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Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life: 1

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,652 Ratings  ·  856 Reviews
How do you conjure a life? Give the truest account of what you saw, felt, learned, loved, strived for?

For Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the surprising answer came in the form of an encyclopedia. In Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life she has ingeniously adapted this centuries-old format for conveying knowledge into a poignant, wise, often funny, fully realized memoir. Using mostly s
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published (first published January 25th 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 my
Jules Q
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 EXT ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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.


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
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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."
Mar 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Caiti S
Aug 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun example of creative non-fiction. It is a memoir (of sorts) told in encyclopedia form—with entries, charts, lists, and illustrations—rather than in a sequential story. Rosenthal recognizes that she has had an entirely ordinary life (probably like most of us too) so the content was a mix of her personal and often quirky observations along with excerpts that will resonate with their universal truths. Some entries made me laugh out loud and others made me exclaim, "Me too!" I don't kno ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Liza
Shelves: bookcrossing, ho-hum
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.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an interesting writer. She embraces her mundane life and crafts it into a fascinating memoir with this book. The format inspires personal memoir writing.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have loved this book anyway, but if Amy hadn't died this past spring, I would have written to the author, and she would have written back. She answered all her email, bless her. I read Amy's picture books to my kids and some of my students. I read her love letter to her husband, written as she was dying, written in the guise of personal ad for applicants to meet and fall in love with her husband so he wouldn't be left alone once she actually died. Thousand, maybe millions, did. It is fun ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book for it's simple realness: "The sandwich must have mayonnaise."
....a coffee and a couple of minutes here and there is how I read it. I couldn't sit down with it without remembering that Amy is forever gone. Like Ken, the cancer finally stole her away and now her "ordinary life" is done. And I wonder about her family and their grieving process and how her life, to them, must now seem so very much more than "ordinary".

"Tears...As a teenager Love Story made me cry in the hugest w
Liz Gray
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I experience a sense of poignancy when reading a memoir by someone who has died recently, particularly someone who died before her life's work was complete, and that is certainly true for this book. I enjoyed Rosenthal's first memoir much more than her most recent one, "Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal." She uses the encyclopedia format to share the "story" of her life, and is successful in conveying the essence of who she is, the context (both familial and cultural) in which she grew up, and what ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hate giving this book 2 stars. I dove into it so excited - even the pre-actual book pages were delightful. Then I got into the "Orientation Almanac," and call me prudish, but there were far too many f-bombs thrown so callously in light of showing what the world was like when she wrote it. I was so cozied in from everything else that it made it worse.

I decided to try further, and gathered speed and happiness in the encyclopedia section. I determined the initial section just needed to be staple
Vikki VanSickle
What a joyful celebration of the small, seemingly mundane moments of life. I am a fan of Rosenthal's picture books but a late-comer to her work for adults. I was charmed and moved by this autobiography, told in lists and alphabetic entries. It is full of life, personality, hope, cheeky wit, and little truths that allow the reader glimpses into the author's life but also a means to reflect upon your own. This is a book you could give to people at any point in their lives- "big" ones like graduati ...more
Sue Jackson
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, memoir
I just heard the horrible news that Amy Krouse Rosenthal died of cancer a few days ago. Born in the same year as me, a writer who grew up in the suburbs of the 70's, I felt a connection to her. As she put it, "we shared a moment (in the form of an e-mail exchange)" back in 2010, after I reviewed her book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (which I loved). In fact, she just e-mailed me again in October to tell me about her new book, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I had no idea she was battling can ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Was reading this at the same time as Mindy Kaling and enjoyed so much more.

Some of the best world illustrations or life (real life) I have read. "I say snowflakes on your eyelashes, you can fell it, can't you. You are there, on the snowy day." "In the end, no one really wants to hear about your trip." All so true.

A really good book if you want to remember your childhood in the 80s. What a gift to her family and those who truly know her.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
She was me. RIP, Amy.
Georgia Taylor
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-tips
Unique and beautiful!
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amy Krause Rosenthal, When I read

When I'm happy
When I'm sad
When I miss sincerity
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book way back in 8th grade and I remember loving it. I even did a book talk on it and presented it to my english class. But now I am very tempted to read it again because I don't think my young mind comprehended everything that went on in this book! I definitely will have to pick it up soon!
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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
More about Amy Krouse Rosenthal...

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“I am a slow reader, and fast eater; I wish it were the other way around.” 23 likes
“To get a true sense of the book, I have to spend a few moments inside. I'll glance at the first couple pages, then flip around to somewhere in the middle, see if the language matches me somehow. It's like dating, only with sentences......It could be something as simple yet weirdly potent as a single word (tangerine). We're meant to be, that sentence and me. And when it happens, you just know.” 10 likes
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