Nick Offerman returns to familiar territory in newest book

Chris Duncan

Two kinds of people will read Nick Offerman’s new book — those who understand woodworking jargon and those who don’t. Fortunately, there are fun times to be had no matter your talent with carpentry.

Commonly known for his role on “Parks and Recreation” as the freedom-loving outdoorsman Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman dabbles in everything from voice acting to stand-up comedy and writing. But what most people don’t know is that Offerman also owns and operates a woodshop in Los Angeles. With his newest book, “Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Workshop,” he offers a look into the world of woodworking while bringing his signature brand of humor into the mix, crafting an entertaining read. Offerman will talk about his recent publication Nov. 5 at the Texas Book Festival.

For people who might not understand sandpaper grit and hewing, Offerman and his fellow woodworkers, including his father and brother, explain most of the basics needed to understand what’s happening, including details on wood selection and explanations of proper staining technique. In terms of the many craft tutorials Offerman has to offer, he works from least to most difficult, incorporating stories of the goings-on at the shop. 

The most dedicated of craftsman might find themselves a bit out of place here, especially since the instructions and tips tend to cater toward those who may not want to know the intricacies of every little step. To bring in additional content and keep all different skill levels drawn in, Offerman always offers a humorous take on the simplicities of life. It’s the details here that keep the book going, whether it’s a personal anecdote or an employee’s origin story like that of Krys Shelley, who found woodworking as a hobby after spending 12 years in prison for a second-degree carjacking. The little things help the reader grasp the overall picture of the diversity of Offerman Workshop.

Although the individual stories are entertaining within themselves, “Good Clean Fun” shines in its visuals as well. The pictures and graphics that tie everything together are easily the book’s main attraction. It’s tough to ignore this book solely because of its warm aesthetic.

The main issue “Good Clean Fun” faces isn’t one of quality, but rather how much dust it will collect. Once this 350-plus-page behemoth has had its once-over, there’s little reason to come back to it. This is a deviation from Offerman’s previous two books, which had greater lasting effects and contained powerful stories rather than snippets and highlights of the author’s favorite hobby.

The few sections of the book that stand a chance of drawing the reader back in are its instructions on woodworking and, oddly enough, some old-school cooking recipes for simple American dishes toward the end of the book. The occasional tidbit of life advice might be worth a sticky note, but beyond that, Offerman’s stories don’t
demand a second sit-down.

For this reason, the recommendation for “Good Clean Fun” is simple: Buy it if you want a heck of a coffee table book, otherwise borrow it from a friend or the local library. It’s a fantastic visual experience and
Offerman provides the humor and friendliness a woodcraft magazine never could, but based solely on future returns and its hefty price tag of $35, anything but the most dedicated of fans will need to mull over the decision to buy this book.

“Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Workshop”
By Nick Offerman
Rating: 8/10