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Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,848 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews
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In Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Amy Krouse Rosenthal has ingeniously adapted the centuries-old format of the encyclopedia
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 6th 2005 by Broadway Books (first published January 25th 2005)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  5,848 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews

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Jules Q
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: creative minds
I rarely give a book a perfect 10 on the ratings scale, but I have to do so in this case. It’s not that the book itself is perfect, nor the author extremely engaging in her own right, but I found the experience of reading it to be a magical one. I was thoroughly inspired at every sitting, my creativity just bursting upon reading each entry. I want to create an encyclopedia of my own life! And for that boost I applaud Rosenthal. I am viewing my world with new eyes and a notepad in hand. No other ...more
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing

I was listening to NPR one rainy day in my car and there was, I think, a This American Life segment that mentioned this and it stuck... Amy Rosenthal gets it. And I hate her for it. I hate her and I love her. I should BE her… but that would require motivation and inspiration and for me to go back six years and kick her butt into NOT writing this so that I could.

Just from the cover… ’I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is m
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: boring people, boring people who think they're interesting because they're privileged & sheltered
i don't know why i read this. i am annoyed by people who claim to have had "ordinary" lives due to the fact that they aren't abuse survivors or homeless or drug addicts or whatever. hey jerks, newsflash: living through a bunch of really difficult consitions & situations doesn't make a person "interesting," & having been nestled in the bosom of everything that is ozzie-&-harriet white bread middle-class american dream americana doesn't make a person "ordinary". it's pretty fucking EXTRAordinary, ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
This small book is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's commentary on life, specifically hers, organized alphabetically. Which means it's all about Amy.

It was OK. I'm not complaining about her writing skills; she has nothing to blush for. But the book itself--the content--did not work for me.

There were a few times where I said Yes! That is exactly how I feel! But mostly it was a study in not-like-ness. Oh, there were a few times when I said Ewww! or (eyebrows raised, eyes half-closed, mouth scrunched up) You
Linda Hart
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A happy Memoir...all through this book I kept saying, "That's me! I do that!" and it was weirdly validating and hilarious. ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
There was something poignant about reading Amy Krouse Rosenthal's memoir, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I checked it out of the library when I read her piece in The New York Times, "You May Want to Marry My Husband," Rosenthal wrote the essay when she knew she was dying of ovarian cancer. Ten days after the piece appeared, she died.

Because Rosenthal's memoir was published in 2004, before she started publishing her children's books, it doesn't discuss them. Instead, it
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amanda by: It's Kim's favorite
10/6--Kim, are you out there? Are you listening?
You're Amy Krouse Rosenthal, aren't you?
Me, too!!!

10/10--In a brief half hour of stillness, I open my book. And my breath is stolen by the entry on Dying. A sudden snap, and life as we know it is over. And not so much by our own death, but by the death of someone we love or of someone we don't even know. This entry tells me that Amy Krouse Rosenthal has a hole in her heart that can't be filled by all the funny encyclopedia entries in the world, no
Lara Lillibridge
This is one of my favorite memoirs. It is written as a series of encyclopedic entries in alphabetical order. Rosenthal’s book starts with what she titles an “Orientation almanac,” which is basically a list of facts about life in the US between 2000-2005. She lists things like top CNN stories, cost of living averages, but also, “what we call the other driver when angry” and
“what we say when we bang our knee on the corner of the table, burn a hand on a hot skillet, or get frustrated trying to unt
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amy by: Liza
Shelves: ho-hum, bookcrossing
Interesting concept -- an encyclopedia of an ordinary life, but in actual practice it wears thin fairly quickly. There are enchanting tidbits, but as a regular diet for this reader, it left me hungry for plot, story, and substance.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
This didn't work for me. It wasn't so much the format as the fact that I didn't find Rosenthal nearly as interesting as she does. Her assertion that she's somehow 'normal' because she didn't have any addiction/abuse/trauma/poverty in her life got right up my nose. Lucky, sure. Normal? Fuck that.

This book's conceit is rather novel. Clever author creates own encyclopedia of everyday things, dropping in her own thoughts on same. It seems easy. It seems to reward anyone willing to keep a journal. It seems it's too late to try the same trick, now that it's been ruined.


This book has this in spades because boy, howdy, if you don't know Amy Krouse Rosenthal's every little notion by the end, you're thicker than Jimmy Hoffa's last pair of cement shoes.


May 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-commented
amy krouse rosenthal writes with the exact same flair and random brilliance as every single one of my friends -- perhaps why this book wasn't as unusual and unique as i expected. though there were some passages i was compelled to read aloud to anyone who'd listen, i mostly had the nagging feeling that i already know amy from somewhere, maybe chicago where i too grew up. she mentions names of people i'm familiar with like greg allen of the neo-futurists, and the whole concept and brevity of the c ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: being-human
Discovering Amy Krouse Rosenthal's work after her death is like getting a shot of pure optimism with a chaser of pure sadness. What an exceptional human being who made the most out of what the world had to offer.

I truly just can't even put into words how I feel about this person, who is a stranger and a best friend all wrapped into one.

Also, the greatest truth there ever was: "I am a slow reader, and fast eater; I wish it were the other way around."

Also, the list of "sounds that are loud though
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was so quirky and random that I couldn’t help loving it.

It was rather bittersweet to read the author’s insight on the ordinary after reading about her death and her article to find her husband a new wife.

I must read more of her work.

