‘Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life’ by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Encyclopedia of Ordinary LifestarstarstarThis is a quirky, delightfully illustrated, and very different biography of items arranged “Encyclopedia” style. Through a series of random memories, observations, opinions and small revelations about the author’s life, a light hearted collage is created that is easy to read and is surprisingly engaging. You’d think it would be like “so what?” but her entries are oddly often quite easy to relate to. There is no need to read the book in order (although I did). It would actually make a great bathroom read, a book to keep in the car when ferrying the kids to sports events, or just one to keep on the coffee table or at the cottage. I liked the lighthearted feel and the author’s portrayal of an ordinary life–of course there is no such thing, and that is the unspoken but underlying theme. Every life is extraordinary and precious and different from every other–it is the small seemingly insignificant details that make us unique!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an American author of both adult and popular children’s books, a filmmaker, radio show host, and blogger. She has a creative interactive website as well:  Who is Amy?

Not only does Amy write creatively, she has neat ideas. She embarked on a project to get a bunch of people together in the city. She called it the “Beckoning of Lovely.” Hundreds of people showed up and it was an experiment that turned into a huge success. You can youtube it. Another wacky thing she did was the “Lost and Found Project” (see below). Between January 25 and February 1, 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 when and where the book was discovered.

Here are some sample Encyclopedia entries to give you a flavour (but do not try Q at home–everyone knows you should NEVER put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear):

A
Amy Rosenthal
My father-in-law informed me that my married name could produce these two anagrams: Hearty Salmon. Nasty Armhole. I cannot tell you how much I love that.

B
Brother
My brother, who grew up with three sisters, was I won’t say how many years old when he finally realized that he did not have to wrap the towel around his chest when he came out of the shower.

D
Dishwasher
It is very difficult to try to load someone else’s dishwasher; everyone has their own method. Glasses stacked in this row, bowls this way, silverware facing up, down–its a highly personal thing. The few times someone outside the family has loaded ours, I open it up and am disoriented, dismayed even, to find plates in the wrong slots, bowls on the top (the top?!), and even a skillet crammed in there. It’s just too counter-productive and unsettling, even though it is nice of them to try to help.

P
Potato Chips
When I eat potato chips, particularly the crunchy kettle kind, I find myself looking through the bag for the good chips. Somehow a good chip is one that is extra thick looking, and curled onto itself or folded, as opposed to straight and flat. It is a treat, a victory, to find a really good chip and pluck it from the bag. The thinner, straight, or broken ones aren’t nearly as pleasing.

Q
Q-tips
Inserting a Q-tip deep into your ear, is a great undiscussed pleasure.

S
Staring
It is hard not to.

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