When I heard Nick Offerman had a book coming out on October 1, I was elated and scared. Elated because like every lady, theater fan, and/or television viewer on this Earth, I love Mr. Offerman and heartily admire his comedy stylings and his mustache. Scared because what if the book wasn’t as wonderful and hilarious as I hoped? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to read an advance copy of Paddle Your Own Canoe, and let me tell you, it’s the funniest book of the year. But that’s not all! It’s also full of wisdom, illustrations of meat, and paeans to Megan Mullally that will make you sob.
You can’t get your hands on this work of genius for a few more weeks (though you can pre-order a signed edition here!). To tide you over until October 1, we asked Mr. Offerman to supply us with his 12 favorite books of all time. Enjoy! —Emma
1) The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry
The first novel I read from his charismatic career of fiction detailing the fellowship of the fictional Kentucky town of Port William. My absolute favorite living writer. If everybody read Wendell Berry, I believe we’d have a shot at being more decent.
2) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
A delightful mind-rogering. Murakami creates fear and wonder and humor with a bountiful helping of imagination.
3) Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Classic American storytelling from the time before WiFi. Learn about people who achieved happiness without toilets!
4) The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, by Robert Anton Wilson
A favorite free-minded genius, Wilson’s works are wickedly inventive and ribald. Plus therein lies an ass-load of conspiracy theory and secret society social secrets.
5) Me Write Book: If Bigfoot Memoir by Graham Roumieu
A surprisingly sensitive set of life stories from Sasquatch himself about love, carnage, sex, and wiping one’s ass with small mammals.
6) The Soul of a Tree, by George Nakashima
A gorgeous look into the heart of the magic of woodworking, penned by one of the most inspirational American lumber-smiths in modern times. If you are looking to get hooked on making tables, look no further than this coffee-table tome, replete with beautiful photos.
7) River of Doubt, by Candice Millard
My favorite of the Theodore Roosevelt biographies, chronicling the great man’s bullheaded exploration of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon following his humiliating election defeat in 1912. I hope somebody with an ample mustache brings this story to the screen in the coming years.
8) A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
A favorite purveyor of smarty-pants nonfiction subject matter due to his friendly and humorous tone. Incredibly universal in his appeal, this journal of his time on the Appalachain Trail is like taking a stroll down to the creek with an uncle who is great at telling stories.
9) The Control of Nature, by John McPhee
John McPhee, who was educated as a geologist, takes seemingly dry subject matter and wrings the most fascinating human interest stories from it. In his other works you will read of a birchbark canoe, a stand of pines in New Jersey, or orange trees in Florida, but in this book he speaks of three disparate examples wherein we funny monkeys attempt to control the inexorable forces of nature, co-starring an Icelandic volcano, the Arroyo Seco in The San Gabriel mountains, and the belle of the ball, the mighty Mississippi.
10) Flashman, by George MacDonald Fraser
Goddamn hilarious historical fiction concerning an unintentionally heroic coward in the time of Victoria’s England. Also, Fraser is the writer who gave us the winning term “poonts” to describe a woman’s lovely bazooms.
11) Shop Class as Soul Craft, by Matthew B. Crawford
A well-spun friendly look at a topic which engages a lot of my own life: that of an intentional recession from the comforts of modern society back to the garage, the barn, the shed and basement (or shit, just the yard), where working with one’s hands can provide medicine for the mind, body, and yes, the soul.
12) Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon
Hmm, I’m noticing a bit of a theme here in this old dog’s favorite books. This is a gripping documentation of one man’s circumnavigation of our lower 48 states in a van, eschewing the major highways for smaller, two-lane roads (which appear as blue on the map). The people and places and rural decay that Moon encounters far from the Olive Gardens and the Outback Steakhouses of our freeway culture are in turns humorous and heartbreaking.
Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to read Paddle Your Own Canoe?