Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Published by Broadway Books, 2005
ISBN 10: 1400080460 / ISBN 13: 9781400080465
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Synopsis: From the author of the viral Modern Love column, "You May Want to Marry My Husband."

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, Folly

Wines 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 a

If 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.

Review: "I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story."

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, one-time Might magazine columnist and self-confessed hater of the segue has written a snappy, random, remarkable memoir--the first of its kind to give readers an honest flaws-n-all perspective of what it's like to be...ordinary. Initially inspired by the "bizarre, haphazard arrangement" of The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, Rosenthal has collected a lifetime of thoughts, observations, and decisions, and created an alphabetized personal encyclopedia, complete with cross-referenced entries and illustrations. Rosenthal reveals the minutiae of her life, from pumping gas ("Every. Single. Solitary. Time I go to get gas I have to lean out the window to see which side the tank is on"), to witnessing her son's accident ("I saw with front-row-seat clarity, just how quickly, randomly, and mercilessly your child can be taken away"), and in turns both playful and poignant, engages the reader in effortless and stimulating conversation.

Whether you are laughing aloud or nodding along, reading Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is like being introduced to a new friend--one that you automatically connect with and feel compelled to share. Fans of Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, and shows like Arrested Development and Scrubs will appreciate Rosenthal's quirky, conversational humor and dead-on observations. Writers will see the book as a contemporary portrait of the fledgling artist, and should enjoy her aptly named, "Evolution of this Moment"--a timeline tracking her growth as a writer from her first word ("more") to publication of her fourth book.

Modesty prevents Rosenthal from acknowledging herself as anything other than ordinary--that, and the fact that she has not "survived against all odds"--but that certainly does not mean she has nothing to say, or to share. Her delightful memoir is a reminder that life is not always an adventure, but it can be full of sad, silly, and important moments that make it worth living. Witness the generosity of an author who is willing to reveal so much of herself, not just as a writer, but also as a person--share this delightfully quirky, utterly enjoyable book with family and friends with a note, "Here is someone I think you should meet." --Daphne Durham

Amazon.com Exclusive Content

The Lost and Found Project
Between January 25th and February 1st, hundreds of copies of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life were intentionally left in random places (taxis, public bathrooms, laundromats) in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Each book was inscribed with a note from the author, and the finder was encouraged to report back to Rosenthal's website (www.encyclopediaofanordinarylife.com) when and where the book was discovered.

Watch the "Lost and Found" video directed by filmmaker Steve Delahoyde, documenting Rosenthal's test run and featuring her theme song, "This is My Story."
Listen to the theme song written by Tony Rogers.


Ordinary Life from A to Z
How do you interview a smart, creative, clever author like Amy Krouse Rosenthal? You agree to let her start with the questions, and hang on for the ride. Find out more about Amy and sneak a peek behind-the-scenes at Amazon.com with this decidedly ordinary email correspondence between Ms. Rosenthal and senior editor Daphne Durham.

Read our unusual interview with author Amy Krouse Rosenthal.



Extra Ordinary Excerpts
A

B

G

I

W

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Bibliographic Details

Title: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: 2005
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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