Life Itself

  • by Roger Ebert
  • Narrated by Edward Herrmann
  • 14 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
—from Life Itself
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 23 years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.
In 2006, 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.
Roger Ebert's journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime's adventures.
In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.
This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir-it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

mixed feelings

What did you love best about Life Itself?

Roger's rich life, straight from the horse's mouth.


What did you like best about this story?

Mr. Ebert's power of recall was a little frightening, but I certainly admire it, and the prose is just beautifully precise.


What about Edward Herrmann’s performance did you like?

I was almost inspired to listen to the Cheney memoir. The narration was spot on throughout, down to the different accents. I could even sense the slightest tinge of feeling in some of the more emotional passages.


If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

It ain't over till you stop living it.


Any additional comments?

Maybe I'm reaching for the moon here, but that's only because the author has already set the bar so high with his other writings. I am aware that redundancy is inherent in vignette-style memoirs such as this one, but I would have much preferred those repeats replaced with more anecdotes about the walks through his favorite haunts, great directors /actors, and movie/book references.

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- loix

Fast Forward to Chapter 20

If you're a fan of Roger Ebert -- and I most certainly am one -- you may wish to start your reading of this book at chapter 20. All the previous essays (that's how this book is structured; not as a timeline narrative of his life, but a collection of essays on topics from his life) focus on his family life and youth, and offer nothing of much relevance to understanding Roger the man, or why he became such a great critic. I found it a chore to power through and get to the far meatier second half. Of course, if information about his relatives' cooking skills, or that people he lived with in South Africa had a cute dog and other such personal minutiae are your thing, then by all means dive in.

The task is made easier by Edward Herrmann, the narrator, who is simply superb; probably some of the best work I've enjoyed on Audible outside of Simon Vance's accomplishments.

Even in the second half of the book, I was left wanting for more. We learn that Roger never desired to be a movie critic, that the job was just handed to him. But he offers no insight into how he thought and worked to turn himself into one of America's finest despite having no initial lust for the task. His discussion of Gene Siskel, too, is unfortunately shallow despite that partner being perhaps the one human being we most closely associate with Roger.

We do get entertaining chapters about his associations with several different Hollywood stars, e.g., John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and more, but this is basically classy gossip, and reveals nothing about Roger Ebert, except that he's met some famous people.

Perhaps the most revealing and touching sections were the two poignant chapters about his wife, Chaz, who was a complete enigma to me prior to reading this.

So Roger, please go back and tell us what it was like to be a movie critic!

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- Scott

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-13-2011
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio