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An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  2,978 ratings  ·  374 reviews
April 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide--Read more about the conflict and the amazing life story of the man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda in this remarkable account Readers who were moved and horrified by Hotel Rwanda will respond even more intensely to Paul Rusesabagina’s unforgettable autobiography. As Rwanda was thrown into chaos during the 19 ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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I was only 12 years old when the genocide in Rwanda took place. I heard about it on the news my dad watched every night, but admittedly I was not exactly politically observant back then, and the news was nothing more than background noise to me, so I knew next to nothing when I saw "Hotel Rwanda". The movie was eye-opening, to say the least, and I was incredibly moved by it. But I hadn't known that Paul Rusesabagina had written a book until very recently when I happened to stumble on it here on ...more
Paul Rusesabagina became known as the man who hid "1,268 people" (pg. iv) inside the Hotel Mille Collines, in Rwanda's capital city of Kigali, in 1994. The refugees who stayed at Hotel Milles Collines were kept safe because Paul saved up gestures of goodwill as favors combined with the use of what appeared to be protection, luxury, friendly-natured relationships with Hutu leaders to stave off slaughters and other abuses from occurring at the hotel. Outside, "…800,000 people were butchered by the ...more
First, listening to this book on audio was extremely powerful. So much so that I actually had to stop the CD, stop the car, then turn it back on to listen to because it was so moving and was making it hard for me to concentrate on driving. The author manages to use direct language to tell his amazing story of being the manager of a hotel in Rwanda during the genocide. He managed to turn the hotel into a refugee base and, amazingly, held off the militia and other killers for 76 days, saving the l ...more
It's hard to review a true story about something terrible. An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography, though, isn't a book about the Rwandan massacre; it's a book about Paul Rusesabagina's experience of it. His voice, his personality, his clear-sightedness all come through brilliantly in this co-written autobiography.

What struck me most about this book was how apt the title is. Under extraordinary circumstances, this ordinary man did the extraordinary. He managed to keep more than 1200 people safe while
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 06, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Can Stomach It: Not for Faint of Heart
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: LibraryThing: Best African Books List
This is the memoir of Paul Ruseabagina, a hotel manager in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. With "a cooler of beer, a leather binder, and a hidden phone" he saved 1,268 people. This is the story of how he used those tools to schmooze and persuade and bribe and conjole to keep the killers from murdering those under his protection. He dealt with some odious people, but as he put it in his concluding chapter, "[e]xcept in extreme circumstances it very rarely pays to show hostility to the people in ...more
David P
The book's title is a wry understatement: it is an autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager whose courage, resourcefulness, shrewd tact and personal presence saved more than 1000 lives when a spasm of genocide swept Rwanda in 1994. It is the story of his entire life, from village childhood in the "country of a thousand hills" in central Africa, to reluctant exile after the genocide. If you have seen the film "Hotel Rwanda," you already know about him. But where a movie, even a powe ...more
Be careful with this story. Paul Rusesabagina is an incredibly controversial and unpopular character in Rwanda on all sides of the conflict, and not just because he's spoken out against Paul Kagame. Many Rwandese (including victims of the genocide) feel as if he exaggerated his tale in order to paint himself in the best light. For example, the idea that he was able to save lives by bribing the Interahamwe with the contents of a liquor cabinet is ludicrous. Many people believe that he was able to ...more
Elizabeth Nixon
I can't claim I know everything about this, or what happened during the genocide, but since I left for Rwanda in January, I've been hearing an entirely different story. This article summarizes what I've been hearing on the matter...again, not my expertise, but Rusesabagina is not a hero in Rwanda, and I think there's a good reason.
Paul Rusesabagina has been hailed, outside of Rwanda, as a hero. However, having spoken to Rwandans his story is full of inaccuracies and takes credit for other people's sacrifices. There are so many stories of selfless people during the genocide who did whatever they could to help their countrymen, this is not one of them.
This year marks the 20th anniversary since the terrible Rwandan genocide. I first saw the film Hotel Rwanda ten years ago, and recently thought to watch it again, not realizing it's been exactly twenty years since that tragedy. So I sought out Paul's book. I can't even imagine what it was like to go through something like that, and how he was able to keep a level head and save over 1,200 people in his hotel while thousands were murdered every day. And it came down to words. He would speak with t ...more
An autoboigraphy of Paul Rusesabagina, the man who inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda. I found the movie compelling and memorable and when I saw the book on Kimberlie's list decided I really wanted to read it. Having little knowledge of Rwanda, this book provided me with enough history to understand better the forces at work in Rwanda leading to the genocide of 1994, as well as enough of Paul's personal observations on the culture, geography, and personality of the people that I felt a love for the ...more
Paul Rusesabagina may be an ordinary man but he tells an extraordinary story. During the Rwandan genocide, he protected 1,268 people in the luxury hotel he was managing. His assets: a swimming pool full of water; a large supply of alcoholic beverages; a long list of important connections (many of whom owed him personal favors); a secret telephone line that was never cut; training in (and I'm sure a personal talent for) the art of negotiation. The swimming pool was for water rations. The rest was ...more
Stephanie Jewett
A quick read, but not a light one- in fact, after reading this on the train on the way home from work, I had to read something funny because I was so sad. And also angry that for 100 days the rest of the world did nothing to stop it: the US just debated whether or not it was really genocide, and the UN just pulled all of their people out, abandoning thousands to torture and murder.

The author is the subject of the film, Hotel Rwanda. His story of his efforts to save his family and as many of his
Although I've read so many books about Rwanda, I really enjoyed this book because you get a personal perspective from Paul himself. I learned a great deal about the history of the ethnic divide and Rwandan culture that I did not know before. It gave new insight to the background of the genocide. I also felt that Paul's poetic way of using metaphors to explain his thought process made this an easy read that flowed. He is a keen observer of human nature and human spirit. Many people have questione ...more
Dec 31, 2007 Lynne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those trying to understand genocide, evil, courage
Rusesabagina and his co-author, Tim Zoellner, in simple, direct language tell what it is like to be in hell...the genocide in Rwanda. The book makes it clear that history and fear can come together to unleash evil. The government controlled media play a critical role as well here. They also make the point that no human being is simply evil, that each has a soft side. It is that to which Rusesabagina appealed time and time again to save the people in his hotel. The book begins with a wonderful lo ...more
Paul Rusesabagina is an Oscar Schindler for Africa, for the late 20th century. Less than fifty years after the Nuremburg trials, with endless 'never again' promises ringing in the world's ears, a French-sponsored government killed a million people in a matter of weeks, leaving their corpses where they fell in their lust for another kill. The Clinton administration refused to help, the Mitterand presidency actively supported the killers, the Belgians bulked at the monster they had created and the ...more
Chenoa Siegenthaler
This book is a very well-written account of Rusesabagina's experience as a hotel manager during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He also explores the historical and sociological context for the events. It blew my mind. It's almost unbelievable to me that so many people could be led to do so many horrible deeds; and yet this book explores how this happened in such a way that it's a bit more within my comprehension how such things happen. I think this is a very important thing to be aware of, given t ...more
I thought about writing to Paul Rusesabagina after I read his book, not exactly sure what to say or what to tell him. I've found out later that he receives thousands of email per day. Whether this is his version of a "Rwandan no" to block off potential suitors via his emails, or whether the four digits implied in this comment is a matter of fact, I can't be sure. But I will send him an email anyway.

I remember a saying from a movie, in an attempt to differentiate between fact and fiction. Well, i
Paul Rusesabagina calls himself an "ordinary man," but what he did to save lives during the Rwandan genocide was far from ordinary. I was inspired to read his book after I heard his moving speech at the Alexander Street Press breakfast at the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas in June 2014. His account of what happened in Rwanda is horrifying, but he does an extraordinary job of explaining how it came about and how it ran its course. He doesn't hesitate to identify those respon ...more
Remember the movie "Hotel Rwanda"? Well, this autobiography is by the hotel manager who managed to protect over 1200 people during that country's 1994 genocide. It pays a tribute to the man's father, a wise elder in his village who taught his son to be fair and honest and to work things out through the use of words when at all possible. How the author kept his cool in the midst of total insanity is admirable. His comments at the end of the book are insightful.
Lauren Morris
I could not put this one down! Rusesabagina does an amazing job at re-telling his role during the Rwandan Genocide. His story is vivid and filled with background knowledge on the country of Rwanda and why it is so hard for Rwanda to escape it's history of war and bloodshed. I found myself folding pages and making notes for how I will use this in class. Definitely want to have the students read excerpts from the book when we study this in class.
Miriam Michalak
It's 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda so an appropriate time to read Paul Rusesabagina's story.

