Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography” as Want to Read:
An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  6,127 ratings  ·  522 reviews
The riveting life story of Paul Rusesabagina - the man whose heroism inspired the film Hotel Rwanda.

As his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina - the 'Oskar Schindler of Africa' - refused to bow to the madness that surrounded him. Confronting killers with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and dece
Paperback, 207 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Penguin Group (first published January 1st 2006)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,127 ratings  ·  522 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography
Diane in Australia
It was an honour to read Paul's own words of his actions during the genocide in Rwanda. He was the 'perfect' man for the job. Not many could have filled his shoes. He instinctively knew when to speak, when not to speak, what to say, and what not to say. His skill with people, with words, with his own self-control, saved lives. What a man.

5 Stars = Exceptional. It made a significant impact.
Mar 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: africa
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
Jul 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
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
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: above-and-beyond
The title was, to me, offputting initially. It seemed like false modesty. "Oh, but I'm just an ordinary man...". But I changed my mind after listening.

Rusesabagina saved over a twelve hundred people from death during the short massacre in Rwanda in 1994. He calculated that he saved a matter of a few hours' worth of deaths, based on the rate of killing in those few months, a rate unsurpassed by any other genocide in recorded history.

How did he do it? And why?

He gives us quite a clue when he te
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
Natalie Richards
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-book
I have read about the controversy that surrounds Paul Rusesabagina; how he has allegedly embellished his role in the saving of over 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and incites further hate when giving talks about his experiences during that time..but I am glad that I read this book. I remember watching the news in horror all those years ago and reading this book brought back those awful memories. If this book is a true account of what happened during those 100 days 1994, then he is ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: rwanda
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. ...more
David P
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Clif Hostetler
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
He may have been an ordinary man before being placed in an extraordinary situation. But he responded with extraordinary actions. He is no longer an ordinary man in my view. He's a living saint if there ever was one.

This is a story about the right man with the right abilities at a bad place at a horrible time. It is unlikely that any other person could have accomplished what he did at that time and place. He had the right combination of social intelligence and ability to read the personalities of
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Paul Ruseabagina's autobiography of his role during the 1994 Rwandan genocide as the manager of the Belgium owned Hotel Milles Collines is a gripping account of humanitarian courage. As ordinary citizens, brought to extreme hatred by a deliberate prejudicial disinformation campaign, slaughtered their friends and neighbors, leaving bodies piled high by the roadsides, Ruseabagina was able, through wits alone, to save the lives of 1,200. There are some who claim his Presidential Medal of Honor and ...more
This book was amazing, but not a pleasure to read most of the time. This covers some really difficult ground. I don't know if I agree with all the authors conclusions and ideas but I loved that despite all that had happened he concludes with hope.
Popsugar challenge 2017: a book set in a hotel.
Eustacia Tan
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, some of you may have watched the movie Hotel Rwanda. I did, and I cried bucketloads. If you haven't, then you should. Anyway, An Ordinary Man is the autobiography of the man whom the movie is based on. Paul Rusesabagina was the hotel manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines during the Rwanda Genocide who saved 1268 Tutsi and moderate Hutu people.

Or as he put it, 4 hours worth of lives out of a hundred days.

In his autobiography, Mr. Rusesabagina talks about how the genocide started, and what h
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Roger Smitter
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Near the end of An Ordinary Man, author Paul Rusesabagina sums up the genocide in Rwanda with a reminder that “the message crept into our national consciousness very slowly. It did not happen all at once. We did not wake up one morning to hear it pouring out of the radio at full strength. It started with a sneering comment, the casual use of the term “cockroach”, the almost humorous suggestion that Tutsis should be airmailed back to Ethiopia.”

This theme also turns up in book I read before An Ord
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chenoa Siegenthaler
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
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
Christine Fay
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, favorites
This is the story of a Rwandan hotel manager who used his words to save 1,268 people from being slaughtered by machete during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The Tutsis were being persecuted by the Hutu tribe for past perceived injustices. People were ordered via radio to “cut down the tall trees” which meant to kill their Tutsi neighbors. Paul is just an ordinary man who did what any man with any sort of political connections would do in order to save as many people as he could. Instead of using ...more
Navy heart HamlinNBCT
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
In 2006 I was blessed with the gift of history about a very special man-A man who earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Civil Rights Museum's 2005 Freedom Award- An ordinary man , hired by the Swiss hotel chains to manage a luxury hotel chain, is an understatement. During the years during Rwanda's genocide Janet Reno and our United States government struggled over the term genocide yet broadcasts continued to plead for intervention.
News of internal conflict became as relevan
Feisty Harriet
Rusesabagina is most familiar as the hotelier who housed 1,200 Tutsi refugees in his Rwandan hotel during the genocide of 1994. Part autobiography of his early life, part war-time history of his country, part the basis of the movie Hotel Rwanda, this book is an interesting and heartbreaking mix. I usually read thru my lunch hour, but had to stop because I couldn't eat after reading about the horrors and brutality of regular people slaughtering their neighbors, their friends, even their own famil ...more
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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. ...more
Lauren Morris
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Add page count for 0747584443 2 9 Nov 23, 2020 03:56PM  
Great African Reads: An Ordinary Man 5 19 Jun 29, 2017 05:00PM  
Book vs. Movie 1 6 Dec 02, 2012 08:15PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
  • They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan
  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
  • Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur
  • The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine
  • Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families
  • When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
  • War Child: A Child Soldier's Story
  • Long Way Back to the River Kwai: A Harrowing True Story of Survival in World War II
  • Do They Hear You When You Cry
  • Slave: My True Story
  • God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir
  • The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography
  • Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story ... and Why It Matters Today
  • Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
  • The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo
See similar books…

News & Interviews

  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
10 likes · 2 comments
“This is why I say that the individual's most potent weapon is a stubborn belief in the triumph of common decency.” 14 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
More quotes…