Paddle Your Own Canoe

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).

Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
  3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  5. Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  6. It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
  7. Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
  8. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  9. Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
  10. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
  11. Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
  12. Bus Stop, William Inge
  13. The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
  14. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
  16. Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
  17. Wait for You, J. Lynn
  18. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
  20. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  22. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  23. Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
  24. Airships, Barry Hannah
  25. Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
  26. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  28. Joe, Larry Brown
  29. Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
  30. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  31. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  32. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  33. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  34. Angels in America Part One: Millennium ApproachesTony Kushner
  35. Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
  36. The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  38. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  39. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  40. Paper Towns, John Green
  41. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  42. Shame, Salman Rushdie
  43. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  44. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  45. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  46. Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
  47. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  48. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  49. Dragonfly in AmberDiana Gabaldon
  50. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  51. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
  52. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
  53. Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  54. After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  55. Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christie
  56. Divine Comedy Vol. II: Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri
  57. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
  58. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington
  59. Divine Comedy Vol. III: Paradiso, Dante Alighieri
  60. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  61. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  62. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone
  63. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  64. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  65. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  66. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  67. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh

Book #9: Paddle Your Own Canoe, by Nick Offerman

Nine books in a month seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

I started reading Paddle Your Own Canoe at the same time as Robert Penn Warren’s Brother to Dragons because Warren’s book wasn’t one that was easy to stop and start, so I didn’t really expect to finish it so quickly. Then I went on to read On Chesil Beach as well, so Offerman’s book was spending some time unopened.

Unfortunately, this was partially on purpose. I had a hard time enjoying reading Paddle Your Own Canoe for very long periods of time; I often felt bored or a bit annoyed by the book and had to move on.

By the end of the book, I think I generally enjoyed it more than I didn’t, but here’s a quick breakdown of what I think worked and where I felt the book fell short.

Good things:

  • Offerman is a good writer and clearly an informed reader. I appreciated his discussion of theatre history and writers because it helped me realize that he’s a very intellectual person.
  • He clearly loves his wife. It takes a long time to get to any real chapters about Megan Mullally, but Offerman is obviously in awe of her, and it’s very sweet.
  • His growing up is quite interesting, and I appreciate that Offerman still has a lot of the sentiment of a farm boy from Illinois.
  • There were several mentions of Kentucky, so that made me feel special.
  • He loves Friday Night Lights! But really, who wouldn’t?
  • Of course, I loved all mention of anything Parks and Rec-related. I wish there had been more of it.

Not-so-good things:

  • I felt like Offerman hit a lot of the same notes over and over again, but I kind of think this is more his editor’s fault than his own. When the same anecdotes and language is used repetitively, someone should fix it.
  • On that same note, there was a LOT of time in the first half of the book devoted to Offerman’s denunciation of religion. I’m not very easily offended, but I felt like the repeated annoyances with religion were unnecessary (and again, this could have been handled better with a more scrutinizing editor). Offerman’s continuous preaching that religious people are too closed-minded and ignorant sounded a bit hypocritical, if you ask me. Thankfully, he backed off this topic later in the book.
  • Generally, though he is a good writer, some of his language felt superfluous to me. He’s got a great vocabulary, but I’d much rather read a straight-forward, simple sentence than one that is bogged down with elevated language. It just felt like overkill sometimes.

So overall, a fairly enjoyable experience, but not exactly the experience I was expecting. I’m now down to my final days of freedom before school recommences, so I’m doing my best to enjoy these last moments of guilt-free entertainment while I can.