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Life Itself

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,883 ratings  ·  911 reviews
Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss o
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  5,883 ratings  ·  911 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, hollywood
”Today, students rent videos, stream them online, or watch them on TV, and even if they watch a great movie, they do it alone or with a few friends. There is no sense of audience, and yet an important factor in learning to be literate about movies is to be part of an audience that is sophisticated about them.”

 photo Roger20Ebert_zpsicqufpjo.jpg

I remember watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert argue about movies, life, and just about any subject they chose to bring up. I’d never seen anything like it before. They were awkward, n
“Two Thumbs Up!

My thumbs up is for his body of work, not this particular book. It comes from Roger Ebert’s legacy to the world of criticism and writing. When he partnered with Gene Siskel on television to discuss and argue about films, each would give a film the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. If a film got both thumbs up, it made the news, magazines, movie posters, and covers of DVDs and videos (remember them?) like this one. It was advertising gold.

“Pulp Fiction” cover

I can’t really review or rate t
Joe Valdez
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Life Itself is the 2011 memoir by film critic Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times who through partnership with film critic Gene Siskel, co-hosted a nationally syndicated TV talk show that made him a household name as a critic, with his insights, interviews and patented thumbs up/ thumbs down summary of movies. Multiple failed operations to combat cancer in Ebert's salivary gland resulted in his inability to eat, drink or talk, as well as permanent disfigureme ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, favorites
I consider myself major film buff, yet I was unfamiliar with Roger Ebert until a couple of years ago, when I accidentally stumbled upon his Chicago Sun Times blog. I loved his reviews, even the ones I disagreed with, and the candid tone of his personal blog entries, so I grabbed "Life Itself" the moment I laid eyes on its Woody Allen-style cover in the bookshop. Wow! What a ride this turned out to be! Probably my ignorance about him helped, as I didn't bring any preconceived ideas to the l
I am impossibly fond of this person.
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A Midwestern childhood and career in newspapers, told in plain, declarative language. Since losing the ability to speak, Ebert says he has recovered detailed lost memories of his past. This paragraph cut through me:

"I wonder what my father really thought about his life. He married a beautiful woman and I believe they loved each other. Whatever had happened in West Palm Beach stayed in West Palm Beach. He married in his late thirties, held a good-paying job, owned his own home on a corner lot. He
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Even if I wasn't a movie fan I would have loved this memoir by Rober Ebert. It is so honest, painfully so in some cases. He tells us not only about career achievments but fearlessly dives into his personal life. After finishing the book, I really feel like I know Roger. He has had a rough couple of years, but he doesn't pity himself. Instead, he focuses on what life still has to offer and looks forward to pleasures yet to come. He is brave, honest, witty, and inspiring. I admire him. Go for it, ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am an avid movie fan and devotee of critic Roger Ebert. However, I was not fond of this book. It was long and boring and had too little detail on movies for my liking. The best chapters are those dedicated to famous directors: Woody Allen, Martin Scoresese and Werner Herzog. The sections on alcoholism (his mother, his father, and himself) were equally gripping. However, the sections on his childhood, his early sexual experimentation, his illnesses, and countless descriptions of favorite restau ...more
N.N. Light
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this autobiography. I learned a lot about Roger Ebert and his love affair with the film industry. A must read!

My Rating: 5 stars
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4/4/13: I've been wanting to read this since it came out. Well, sadly, I shall start it today. RIP Roger. I'll see you at the movies.

4/24/13: Very enjoyable. I already liked Roger Ebert, but after reading this book I also respect and admire him. He kept such an amazing outlook even in the worst of times. He had a most wonderful relationship with his wife, Chaz.

Some highlights:

* I loved hearing about his passion for London (agreed!)
* His fascinating relationship with Gene Siskel.
* His relations
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful. Loved it. Afterwards I watched the documentary ,which is on Netflix now! Read it, and see it!
Feb 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I think Roger Ebert is a fantastic critic and writer. I love his movie reviews and his uncanny, conversational ability to be your ally when exploring film. He never takes cheap shots at actors or directors to make himself seem superior the way some critics do. He won a Pulitzer. He's survived cancer. He can no longer speak, or eat, and still faces the world with wonderment and grace. Frankly, I admire him.

However, this book was a bit of a puzzlement to me. I feel like I know more about him thro
Debra Belmudes
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at one of America's favorite movie critics. The audiobook was read by Edward Herrman who did a wonderful job. ...more
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Honest, funny, poignant and insightful. Some of my favorite quotes:

About the movies
There is something unnatural about just…going to the movies. Man has rehearsed for hundreds of thousands of years to learn a certain sense of time. He gets up in the morning and the hours wheel in their ancient order across the sky until it grows dark again and he goes to sleep. A movie critic gets up in the morning and in two hours it is dark again, and the passage of time is fractured by editing and dissolves an
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I have ever picked up a memoir that was this detailed and thorough. Ebert painstakingly recounts the most minute details of his life and that might be a turn-off to a casual reader. However, I've been a fan of Mr. Ebert's for going on twenty years now so to me, it held endless fascination. I enjoyed reading about his life and I thought the chapters he wrote about certain celebrities were absolutely pitch-perfect and truly conveyed the affection he felt for them. There were chapters ...more
Adam Ford
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
This biography is not worth your time to read. Still, it is someone's life and there is always something to learn from every man's rambling, but this book is self-indulgent and suffers from a lack of a strong editor. The reader can tell that Ebert just wrote whatever he wanted and they published it. I just about quit the book a third of the way through--chapter after chapter about Urbana-Champaign in the 1950s from the point of view of a kid on a bike doing nothing particularly interesting. The ...more
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison, Roger Ebert entered my life at an early age and forever altered the way I looked at the world. Even though I was too young to appreciate it, I still remember the opening credits to Sneak Previews – the ticket, the popcorn, the candy, the broken soda machine – which also means I must have seen at least a couple early episodes of Ebert’s review show with Gene Siskel. I have stronger memories of At the Movies, the show that ran until Siskel’s death in 1999 (I d ...more
L.T. Vargus
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best
As a movie critic, Roger Ebert's writing was always thoughtful without being pretentious and charming without being manipulative. In just a few words he could get across big concepts and a lot of personality, but, though he was a great entertainer, he was always honest and never pandered to his audience. His memoir continued this tradition.

