Book Review: ‘Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living’ by Nick Offerman

You will most likely recognize Nick Offerman as the anti-government government worker, Ron Swanson from the fantastic show Parks & Recreation. The real man isn’t too far from living up to the awesomeness that is his fictional counterpart. Now while his political philosophy may not be as hardcore in real life, he is just as much a man’s man and a complete badass. He’s also a die hard Cubs fan, so there is that too.

This book is primarily autobiographical. Nick tells tales of his childhood, his life, his struggles and everything in-between. He spends a good deal of time talking about the men who helped shape him into who he is.

He also discusses his love of the Cubs, his love of woodworking and his sweet breakdancing skills. He covers his thoughts on diet and health, which is important coming from the man who on television only ever seems to eat turf & turf while pillaging through cigars and Scotch. He also goes into facial hair, which is just one of many things that he has earned expert status on.

The highpoint and best parts of the book, which are sprinkled throughout, are the times where he talks about his love for his wife, Megan Mullally. The book is almost a love letter to his wife and although it is somewhat mushy and sweet, it still comes off manly as fuck and is a good lesson to other men on how to treat and see their wives or girlfriends.

Finishing this book, I wasn’t left unsatisfied. I expected it to be a good primer on who Nick Offerman is and I was left with a lot more than that. There isn’t a chapter in this book that one can’t learn something from. Paddle Your Own Canoe is not just a well-written, educational and entertaining book, it is a valuable book.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Nick Offerman’s other books: Gumption and Good Clean Fun.

Book Review: ‘Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk’ by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

I really don’t think that there is a better book on punk music.

Please Kill Me is pretty unique. It is a large book full of compelling and eye-opening stories told first hand by the artists and people who were there. It is a piece of work that delves deeper into the history of punk rock more than anything else I’ve ever encountered in any medium. It leaves no stone unturned and gives you more insight than you would ever expect.

Each chapter focuses on a specific subject or era in time throughout early punk’s history and it is told orally, albeit written down, by dozens upon dozens of those who were in the thick of this iconic cultural movement. The highlights for me were the bits told by or about Iggy Pop. Dude, was an even more interesting character than I had realized.

Whether you are into punk or not, this is still thoroughly enjoyable. If you are just a big fan of music in general or that period of time, this book is an eye-opener. The words and tales of those in this book are like a time machine, bringing the reader back to that exciting and innovative time. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Other books on the history of punk and rock music: Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean TrampMeet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman and Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad.

Book Review: ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau

*Written in 2014.

The $100 Startup was an awesome and inspiring read. Actually, I read it twice back-to-back.

The book tells several stories of people who started their own businesses for very little money, how they marketed themselves, found a good niche and became great successes. The stories within these pages helped me cultivate some ideas I have been mulling over and it pushed me in the direction of working towards my ultimate goal, creating something solely my own that makes me money and affords me the ability to work where I want, when I want and how I want.

This book isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme that promises the universe but gives you nothing. This book preaches hard work, ingenuity and gives one the tools to succeed. The tools aren’t even that complicated and this book keeps things simple and straightforward.

There are a lot of books on startups but this one takes the cake, in my opinion. It can’t guarantee your success but it can certainly prepare you for what’s ahead if you take the journey. It also has enough depth and several examples to help get your idea machine churning.

All in all, it is a pretty invaluable book.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other books by Chris Guillebeau.

Book Review: Tales from the Cobra Wars – A G.I. Joe Anthology

Since I have been knee deep in IDW’s G.I. Joe comics, as of late, I decided to pick up this book that exists within that same universe. It is an anthology of novella and short story length tales by various writers. It was edited by Max Brooks (son of the uber talented Mel Brooks, as well as the author of World War Z and its spiritual predecessor, The Zombie Survival Guide).

Sadly, I wasn’t pulled into this book in the same way that I’ve been pulled into IDW’s comics. Maybe my mind just needed that extra visual element but to be honest, the stories just didn’t have the excitement that the comics have had for me.

