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Life Itself by Roger Ebert

Posted by Caitie F on October 26, 2011

Title: Life Itself
Author: Roger Ebert
Hardcover: 436 pages
Publication Date: 9/13/2011
Publisher: Grand Central (Hachette)
Rating: +++++

Summary from goodreads:

World-famous film critic and television host Roger Ebert delivers one of the most eagerly-anticipated memoirs of the year.

Roger Ebert has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. The first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, he has been a fixture on television for over 30 years, co-hosting Siskel & Ebert at the Movies until Gene Siskel’s death in 1999, and then with Richard Roper until 2006. Then, complications from thyroid-cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer.

And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career. He chronicles his loves, losses, and obsessions; his recovery from alcoholism, his marriage, his politics, and his spiritual beliefs. He also provides details about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, his friendships with Oprah Winfrey, Studs Terkel, and others, insights into stars like John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Robert Mitchum, and his perspective on such influential directors as Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, and Werner Herzog.


If you read one memoir this year, this should be the one you read. Whether or not you like movies, there is plenty to love in this book.

I have been familiar with Roger Ebert for a while. I read his reviews growing up and always thought he was a go to guy for movies.

I never watched Siskel & Ebert, but saw the very end of Ebert & Roeper. Now, I enjoy Ebert Presents: At the Movies regularly. While he no longer is a host, he always does one review and it tends to be beautiful. Even if I don’t care about the movie, or even type of movie, he reviews, I still watch because he is basically a genius with the English language.

That is what makes this book so amazing. He is a highly skilled writer, I would say he is one of America’s great writers. This book is full of beauty and insight, each word chosen with care.

The structure of the book is unusual. Instead of being strictly chronological, it is by topic. It is, in general chronological, but more by when certain people first impacted his life. Since he knows everyone, it made for a much easier read, since the reader doesn’t have to think back 80 pages to the last time he mentioned someone!

The best parts weren’t about the people he knows, how he grew up, or the details of his health (though they were all great!). The best parts of the book is when Ebert writes about his philosophy of life. From his politics to his look on religion, it can make you think and make you respect the man even more. His love for his wife and all his friends is also very moving. They are words that most of us can relate to, but very few can articulate in the way he can.

Here is my favorite couple sentences from the book

“How can I begin to tell you about Chaz? She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she is the     love of my life, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone…If my cancer had come, and it would have, and Chaz had not been there with me, I can imagine a descent into lonely decrepitude. I was very sick. I might have vegetated in hopelessness. This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. She was always there believing I could do it, and her love was like wind pushing me back form the grave”  (page 361)

This is just a wonderful book. Do yourself a favor and read this great memoir from one of the great American writers.


3 Responses to “Life Itself by Roger Ebert”

  1. I love memoirs and will have to look for this one.

  2. Linda Camacho said

    Great Review, Caitie–Now I have to get this one! Hope you’re loving the new job, by the way.

    –Linda C.

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