Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life

Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life

Volume One

Book - 2005
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In ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AN ORDINARY LIFE, Amy Krouse Rosenthal has ingeniously adapted the centuries-old format of the encyclopedia to convey the accumulated knowledge of her lifetime in a poignant, wise, often funny, fully realized memoir. Using mostly short entries organized from A to Z, many of which are cross-referenced, Rosenthal captures in wonderful and episodic detail the moments, observations, and emotions that comprise a contemporary life. Start anywhere - preferably at the beginning - and see how one young woman's alphabetized existence can open up and define the world in new and unexpected ways.An ordinary life, perhaps, but an extraordinary book.Cross-section of ordinary life at this exact moment-* A security guard is loosening his belt.* A couple is at a sushi restaurant with some old friends. They are reminiscing. In the back of their minds, they are thinking of being home.* A woman is trying to suck on a cherry Lifesaver but will end up biting it in six seconds.* A little boy is riding the train home with his dad after spending the day together at his office.* A man is running back into a grocery store to look for a scarf he dropped. He will leave with the phone number of a woman who will become his wife.* Words the author meant to use-Flair, Luxurious, Panoply, Churlish, Dainty, FollyWines that go nicely with this book-Reds- Marcel Lapierre Morgon (France), Alario Dolcetto d'Alba Costa Fiore (Italy)Whites- King Estate Pinot Gris (Oregon), Landmark Chardonnay Overlook (California)* Book, standing in the bookstore holding aIf I am standing there with the book in my hand, one of three things has already happened- Friend recommended it. Read a good review. Cover caught my eye.I can appreciate a cool cover. But it's like the extra credit part of a test - it only enhances an already solid grade. Getting it right won't help if most everything else is wrong. And getting it wrong won't hurt if most everything else is right. (There are countless books I cherish whose covers I don't like too much, or cannot even now recall.) The interior of the book - the terrain of its pages, where all those words took me, the tiny but very real spot it ultimately occupies in my mind - that becomes the book.Next I go to the flaps. The front flap needs to intrigue/not bore me, and the bio needs to tell me just enough about the author. I'll do my best to extract the author's entire existence from their 2-X-2 inch photo.Off to the back cover. I'll be momentarily impressed when I see a blurb by a hot writer like ____ , but I know that it is just as likely that I'll like the book as hate it regardless of these quotes. I look at them in a more voyeuristic way, like a literary gaper's delay- Wow, the author knows So and So. Bet they send each other clever text messages. Really the only thing I can gauge from the blurbs is my own pathetic jealousy level.To get a true sense of the book, I have to spend a minute inside. I'll glance at the first couple pages, then flip to the middle, see if the language matches me somehow. It's like dating, only with sentences. Some sentences, no matter how well-dressed or nice, just don't do it for me. Others I click with instantly. It could be something as simple yet weirdly potent as a single word choice (tangerine). We're meant to be, that sentence and me. And when it happens, you just know.
Publisher: New York : Three Rivers Press, c2005.
Edition: First pbk. edition
ISBN: 9781400080465
Branch Call Number: 973.931 ROSENTHA
Characteristics: xiv, 225 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Middleton, Jeffrey


Featured Blogs and Events

An Ordinary Life

I first met Amy Krouse Rosenthal while scrolling through social media. I tucked away her article “You May Want to Marry My Husband” for later, not yet realizing there wasn’t a later to be had. In fact, many people first met Amy through that New York Times article which was published on March 3rd of 2017. That was ten days before Amy died of ovarian cancer. She had written it as a love letter t... (more)

007: An Ordinary Life, a feminist post-apocalypse, and more!

What do you do with an ordinary life? You write about it -- beautifully, in the case of the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Find out more... Two Book Minimum: Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison Links: Amazon | Lawrence Public Library The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron Links: Amazon | Lawrence Public Library Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Links: Amazon | Lawrence Publi... (more)

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From Library Staff

Ep 07: Amy Krouse Rosenthal was the author of the viral essay "You May Want to Marry My Husband." She passed away shortly after the essay was published, and the same brilliant wit and gorgeous insights are present in this "Encyclopedia" chronicling her life.

LPL_PolliK Apr 14, 2017

I found this book immediately after Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away, and it broke my heart wide open that we had lost such a person. Amy was luminous and ordinary, all at once, and we are lucky that in addition to over 30 children's books, she wrote two memoirs, this being the first. What I foun... Read More »

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Jun 26, 2017

Just a joy. Ingenious concept to write an autobiography in this structure. The highlights of our lives are memories silly and profound, almost incredible coincidences, and gratitude for those who shaped us and loved us. Unfortunately, I never heard of her until news of her death.

LPL_PolliK Apr 14, 2017

I found this book immediately after Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away, and it broke my heart wide open that we had lost such a person. Amy was luminous and ordinary, all at once, and we are lucky that in addition to over 30 children's books, she wrote two memoirs, this being the first. What I found in the Encyclopedia was a memoir like no other. (Not Hyperbole.) She includes orienting features and factual asides. Amy would like us to know that the word coffee appears 23 times. Awkward, 6. Love, 78. Amy includes a timeline of events that chronicle the authors, activities, happenstances, and preferences that lead her to write a memoir-cum-encyclopedia. A charming book, full of meaning and heart, made poignant by the loss of the beautiful soul who wrote it. Read and I think you'll find yourself wondering: what might your own Encyclopedia look like?

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 27, 2015

The amusing things that punctuate ordinary life are documented by Rosenthal in her charming encyclopedia-style memoir, complete with the alphabetic entries and black and white illustrations. This book is filled with universal truths, self-discovery, and is irrepressively funny.

Aug 08, 2012

Delicious! Moments of laughing out loud, moments of recollection and introspection. I wanted to finish it in the hotel room after the first flight, but I held off and finished it shortly after the third takeoff, bound for home.
When asked what category this book fits, I had to stop after "non-fiction"... memoir? humor? self-help? Powell's has is under "Humor-Narrative". How about we just call it "recommended" and be done with it.

TheRachelS Jun 16, 2011

Recommended by Alyssa Charbonneau

Aug 23, 2010

This was a great book to read on a rainy weekend. It was light and funny and I felt that I could completely relate to quite of few of her entries. It's the kind of book that I would give to my girlfriends as a quirky birthday gift.


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Aug 08, 2012

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


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