks and Rec than this girl, but Nick Offerman's memoir/how-to-live guide was a little underwhelming. Occasionally quite funny, there was a little too much emphasis on his political leanings (though I tend to agree with his stances, I just didn't think it was necessary). The strongest parts of the book were when Offerman expressed his gratitude for his parents and theater teachers, and shared stories of his formative years. I think I'd have been a little more satisfied if the book had been a little more memoir and a little less how-to-live.

Though the part of me who is bitter over the show's ratings wants to rate this a little higher just to stick it to the idiots who have rated it one star and complained that they don't know who Offerman is or what his show is and why is he so lib-ruhl?
Profile Image for Marie.
1,283 reviews10 followers
October 27, 2013
Absolute bull. Couldn't finish it. Couldn't get past the 2nd chapter. Maybe he shouldn't have put the chapter in which he puts down & mocks the entire Christian faith so early in the book? I thought this would be a fun & funny book about Nick Offerman & the Parks & Rec character Ron Swanson. It's not.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,861 reviews1,358 followers
May 13, 2023
I wanted to like this more than I did. Paddle Your Own Canoe is not without its charms, and I even agreed with some of what he had to say about his approach to life (this is not a traditional memoir; it's what Offerman terms a "guide to delicious living"). Offerman clearly adores his wife, and has some fun anecdotes and some amusing turns of phrase. I listened to this in audiobook, and that's probably the best medium for it.

Yet the book could easily have been edited down by a third and been the better for it. Nor does it help that while Offerman is upfront (almost performatively so) about the fact that most people are assholes and he is no exception, he doesn't always seem aware of ways in which he has been an asshole. For instance, I don't think stalking your ex-girlfriend and following her all the way to Jamaica is as amusing a story as Offerman does. The tale of how he and his male co-workers used to compete to see who could masturbate most during the work-day made me really uncomfortable for his female co-workers, and no, Mr Offerman, you weren't just "lucky" when you got away with getting high and shop-lifting when you were in college. You were a straight, white, middle-class guy in central Illinois.
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