Jul 13, 2016

Gumption, by Nick Offerman

Ron Swanson. No mere sitcom character, this man has become an icon, a legend of masculinity, libertarianism, woodsmanship, and terseness. Offerman, who plays him, has a similar dry sense of humor and is a well-known woodworker, but there end the similarities. Offerman, despite being comfortable hunting an animal with a gun, is also a pretty damn liberal guy. Ostensibly, this is a book about twenty-one Americans who Offerman believes has his most valued trait: gumption. Gumption is a grouping of characteristics - passionately caring for something, perseverance in the face of difficulty, kindness and love for all human beings, tenacity and a painstakingly-curated skill. His list includes early presidents, artists and woodworkers, comedians, and writers. Some are obvious (George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt), some are surprising or at least lesser known (Yoko Ono, Wendell Berry).

The prevailing theme through these histories and discussions are Offerman's very strong feelings about kindness and human decency. He's made no secret of his predilections and beliefs, many of which he set out in his first book, and he's not shy to press his point. Christians who disapprove of gays and transgenders get a fair chunk of his wrath, as do racists, sexists, and bigots of all kind. He's preaching to the choir, though, as the vast majority of people who pick up his book will probably agree with him. Still, it's nice to have someone respected and well-known stumping for the values I also believe in. Plus the book is fun! I learned a lot and Offerman's humor throughout make this a quick, enjoyable read. Well done, Mr. Offerman.

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