Book Review: Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life

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An Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is just that: an encyclopedia of one very, very, incredibly ordinary life. That is, if you want to refer to someone who is a part of the dominant culture in a society as being what is considered “average” and anyone not associated with the dominant culture as being not.

I really wanted to like this book, and for the most part, I did. It was autobiographical, and  I do typically enjoy reading autobiographies especially by people who work in creative fields.

Some of my favorite parts were the tables and charts used to break down things like popular slang, when to use certain words and phrases, and words that look similar but are completely different. Things like this stump people, and it’s funny to stop and think about how we are often all tripping over the same words and such.

But each entry for each letter collectively just didn’t push the envelope like I thought it was going to. I guess what I mean is that the idea for this book was what impressed me, but that the book itself did not live up to the hype.

An example of when I was disappointed would be when I saw only one entry for the letter “Q”. I was expecting something more creative to have been done with the lesser-letters (as I call them). There is so much that can be done with “Q” words and phrases – if this was done intentionally to be funny, the joke was lost on me.

It was hard for me to rate this one on Goodreads, and the rating I ultimately gave was based on the fact that the work was thoughtful, parts of it made me laugh, and it was enjoyable to read.

If I were to have taken a more critical approach, I would have rated it on its narrow appeal. There are an awful lot of people who are not white/middle class/heterosexual who may question why her life gets to be called ordinary while others are not. With a more broad approach, she could explore the definition of ordinary and what ingredients make such a life so; ultimately concluding that there is no such thing as an ordinary life. I just couldn’t stop thinking this as I was reading.

At any rate, there is enough moderately funny content in this book that all of the above can be easily ignored.

Lastly, while researching this book online, I found quite a few Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life writing prompts for creative writing classes. I do think that this would be an outstanding idea for a creative writing class to adopt as an exercise. List-writing is an especially popular exercise for these types of classes, and cataloging one’s life would be a fun approach to take.

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