It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since Leslie Knope and her band of merry misfits came into this world with the award-winning television docu-comedy Parks & Recreation. Harder still to believe that their tenure as Pawnee, Indiana’s most heartwarmingly dysfunctional mid-level bureaucrats is over. As the old folks say, time flies when you’re having fun. If you’re looking for any little way to keep the Parks & Rec magic alive, you’re in luck: four cast members (so far) have penned books that feature the same homespun wisdom, deadpan humor, passion, and irrepressible optimism we loved in the show.
Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
The difference between Aziz Ansari and Tom Haverford? When it comes to the ladies, P&R‘s self-proclaimed lothario doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but Ansari has written an entire book about it. Personally baffled by today’s technology-enabled dating world, the comedian paired with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo, to conduct a year’s worth of studies across the U.S., Paris, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Doha. The result is a thoroughly researched, surprisingly academic examination of the modern dating scene and all its possibilities and pitfalls. With plenty of examples from his own single days (and perhaps the sweetest thing is how glaringly obvious it is that Ansari is goo-goo over his now live-in girlfriend) and a lot of food references, it’s a contemporary dating guide for those with a conscience and a healthy sense of humor.
Hardcover $17.31 | $26.95
Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers, by Nick Offerman
Ron Swanson, folks. Offerman did not pull his TV character from thin air, and you will recognize the same virile, no-nonsense meatlover that you adored as director of Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department in this “mixtape of great Americans.” In the follow-up to his bestselling book Paddle Your Own Canoe, the actor, writer, reader, and woodworker chooses 21 historical and contemporary figures who represent, to him, the best of our country’s past and future. He explores the impact they’ve had on our national culture and his own life. Integrity, moral balance, and most of all, gumption: these are Offerman’s measuring sticks. It’s clear the actor immersed himself in biography, research, and interviews, and the best parts are the accounts of personal run-ins with his heroes, such as the time he attended the funeral of Tom Laughlin, toured Wendell Berry’s barn, or attended Yoko Ono’s gallery opening. Politics and religion are up for debate, but never without a side of blue humor. Of course, the very best part is imagining it read in Nick Offerman’s genuine voice.
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
Full disclosure: I feel I must inform you that Amy Poehler and I are meant to be friends. It will happen. Therefore, this recommendation may be a conflict of interest. But hot dog if Leslie Knope hasn’t made me love her even more by going and writing an intelligent, thoughtful, literate, funny, honest, and disarming memoir. It’s clear Poehler has a profound love for her chosen profession and the improv roots that brought her to where she is today, and this book can be read as a short history of a magical era in that genre of performance. (Poehler started at Chicago’s Second City and helped found the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York.) But there is also great life advice in these pages: about trusting yourself and not the demon voice inside your head, about standing strong while remaining thoughtful and polite, about demanding respect as much as laughs. The title sums up the themes perfectly: be open, be humble, be confident. We’ve all been fans of Poehler’s characters, but it’s when she strips away the larger-than-life personas, laying herself bare for our benefit, that we truly love her.
Love Life, by Rob Lowe
Lowe has had a long career, from the Brat Pack, to the Oval Office, to the Pawnee city manager’s office. Luckily, he saved a little back from his bestselling 2011 autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, for this follow-up. It starts with the story of Lowe discovering his first vibrator in his friend’s mother’s waterbed as a young teen. It picks up from there. For a book filled with famous names and famous places, Lowe nevertheless keeps it down to earth, reflecting also on lessons learned as a recovering alcoholic, husband of twenty years, and father of two sons. Lowe is a little less tightly wound than his Parks & Rec character (though, amazingly, just as attractive and fit), but literally full of the same joie de vivre. Literally.