Don’t expect this to read like s novel or normal memoir. It is snippets in alphabetical order. Very fun and insightful.
Mar 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
cute idea, but it'd be much funnier if someone you actually knew wrote it. in a blog. and wasn't so cute about it. ...more
Cynthia Paschen
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Funny and Sad. I laughed, I cried.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
If I wanted to be cliché, I might write, "Amy Krouse Rosenthal, in her unusual memoir, turns the ordinary life into the extraordinary life." But I'd be totally wrong. There is nothing "extraordinary" about her life as it is catalogued in the encyclopediac entries that comprise this book, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth reading. In fact, Rosenthal's book isn't simply original in its approach and hard to put down, it captures the harmless (and shameless) self-aggrandizing we partake in as we ...more
Katie Hamilton
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If this were a proper review of this memoir, there would be tables, charts, timelines, and arrows navigating you from witty comment to childhood memory and back again. But I am not nearly as gifted a writer as Amy and in fact, I can only hope to be half as talented as she is one day. Her book has easily become one of my favorites due to her unique style, endless wit, and relatable humor. I found myself audibly exclaiming, “Yes!”, in nostalgic agreement with her thoughts and anecdotes. Ingeniousl ...more
Mind the Book
Unik och underbar.

"Work must reflect randomness of life, with its incessant, merciless, almost humorous bombardment of highly contrasting emotions and experiences."
I really like how Amy's memoirs shift my thinking, even just a little. Fun, creative, light reading. ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I’m keenly interested in alternative memoirs so buying this book, and reading it in an afternoon, was a a no-brainer. Reviewing it isn’t as easy. Sometimes it was a 5/5, like when Amy so perfectly described that feeling I get when pulling off the road to allow an ambulance to get through:

“It’s as if us little cars on the side of the road are cheering, Go! Go! You can do it! Go, important ambulance, go! The experience invariably leaves me feeling proud and giddy.”

There were lots and lots of momen
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars

This book just wasn't for me. The unique formatting was fun, but Amy just came across as this pretentious, wealthy white woman. She spoke about thinking her maid had stolen something for just a second before finding where she had misplaced it and then later talked about wealthy people having giant pictures. If you have a maid you are wealthy compared to most other people in the world. It just seems a lot like she isn't acknowledging her privilege as she flaunts it throughout this book.
Leigh Anne
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I love this encyclopedia form of memoir and the quirkiness of her entries - a true look into her personality. I only wonder what took me so long to read this!
Memoirs have been the hot thing for a while now and it seems as if they are all trying to one up the other. "I divorced my husband and traveled to India, Bali, and Italy and found myself AND a new husband!" "Well, I cooked every one of Julia Child's recipes for a whole year!" "Well, I was stranded with my arm chopped under a boulder for days and I finally decided to amputate it myself!" (Can you guess the books?) Although I'm poking fun at them, I truly enjoyed all of these books. They inspire y ...more
I could kick myself! Why didn't I think of this idea? The author got paid for an encyclopedic listing of random thoughts, anecdotes, and ephemera from her life? How awesome is that? I think everybody should do this! Everyone has stories to tell. Being that the author is close to my age, I could relate to so many of her observations on growing up in the 60s and 70s, contemporary culture, motherhood, marriage. I loved the drawings, charts, and graphs that accompanied the entries. (In fact, I would ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a Christmas gift from M. "Open it," she talk-whispered.

In it, a note scribbled on a piece of notepad from my most recent business trip:
"This must seem weird- not something you asked for. Powell's had Sherman Alexie write a blog about what he was giving people for Christmas. I thought he'd send it to you if he knew. xo"

I burst into HappyChristmasTears, and she asked what was wrong. Nothing, I assured her. I just really love it.


I've just finished reading it today, 12/27/
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life after finishing a long, ambitious novel that fell short of its pretensions. The encyclopedia is quite un-ambitious, and that was exactly what I needed as a follow-up. Amy Krouse Rosenthal is witty, and she's self-aware enough to realize that none of what she's writing is particularly profound, and that's perfectly fine.

At the beginning, Rosenthal sets out to explain to posterity what life is like in the early twenty-first century. I find it interesting
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Who suggested this book to me? Thank you, whoever you are! This book was just so wonderful. The author is a woman who wanted to write a kind of memoir but didn't really like the traditional style, so it is instead written as lists, timelines, and a series of alphabetical topics.

Reading this book made me so happy because I felt like I was sitting down and spending time with friends and family. The section on magazines made me think of Leeann. The lists and the author's love of puns and wordplay
“A rainy day comes as a relief. Rain is your pass to stay inside, to retreat. It's cozy and safe, hanging out on this side of the gray. But then the sun comes out in the afternoon, and there's disappointment, even fear, because the world will now resume, and it expects your participation. People will get dressed and leave their houses and go places and do things. Stepping out into the big, whirling, jarringly sunny world--a world that just a few minutes ago was so confined and still and soft and ...more
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A nice, quick read. This is the type of book you keep in your bag to read in waiting rooms and long lines - the short encyclopedia-like entries make the book easy to skip around in and start and stop reading without getting lost.
Several of the entries are very poignant, and some are sad, but most of them are just really random and funny.

When the instructor on an exercise video says great! and good job! and yes, that's it!, it's so pat
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Amy Krouse Rosenthal was.
She divided her time.


Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a person who liked to make things.
Some things she liked to make include:

Children's books. (Little Pea, Spoon, DuckRabbit)
Grown-up books. (Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life)
Short films. (The Beckoning of Lovely, The Money Tree)
Guided journals. (The Belly Book)
Something o

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“I am a slow reader, and fast eater; I wish it were the other way around.” 29 likes
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