The early portion of the book gave a very thorough account of his childhood. While the level of detail he recalled in portraying his perspective of the world
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roger Ebert is great and it was fun to hear a bit of his life story. He was my favorite film critic and I always loved to see what he'd say about a movie. This felt a bit all over the place - skipping around constantly, repeating itself some times, without any real reason other than an attempt at being less of a linear biography I guess - but I still enjoyed it. His writing is great and a lot of fun; despite disagreeing with him on plenty of things, I found it interesting to hear all of his thou ...more
Ron Christiansen
Very readable. Ebert can write and he can evoke the details of events 50 years in the past. Many of the chapters can read as stand-alone pieces--steak n' shake, alcoholism, and many encounters with directors and actors such as Herzog.

Watching Siskel & Ebert discuss films in my early years as English major deeply furthered my ability to engage film like literature and lead to me taking two graduate courses in film.

What a life.
George King
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book for me to read becasue I'm a film buff and I've taught film in the classroom. Ebert is almost painfully honest at times, particularly when talkng about his parents, religion, his sex life, and his recent illness and subsequent operations. Early in the book I thought there was too much name dropping on the one hand and too many references to people I didn't know or care about on the other. His discussions about movie stars and directors were enlightening and always en ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
When Ebert is talking about films and actors and directors, this biography soars. Similarly, when he talks frankly about his TV show/film review showcase with his co-host, Gene Siskell, I wanted to know even more. But Ebert inexplicably opens with a very lengthy introduction to the book and when we come across the same events again, later, portions of this book feel repetitive. And there is much talk of business dealings which just seem to be filler information. I like Ebert, I watched him on TV ...more
Apr 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Life Itself by Roger Ebert

I had settled in my east chair when a key turned in the lock and a nattily dressed man in his sixties let himself in. He held a bottle of Teacher’s scotch under his arm. He walked to the sideboard, took a glass, poured a shot, and while filling it with soda from the siphon, asked me, “Fancy a spot?”

“I’m afraid I don’t drink,” I said.
“Oh my.”
This man sat on my sofa, lit a cigarette, and said, “I’m Henry.”
“Am I in your room?”
“Oh, no, no, old boy! I’m only the owner. I dr
Rob Neyer
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Roger Ebert was the first movie reviewer I ever knew, and so I'll always have a soft spot for him. Technically, I came to know him at exactly the same moment I came to know Gene Siskel, as I don't recall paying attention to a movie review before the first time I saw Ebert & Siskel on television. But Ebert seemed more the populist and Siskel the esthete, and when I was 15 or 16 I certainly was more in tune with the populist. For a stretch of years, I would be sure to catch the show every Sunday n ...more
Frederic  Germay
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This guy, I just love him! I grew up watching Siskel & Ebert, and later Ebert & Roeper. I credit this man for my appreciation of film, elevating my perception of the medium from mere entertainment to an art form worthy of analysis. And over the past several years, I've read every single review and blog post the man has written.

He has a simplistic melodic prose that doesn't descend into stuffy snobbery as A. O. Scott (another good critic) occasionally does, or unsophisticated surface blabbing as
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think that nearly everyone is familiar with Roger Ebert either from his work as the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, his 23 year run as co-host with Gene Siskel of film review shows of different names, or from the many books he has published about films and the film industry. In 2006 he became ill with thyroid cancer and had a series of operations that were successful in removing the cancer, but ultimately robbed him of his ability to speak, eat, or drink. Most people, including, I suspe ...more
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
If it wasn't written by Roger Ebert, I may have given up on this book during the first few chapters. Unless you escaped from the Nazis or had a really exceptional childhood, most autobiographies should really skip quickly through one's early years. I am really glad Ebert had a mostly happy childhood in Champaign, but I don't necessarily need to read about it. Luckily, I knew the story would get better, and it did. Ebert is not a fancy writer, but he gets at issues and details that matter, which ...more
Penny Peck
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: celeb-biogs
Remarkable. This is easily one of the best celebrity memoirs I have ever read, because Ebert is more of a reporter than a celebrity. Each chapter is like a newspaper or magazine column - self-contained, although all the chapters add up to cover his life and thoughts. But the fact that it is episodic makes it all the more interesting to read. You can sample a chapter here, or there, like dim sum. Then leave the book for a few days and pick it up again. Although his life is not terrible "event" fu ...more
Jim Beatty
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Best story 4 me: Martin Scorsese flat lined on Coke (last time to use) months before raging bull. As he is in the hospital recuperating, Deniro throws the Jake Lamotta story on his bed and says, I think we should do this.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Roger Ebert writes an autobiography describing his childhood in East Central Illinois (Urbana and Champaign), his graduate studies (University of Cape Town and University of Chicago), his newspaper career in Chicago (with many iconic Chicago news writers), his film review career (with many interviews with film makers, actors, and actresses), in a collection of sentimental thematic essays arranged chronologically. As the title promises, each essay explores how RE thinks about the meaning of life. ...more
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Roger Joseph Ebert was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic and screenwriter.

He was known for his weekly review column (appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and later online) and for the television program Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, which he co-hosted for 23 years with Gene Siskel. After Siskel's death in 1999, he auditioned several potential replacements, ultimately choosing

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