Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Crown, 2005. ISBN 978-1400080465 pp. $18


The remarkable thing about this unique autobiography is that the author’s life has been mostly unremarkable. Krouse details her life, opinions and pet peeves in authoritative encyclopedia-style entries about such subjects as flight habits, strawberries, gloves, fears, and more, prefaced by a chronology covering birth to book publication.

Rosenthal has a clever spin on the world that is often humorous, but sometimes it seems a little forced. My favorite entries are about not being able to catch a ball (“that is why the symbol for male is [mars symbol]. It stands for catch the ball”) and the entry about a friend who worked as an editor at Encyclopedia Britannica and arranged for volume 8 of the 2002 macropedia to read “Menage-Ottawa” the spine. An article titled “Wreck” is a gem about an accident her son has while exploring a shipwrecked boat, and her insight into how quickly something – or someone – can slip through your fingers. An index is, surprisingly, missing, but the “see alsos” add to the encyclopedic feel. Funny bits appear in the CIP and a waiver that the reader is supposed to sign at the beginning of the book. An excerpt is posted online at the NPR website; Rosenthal’s webpage for the book is a great extension of the content.

So many entries focus on the past that teens may enjoy both the novelty of the book’s style and the entries that focus on the author’s own adolescence. If you enjoy reading Harper’s Bazaar, this book is for you.

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