Paul became known as the man who hid 1,200 people inside the Hotel Mille Collines, in Rwanda's capital city of Kigali, in 1994. His story was made famous with the film Hotel Rwanda which I had watched a while back. This book fills out the details, explains the tribal/political/historical background toe the genocide and we read of Paul's personal perspective on what happened back then.

Paul is an 'O
This book gets a 5 because Paul Rusesabagina was amazing! It is hard to comprehend how genocide can happen. He was able to explain the history and interactions of his country and the people. Basically good people. He was able to accomplish amazing things in saving those he sheltered in "Hotel Rwanda". It is embarrassing to realize how little the US did and the United Nations to stop it and help. It has happened in countries more than once, the largest and most prolonged being in Germany. It is f ...more
This book is probably the most important book I've read this year. While some of the timing confused me, it was overall very well-written. It went into great detail in a very distinct perspective.
M. Starks
I heard about the genocide when I was still in Junior high all those years ago, and I remember how it made me sick to my stomach knowing that people were being murdered in horrific ways all because of the the way they looked. As a child, I had longed to do something but had stuffed my feelings down because I didn't know where to start or what I, a child, could possibly even do. This story is from an amazing man who did all in his power what he could to save four hours (explained in the introduct ...more
First two sentences say it all. Good book, but doesn't answer the question why people would rather read about an aftermath than fix the present.
Shannon Mitrovich
Paul brings an entire new meaning to the word brave. Even when watching the seriousness of the situation in the film, "Hotel Rwanda" you can't really understand without hearing him speak. I am so disappointed with the Clinton Administration on how they handled this situation. To send the military in to help clean up all the dead bodies when you had the chance to stop it makes me incredibly sad. This man put his life on the line several times to help the lives of strangers when he had the opportu ...more
Sharon Brown
May 02, 2014 Sharon Brown rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone and Everyone
I found this book on Amazon after watching Hotel Rwanda last month and realizing that April marked 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda. Paul Rusesabagina is a remarkable man. The things he was able to pull off, the things he did because he knew they were right thing do, and the people who's lives he saved in that time when people either just turned the other way or participated in the atrocities is just beyond beautiful to me. I think EVERYONE should read this book as I feel everybody can take ...more
This was a hard book to read, but an important one. This 200-page book was my introduction to the details of the 1994 Rwandan genocide told through one individual's experience. Rusesabagina, whose story was told in the film Hotel Rwanda, was a hotel manager who sheltered over one thousand refugees in his hotel during the massacre by taking risks and calling in favors to the powerful people who had regularly stayed in his hotel. What is just as important as the facts of his story are his reflecti ...more
I've never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda (watching it soon, though!) so this book was a real eye-opener. I must have been asleep in 1994. Or maybe I was going through a divorce (yes). But I don't remember this story on the news. Maybe I'm just still as self-centered as I've always been. Whatever, I found the whole story appalling, and, even more so, that the U.S. didn't intervene while thousands of people were being literally butchered in the streets. Even though Rusesabagina claims to be an ordin ...more
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Book vs. Movie 1 3 Dec 02, 2012 08:15PM  
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“This is why I say that the individual's most potent weapon is a stubborn belief in the triumph of common decency.” 12 likes
“Kindness is not an illusion and violence is not a rule. The true resting state of human affairs is not represented by a man hacking his neighbor into pieces with a machete. That is a sick aberration. No, the true state of human affairs is life as it ought to be lived.” 11 likes
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