Nick Offerman shocked hundreds of fans gathered on our second floor Tuesday night when he stepped behind the podium sporting a clean-shaven face. “I’m a character actor,” he was forced to explain, “not Ron Swanson.” But while he’s officially retired from his desk in Pawnee, Offerman provided the audience with a reading list that might as well have been a tribute to his Parks and Recreation counterpart. Both men seem to share a love of common sense, physical labor, tests of endurance, and a reverence for nature. Also, based on these covers, an inescapable affinity for the mustache.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
“Spectacles glittering, teeth and temper flashing, high-pitched voice rasping and crackling, Roosevelt surges out of these pages with the force of a physical presence.” – The Atlantic Monthly
“Theodore Roosevelt, in this meticulously researched and beautifully written biography, has a claim on being the most interesting man ever to be President of this country.”
-Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review
-Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find: the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. It is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron. Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide.Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
In the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation and the first president of the United States. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one volume biography of George Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his adventurous early years, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America’s first president. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow shatters forever the stereotype of George Washington as a stolid, unemotional figure and brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods.
Fidelity by Wendell Barry
With Fidelity, Wendell Berry revisits the Port William membership, a fictional rural community in contemporary America. These five stories explore the love, trust, and wisdom of people modern society often neglects: small farmers, housekeepers, people who work the land and know their roots. Their “common” sense is their sense of community, compassion, and reverence for nature – values that must become common again if our society is to survive, if the earth itself is to survive.These tales, and the people they tell of, are woven together by an unshakable love and faithfulness. This fidelity is present in Elton, Mary Penn’s husband, who sees that his wife is ill and asks a friend to look after her, and in the men who walk into the late night to check on flooded neighbors in “Are You All Right?” And it is present in Henry Catlett, Danny Branch’s lawyer, as he explains to the detective investigating Burley’s kidnap, “A man has disappeared from your world, Mr. Bode. He has disappeared into his people and his place, not to be found in this world again forever.”
Our Only World by Wendell Barry
The planet’s environmental problems respect no national boundaries. From soil erosion and population displacement to climate change and failed energy policies, American governing classes are paid by corporations to pretend that debate is the only democratic necessity and that solutions are capable of withstanding endless delay. Late Capitalism goes about its business of finishing off the planet. And we citizens are left with a shell of what was once proudly described as The American Dream. In this new collection of eleven essays, Berry confronts head-on the necessity of clear thinking and direct action. Never one to ignore the present challenge, he understands that only clearly stated questions support the understanding their answers require. For more than fifty years we’ve had no better spokesman and no more eloquent advocate for the planet, for our families, and for the future of our children and ourselves.