Life Itself is the opposite of the revenge-memoir, it's a cherish-memoir in which movie critic Roger Ebert revisits the people, places and events of his first six decades with great tenderness. He seems to cherish his voiceless present as much as his pre-cancer past. Detailed memories of his Urbana childhood and precocious journalism career segue into shenanigans among Chicago newsfolk, a serendipitous anointing as the Chicago Sun-Times's film critic, myriad celebrity encounters and a hijinks-filled collaboration with softcore auteur Russ Meyer. He sets the record straight on his working relationship with fellow thumb-wielding critic Gene Siskel and includes mini-profiles of Studs Terkel and Mike Royko. Though frank about fraught personal matters--his mother's scourging religiosity and drinking, his own struggle with alcohol, the no-win surgeries engendered by his thyroid cancer--Ebert maintains a steady joie de vivre, concluding with a celebration of his mature spirituality and marital bliss.
The audiobook of Life Itself is read in an upbeat, storytelling tone by actor Edward Hermann. Hermann's vocal resemblance to Ebert's televised voice is so uncanny it's easy to forget that you're not listening to the author himself (Hermann's also a gifted mimicker of foreign accents when required). Because Ebert has written his 55 chapters thematically within a very flexible chronological line, it's best to listen to Life Itself without worrying about the order of events. By writing so comprehensively about his own experiences, Ebert captures his generation and conveys his enthusiasm for the truly good things in life. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts