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I listened to the audiobook of this book (which I highly recommend as it is narrated by the author and who doesn't love Nick Offerman's voice?) and enjoyed it. I liked Offerman's idea of creating a list of inspirational Americans who exhibited gumption and did great things.
The list of people included in this book is varied. It features many prominent figures in history as well as people I had never heard of but am definitely interested in learning more about (at the end of this review, you can find the list of people mentioned in its entirety).
Overall, I thought this was a good book. Yes, Offerman goes off on weird tangents and sometimes it's hard to keep track of who he is even talking about. Yes, he uses ridiculously big words that are really unnecessary most of the time. But the book is also funny, educational, and inspirational. It is a great way to learn about some amazing Americans and their contributions in an entertaining way.
I didn't necessary agree with or like all of the people included in the list, but it was still interesting to hear various anecdotes and Offerman's reasons for choosing them. Interesting book. Highly recommend the audiobook.
This book features chapters on:
Part 1: Freemasons: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Frederick Douglass
Part 2: Idealists: Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tom Laughlin, Wendell Berry, Barney Frank, Yoko Ono, Michael Pollan
Part 3: Markers: Thomas Lie-Nielsen, Nat Benjamin, George Nakashima, Carol Burnett, Jeff Tweedy, George Saunders, Laurie Anderson, Willie Nelson, Conan O'Brien
I got one and a half cds out of six listened to, took a break, and then spent a solid week avoiding going back to it. I listened to five or six episodes of The Lost Cat podcast, a couple of In Our Time, some Fresh Air, about an hour of James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, and a couple shows on the CBC, and every time, I thought, "Oh, I should go back to that Saunders book," I shook my head and decided I needed to wash my hair.
This should be everything I want in a book: ghosts, Abraham Lincoln, Man Booker Prize winners, but in the end it just came off as unbearably pretentious.
There are entire chapters of one to two sentence primary source quotes describing the setting, one after the other, and okay, clearly it's a terribly clever stylistic choice, or something (I don't really get litfic a lot of the time), but it's hard to avoid the aura of "Hey, I did all this research let me show it to you!" without having done the work of actually integrating it.
The non-interminable quote chapters were... fine? I guess. It's mostly a bunch of ghost who for various reasons have refused to move on hanging out and watching Lincoln completely fail to deal with his dead kid. Apparently Lincoln's failure to deal is an epic amount of emotion never seen in a cemetery before. Which seems unlikely, but I guess Lincoln's just that much of a special snowflake! Even in mourning was he extraordinary.
There's not that much to say about the ghosts. One's an old dude who won't admit that he died because he was about to finally get laid. He keeps making poop jokes. One's an anachronistic Whitman joke who killed himself. One perpetually sexually assaults a female ghost. None of them had much of interest to add.
Maybe I quit too early, but I just feel like a graveyard full of ghosts haunting Abraham Lincoln should have a bit more going on. Anyway, life is too short.
Offerman is a lucky guy would had a good childhood, a good and meaningful college time, followed by the rest of his life, working hard at work and crafts he appreciates (which is mostly being silly, but also involves building canoes). He has a good work ethic and a seemingly kind heart, as well as a seriously advanced sense of humor. It's delightful to read a memoir by someone who understands that his life is very good and that he's lucky to have so many sources of pleasure.
On the downside, he has a very strong personality which won't appeal to all readers and which can become rather much of a muchness. Everyone's mileage is likely to vary a great deal.