The first chapter was a Snake Eyes story by talented G.I. Joe comics writer Chuck Dixon. I love Dixon’s work and I can’t praise it enough but this tale didn’t really cut the mustard for me. I’m not a fan of Dixon’s prose, I guess. That’s not a knock against it but his writing is very “point A to point B” without a lot of flourish. Despite something cool happening in the story, the style just feels bland to me.

The other tales aren’t much better. Nothing is truly boring but nothing is truly exciting either.

I’m assuming I’m not alone in my assessment of this collection, as there was never any sort of follow up to it. Had it been a success, IDW would’ve probably kept pumping these out like their G.I. Joe comics.

Still, if you’re a hardcore fan, it’s hard not to pick this up. The cover art is solid and it will look good on a shelf wedged between other G.I. Joe titles.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: IDW’s run of G.I. Joe comic book titles.

Book Review: ‘Bacon: A Love Story’ by Heather Lauer

*Written in 2014.

This is a book about bacon. It is also written by the original bacon blogger, Heather Lauer. Her awesome blog Bacon Unwrapped is here.

Bacon: A Love Story, A Salty Survey of Everybody’s Favorite Meat is an epic read for lovers of the infamous and tastiest of all of the meats available on this planet we call Earth.

Now while I say epic, the book is actually a hair over 200 pages. While that may seem too short to be a proper epic, the amount of information and knowledge within those pages is immense.

Several subjects on bacon are covered, from cooking and curing with time honored traditions and how bacon has been a force within pop culture. There are lists of chefs and venues that share the love of bacon and the book contains a multitude of baconcentric recipes. There are random bacon facts and comedic bits also sprinkled throughout this literary masterpiece. There is a lot to take in but if you worship bacon, as I and the author do, you will appreciate every page and every word of this book.

I don’t know if Heather Lauer is married but to put it bluntly, she has won over my mind and my stomach.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly Dipucchio and Eric Wright

Book Review: ’100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’ by Tab Bamford

*Written in 2014.

I recently reviewed the Chicago Cubs version of this book.

While Cubbie blue is what runs through my veins, I still have almost the same amount of love for the Chicago Blackhawks. Especially over the last several years, seeing this team win two championships in four years and knowing that the current team could reach dynasty status in the next few seasons. (note: they have since won four in six years)

I loved this book. Actually, I just love the formula of this series of books. Like the Cubs one, this book gave me 100 factoids that weren’t just recycled from every other similar book. There was a lot here that was new to me and the stories were great.

I can’t not praise this series enough, and this volume just reinforces my opinion. I think I’ll get a few more of these in the future, as they are interesting enough to make me want to read ones that aren’t even of teams I like.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other books in this large series.

Book Review: ‘Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive’ by Les Stroud

If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel show Survivorman, you should know who Les Stroud is. He is, in my opinion, the best survival expert in the world today. His show was always the most realistic, most practical and wasn’t full of staged bullshit for dramatic effect. What you saw with Stroud is what you got, which is the same with this book.

Survive! follows the tradition of Stroud being the best, as it is the best book on survival that I have read. Take my word for it, I’ve read quite a bit throughout the years.

Stroud covers pretty much everything you need to know. If you have watched his show, you should be familiar with most of what is discussed in this book. However, unlike his television series, the book is able to go into greater detail on every subject and skill that you should understand and master.

From a writing standpoint, Stroud puts a lot of himself into his words and his personality comes through in the book, which just adds to the awesomeness of the experience. He also comments on several misconceptions and some of the bullshit survival tactics put out there by other survival “experts” who are just trying to make shocking television while selling survival gear with their own name brand on it.

Les Stroud cuts through the crap and gets right down to business, which in a survival situation, is what one needs. So put down the elephant poop cocktail and delve into something far less gross and more realistic.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Other books by Les Stroud.