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Roger Ebert: Author as well as movie critic

Ebert's written works ranged far and wide, from collections of his reviews (positive and negative) to a guide to London and tips on how to use a rice cooker.

By Staff Writer / April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert was a movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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In addition to becoming one of the respected and beloved movie critics in America, Roger Ebert was also admired for his skills as a writer.

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Books by Ebert, who died April 4, ranged from movie guides to compilations of reviews to memoirs that looked back on the many years he served as a critic.

A staple of his work was “Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook,” which was published yearly and compiled his work from the previous two-and-a-half years. Ebert released “Yearbook” every year, except for 2008, starting in 1999. His 2013 “Yearbook” edition came out this past December.

Ebert's best-known books are probably “Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert,” a collection of his work which was released in 2006, and his recent memoir “Life Itself,” which came out in 2011. In “Life Itself,” Ebert discusses everything from his childhood to his recent health difficulties, which left him unable to talk, eat, or drink. 

Other works by the critic honored the movies he loved and addressed those he hated. In “The Great Movies” (2003) Ebert discussed films he admired. This was followed by two further editions, "The Great Movies II" in 2006, and "The Great Movies III" in 2011. He also published “I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie” in 2002, “Your Movie Sucks” in 2007, and “A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length” in 2012, all of which were compilations of reviews of movies which he had given two stars or less.

In addition, Ebert penned titles including “Questions For The Movie Answer Man,” which came out in 1997 and featured his answers to readers’ letters, and various movie recommendation books in the “Ebert’s Essentials” series such as “33 Movies to Restore Your Faith in Humanity” and “25 Great French Films.”

More offbeat works included a cookbook he wrote titled “The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker” and “The Perfect London Walk,” which Ebert wrote with author Daniel Curley and photographer Jack Lane and in which the three co-authors describe their journeys throughout London. Ebert also penned the novel “Behind the Phantom’s Mask” and the screenplay for the 1970 film “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”

“Life Itself” was particularly well-received by critics, with New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin calling it “candid, funny and kaleidoscopic.”

“It communicates a whole lot of gusto and very little grief,” she wrote of the book. “Its globe-trotting, indefatigable author comes across as the life of a lifelong party.”

Washington Post writer Gerald Bartell was similarly won over.

“Tales from childhood, interviews with film stars and directors, funny and touching stories about colleagues, and evocative essays about trips unspool before the reader in a series of loosely organized, often beautifully written essays crafted by a witty, clear-eyed yet romantic raconteur,” he wrote.

In his third edition of “Great Movies,” Ebert himself wrote about how he felt about the power of the movies. 

“Because we are human, because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, there is a need for another world somewhere,” he wrote. “A world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live."

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