As soon as I saw this book was available I purchased it for my Kindle and read it that same evening. As a long time fan of Parks and Rec as well as Offerman's other work, I was really excited. I know that Ron Swanson is a fictional character, but one of the things that sets the charachter apart is how little Offerman has to "act" to be believed. As a trip to the Offerman Woodshop website will show you, he truly is passionate about some of the same things that Ron Swanson espouses. He also has a killer 'stache. That's sadly where the similarities end.
(SPOILER ALERT: I reflect on things I didn't like in the text, with minor specifics. Proceed with caution if you want to be suprised by the tale of his life)
I didn't expect a book "by Ron Swanson" but the only amusing parts of this work are written in the spirit of the character. I laughed out loud several times only to realize it was Mr. Offerman "taking his character's voice" briefly. He then promplty rebukes the sentiment that was amusing in the first place. Offerman takes great pains to point out that he is not the source for Ron Swanson, and is even somewhat self referential about why anyone would find his real story compelling. He's right there, as I struggled through several chapters that only served the purpose of recounting his experiences with high school girls. These stories are neither unique nor meaningful, in fact they're mostly boring. Awkward teenage romance has been mined pretty well, Offerman strikes nothing new here.
Perhaps the greatest dissapointment was the sheer amount of time spent on opinions. I'm inclined to accept Mr. Offerman's opinion on things he likely knows a great deal about, like growing a mustache or using a hand plane. Indeed I bought this book for exactly that earlthy wisdom. Instead, Offerman spends an inordinate amount of time discussing politics, religion, sustainability, morals and vices. It's not only outside his wheelhouse but also plainly uninformed. He paves over complex arguments with base generalities and writes off dissenters as fools. The crux of his argument is that certain groups, ranging from religious believers to 9-5 office workers, are naive imbeciles. If you count yourself in either group, count on being at least mildly insulted. Offerman believes in your right to think and act as you wish, but he will gladly deride you in his text. Offerman has this figured out, he asked his own gut and it told him what's what. Think you have a compelling case for why you chose the path you did? Offerman says you're wrong, but that's your right so now hush up about it.
That I think is the most damaging aspect of this work. Offerman believes in a free spirit that permits anything that doesn't hurt another person. He admonishes us that the use of society is to keep us from our animal urges, and suggests the goal is to not be mean to eachother. He brags about mischeif and petty crimes while griping that there's nasty people in the world. He blusters at people who spew hate and then levels his vitrol on institutions and concepts that people live by. It's not just religion or politics. Think drugs are dangerous? Buy food at a discount grocer to save a buck? Work in an industry that's not farming or theater? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The only people who get a pass for being regualr work-a-day citizens with samrtphones and Sunday Worship Services are his own family. He's a bully, but he's too conceited to realize that fact. He is what he detests and doesn't know it.
I wanted to learn from this man about WHY Scotch is a great libation and how to enjoy it. I wanted to learn about hardwoods and canoes. I expected to discover what he thinks about as he plays his popular character and what he taps into. I wanted some tips on fishing waters in the Mid-West. I wanted to be amused, by a comedic actor, a pretty low bar. What I got instead was a tale of how lucky Nick Offerman is, what he likes and dislikes, and an undeveloped philosophy that you could pick up from any barfly.
These aren't fundamentals for living. Even if I agree with half of his admittedly unbaked world view, I bought this book to be entertained. It failed in that regard. I won't stop watching and enjoying Mr Offerman's characters, and I admit that being Nick Offerman sounds really cool, but if you want some fundamentals for living, skip this book and learn to tie some knots. If he means what he says, Mr. Offerman would be proud of you for it.