Reeling Through Life

How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies

by Tara Ison

List Price: $15.95
Paperback | 6 x 9.1, 256 Pages | ISBN 9781619024816

Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies looks at how film shapes identity. Through ten cleverly constructed essays, Ison explores how a lifetime of movie-watching has, for better or worse, taught her how to navigate the world and how to grapple with issues of career, family, faith, illness, sex, and love.

Cinema is a universal cultural experience, one that floods our senses with images and sounds, a powerful force that influences our perspective on the world around us. Ison discusses the universal aspects of film as she makes them personal, looking at how certain films across time shaped and molded who she has become. Drawing on a wide ranging catalog of films, both cult and classic, popular and art-house, Reeling Through Life examines how cinema shapes our views on how to make love, how to deal with mental illness, how to be Jewish, how to be a woman, how to be a drunk, and how to die with style.

Rather than being a means of escape or object of mere entertainment, Ison posits that cinema is a more engaging form of art, a way to slip into other identities and inhabit other realities. A way to orient oneself into the world. Reeling Though Life is a compelling look at one popular art form and how it has influenced our identities in provocative and important ways.



In Reeling Through Life, Tara Ison fashions a marvelous alchemy, giving cinematic sweep to the challenges in her life —some of them recognizable and very funny, some of them not and damned hard — while finding instructive nuggets in an array of iconic films to help make sense of the daily stuff we’d like to leave, if only we could, on the cutting room floor. The result is a brave yet buoyant personal story, told with grace and wit and not a hint of self-pity.

—Douglas Bauer, 2014 PEN New England Book Award winning author of What Happens Next?: Matters of Life and Death

Essential and completely identifiable reading for any film lover. Tara Ison writes about movies and life the way Stephen King can write about horror — with an encyclopedic knowledge of both.

—David Koepp, screenwriter of Jurassic Park and Spider-Man

Like a great film retrospective, Ison’s gorgeous essays flicker and dazzle with nostalgia; her shimmering prose and astute, provocative insights surprise and delight. But it’s in her courage to rack focus, turning her personal life inside-out, that elevates this book into a profoundly moving, revelatory whole.

—Neil Landau, author of the bestselling 101 Things I Learned in Film School

Tara Ison’s Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies is unforgettable – a must read for anyone who loves movies. In an exquisite blend of memoir, criticism, and cultural observation, this luminous collection engages readers’ hearts, minds, and intellect the way that only the best movies – and the best storytellers – can. Ison masterfully showcases how movies shape and guide us; how they move and empower and embolden us; how they help us learn how to be, above all, human.

—Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World

Tara Ison’s Reeling Through Life is the most enjoyable, intelligent, sharp-eyed, and intensely personal account I’ve ever read of how movies help to make us who we are. It’s as stirring as Norma Rae’s union sign, as seductive as Mrs. Robinson’s leopard-skin coat.

—Matthew Goodman, bestselling author of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World

Tara Ison’s passion for the movies shines in every essay in Reeling Through Life, as she gleans life lessons from the movies she’s fallen in love with. By turns hilarious, poignant, and outrageous; always profound and beautifully written.

—Hallie Ephron, author of Night Night, Sleep Tight

There are wonderful movies revisited here . . .. [W]ell-written and engaging . . .


Ison is keenly aware of how cinema’s massive power molds us, teaches how to love, to drink, and to die . . ..  Confessional, honest, and humorous, Reeling through Life is an engrossing memoir and a guide to essential film . . .


Tara Ison’s insightful essay collection, Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies, made me realize that the movies I loved had marked me, perhaps in ways I had not realized, and that I shared some of the sensibility she had so smartly articulated in this book . . . Ison’s keen insights strike a chord. An original blend of memoir and film criticism.

—Chicago Tribune

\xE2\x80\x9CIf the subject of sex makes for some of Ison’s best writing, it is in part because it hews the closest to her own experience, which she uses as an obstinate crowbar to jimmy open the gap between representation and reality... We are interested in Ison, her experience, her chunk of flesh.

—New York Times Book Review

[B]reathless and impassioned, Ison shows how and when her favorite on-screen characters and stories synchronized with her own life, or, more often than not, failed to do so. It’s possible that film buffs may not appreciate her breezy approach to cinematic history, but I found it delightful. Rather than a seminar, Ison’s book has the feel of a dinner party, where the hostess tries out voices, does impressions, acts out whole scenes and plots.

—Los Angeles Review of Books

Her knowledgeable study of the films in terms of society and her own life are witty and right on target, and she offers readers much to ponder. There are no holds barred here... This is well written, absorbing, and thought provoking, with a highly creative approach to memoir and also to film as it relates to our collective culture. The title will appeal to a wide readership and is especially recommended for those who enjoy film.

—Library Journal

Novelist and screenwriter Ison delivers an innovative blend of film criticism and literary memoir in this absorbing collection of 10 essays . . . The result is powerfully universal, and the author’s writing is at once intellectually razor-sharp and poetic as she delves into the most complex of emotions . . . These essays, combining cultural criticism with deeply personal reflections on love, religion, family, and the nature of art, offer brilliant analysis and food for thought for film aficionados and casual fans alike.

—Publishers Weekly

This is fun, and smart, either a cautionary tale or a how-to, or both.

—OC Weekly

Our Algorithm Recommends

Your book will arrive via USPS in 5-10 business days.

Bill To

Ship To

Learn more about new releases, events, promos and more cool stuff!
Not in the US? Contact us for international order.

Your books are on their way!

Order Number
Here's what you got

Which ships to