Experiencing Life Itself: A Memoir

A good friend recommended this book a few weeks ago, and I am so glad he did. I don’t consider myself a movie buff, although I love movies. But this book is so much more than the movie critic Roger Ebert. Like the title states, it is more about “Life Itself.“

There’s A Whole World Out There To See

Aside from being a world-class movie critic, Roger Ebert traveled the world and brought back some beautiful stories.

There were his yearly visits to London from 1966 to 2006. He learned a great deal by walking around the city and experiencing the architecture, music, theater, and people.

The Eyrie Mansion on Jermyn Street always made him feel at home. This hotel opened in 1685, and the first time Roger stayed there, he got a room with maid service, a gas fire, and a full English breakfast for 35 pounds. When he went into the room, he found that it had tall windows, an antique sideboard, a desk, drawers, a couch facing the fireplace, two chairs, mirrors above the fireplace, and a short hallway that led to a bedroom. (Sadly, it was overtaken by big business a few years ago.)

There were also the experiences in cafes in Venice. He found a couple of private spots where he could drink espresso while reading, people-watching, and taking in the view.

All undisturbed. 

Is this making anyone want to get their passport, or is it just me?


I want to touch on this subject briefly. Alcoholism is a complex disease to overcome. 

Roger started drinking at an early age and says that while he was drinking, one drink led to two, which led to drinking until he said he was done. This cycle continued for many years.

He took his last drink in August 1979. 

I applaud Mr. Ebert for including this deeply personal part of his life in this book and overcoming something so difficult.

Books Deserve Their Own Space

It should be of no surprise to anyone that this is the aspect of Mr. Ebert’s life that resonated the most with me.

He was always an avid reader (which is probably why he writes so well).

His collection is in the thousands, collecting them since the age of seven. Some of them he read every word, and some of them he never read at all. But all of them deserve space in his home.

I have a few books on my “to be read“ list. As Mr. Ebert said, you just never know.

Gene Siskel 

I couldn’t talk about Roger Ebert‘s life without mentioning Gene Siskel.

Siskel was Roger’s sparring partner in such film critic shows as “At The Movies” and “Siskel & Ebert.” 

Roger describes Siskel as having a very competitive nature.

Although the on-set arguments and disagreements were real, they remained the best of friends.

Final Thoughts 

The health crisis that Roger Ebert faced later in life may seem sad. But the way I see it, he lived such an incredibly full life. 

His deep love and admiration for his wife, Chaz, was inspirational. Together, they had a huge family and friends wherever they went. 

Even after all of his surgeries, he was still a remarkable writer. Where’s the tragedy in that?

Thanks for reading this personally inspirational post today! Don’t forget to leave a comment below. 

2 thoughts on “Experiencing Life Itself: A Memoir

  1. Thank you for the very thorough and thought provoking review of a book which I love! You captured the essence of his life and his writing beautifully. There are so many vivid memories and scenarios he was able to capture on paper. He lived a very interesting life beyond his world of movie criticism and it this book details all his moods, hobbies, memories and anecdotes. For an even further dive into the story see the very much acclaimed Documentary also titled LIFE ITSELF which captured his final 6 months. Thank you for your review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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