Book Review: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal might as well be me.

So many of her entries in her wonderful Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life feel as if they were cribbed from my journal — if I still kept one — or from any of the Slice of Life writing or Six Word Memoirs or Day in a Sentence writing activities that I often take part in. Well, sure, she’s a woman and I am a man, so there are a few differences in perspectives and experiences, and her insightful writing goes deeper than mine usually does … but this treasure of a book (recommended by Penny Kittle in Book Love) is a look at Rosenthal’s life, set up as encyclopedia entries (with scattered other tidbits woven in), that should resonate with anyone leading what they consider to be an “ordinary” life.

I liked that format here — that we can organize our thinking about the everyday events and people in our lives as a sort of encyclopedia that keeps on growing (which to me would give the digital book format a leg up on the paper format — the book is done and published, unless she writes a sequel — but a digital version could keep growing and expanding).

What I liked best of all in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is Rosenthal’s voice as a writer — her honesty about the world around her, which may seem mundane at times but is not (just like the lives of most of us), and it’s fascinating to watch the lens that she sees things through — with humor, compassion and off from an angle. Her lens helped me to look around and see things that way, too. While some of the entries might seem rather light (she writes about going out for coffee quite a bit), Rosenthal can suddenly take your breath away with a piece about the murder of the woman who was her nanny, and the last night they spent together as friends.

As a Meta-reading aside, I loved that the back of the book jacket is a blurb about how Rosenthal reads the back of a book jacket to gauge a book, and I adored the little lists that were hidden away inside the flaps of the book. I like how she opened up the last few pages to give her illustrator and bookmaker a chance to have a few words about the making of the book. There are all sorts of little tidbits of interesting information scattered throughout the book like that, and as a reader, I appreciated the fun of the discovery.

There are plenty of additional goodies at her website, too.

Peace (in the life),


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