Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

Paddle Your Own Canoe is Nick Offerman's memoir, tagged "One man's fundamentals for delicious living." Having always thought he was quite funny, and having highly enjoyed books that are always listed together with this one (Bossypants and Yes, Please), I thought this would be of the same strain. The first chapter had me laughing aloud frequently with his descriptions of various meats (including The Bratwurst: A Haiku), and this section had some of my favorite quotes. I had high hopes at that point ... Sadly, the second chapter is basically a big smack in the face if you thought this was going to be a lighthearted tome. Offerman launches right into a major anti-Christian diatribe, which I'm sure most of his big fans would point at me and say, "Well, of course you're offended since you're a Christian. It's just meant to be funny," but they would be wrong about part of that. Yes, I am a Christian and perfectly comfortable with my status - a well known actor droning on about my beliefs as completely idiotic is not going to shake me from this. In spite of Offerman saying things to the tune of "if that's your thing, go for it", his unadulterated harping and soap-boxing on the subject directly contradict any "live and let live" statements he tries to make. It really is a shame that this came so early in the book and in such a judgmental way. And I don't mean in a "wah, Nick Offerman called me stupid, wah" sort of judgement. There was nothing remotely humorous about this section of the book, or the many times that he expounds on it further throughout the rest of the book. I've read books where the author's opinions about things I believe are different than mine, and I have no problem with this. It's the way he goes about it that is so shaking, and the fact that it's in the freaking second chapter of the book. Usually authors will at least get you properly involved in the book, cushioning their less than savory ideas with the parts you've already enjoyed, so you push on reading and just try to not think about any upsetting parts. This book does not give the reader that luxury, and honestly it almost caused me to stop reading at that point (reading other reviews, I know I am not alone in this, and it was not just the Christian comments that caused people to put the books down early).

I did press forward, and I enjoyed certain parts of the book. I particularly love his encouragement to make your own canoe - which he expounds to mean just pick something to make yourself and do it regularly. I've long touted that we need to stop watching tv and make something ... anything! It's good for you and helps your self esteem while having something to show for your time in the end.
The book is a mixture of Nick's opinions about various political, religious, and life topics mixed in with the story of how he arrived at where he is in his professional life. He gives several stories of his youth, many of which are very funny, but they end up being such an odd combination with his judgement on others. Example: He tells the story of how he used to shoplift odd items for fun with a friend of his, and now has a criminal record for getting caught stealing 8 Ronnie Milsap cassette tapes. And I'm supposed to attune my life with the opinions of a man who thought this was a good idea? It leaves an strange taste in your mouth to say the least. All this is to say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I hoped, and it really is a shame because it could have been a great read. If you are looking for Bossypants or Yes, Please, don't pick this up. If you agree with his views, then maybe you'll like this book more than I did. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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