Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies by Tara Ison

5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, January 30, 2015.

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. Tara 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. It provides a pathway to orient oneself into the world. “Reeling Though Life,” which creates the new genre cinephile memoir, is a compelling look at one popular art form and how it has influenced our identities in provocative and important ways. Ison’s essays are both startlingly personal and universal at the same time.

Exclusive interview with the author:

1) No matter how many books you write, I’m sure each one has its own challenges. How was this book more challenging to write than your others? How was it easier?

It’s not just each new book that’s a challenge – it’s each new sentence, each new word! After all, I’ve never written “that” sentence or used “that” word in that particular way before, so each one has to break a new path. Every sentence, you’re starting from scratch, learning the language all over again for this particular story, character, etc. It never gets any easier.

“Reeling Through Life” had the additional challenge of being my first nonfiction book – I’ve written essays before, but this was on a larger scale. And I was intimidated to discuss/analyze film this way – I’m not a film scholar, so I kept reminding myself this was about my personal, visceral, emotional experience and memory of these films – the kind of experience so many of us have in response to a scene, a character, an image that stays with you all your life.

The book was also challenging because of its intimacy – there’s so much personal stuff here, about sex and love and family, and I couldn’t hide behind the curtain of “fiction.” That said, it was also easier, in a way, because I had so much to work with – it was often like having dinner with a friend and telling them about some amazing movie you just saw, that you’re so excited to share and talk about.

2) When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?

I talk about this in the book, the essay “How To Be A Writer: The Beach House, The Bathrobe, and Saving the World!” I wanted to be a writer after seeing the movie “Julia,” when I was 12 years old – Jane Fonda is Lillian Hellman, she lives in a gorgeous beach house with handsome Dashiell Hammet (who digs her clams for dinner!) she goes to write in a Parisian garret and drinks red wine, she fights Nazis, she wears great clothes – I was completely seduced by the image of The Writer. Sign me up! And so many other films about writers promote this glamorous image – there’s always a beach house, and cocktails with your editor at the Algonquin, and hot people falling in love with you… you don’t see the effort, of course – there’s usually a 10 second montage of The Writer “writing,” furrowed brow, manual typewriter, etc., because the actual work of the writing isn’t interesting at all to watch.

3) “Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies” is a great title! Who came up with it? Was it the original title or did it change along the way?

Thank you! I always thought of it as “Reeling Through Life” – I liked the hint of movies in “reeling,” and the word sounds a little… unbalanced, in the right way. Stumbling through life, scrambling through life. Trying to figure it all out. And the subtitle, “How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at The Movies” plays with the “how to” angle of the essays, and covers the major themes. It might be an over-explanatory title – but on the other hand, it’s truth in advertising!

4) If you weren’t a writer, what job would you love to try out?

Easy: professional knitter. I’m a compulsive knitter – I’d certainly rather knit than write!

5) What’s up next for you?

I have a collection of short stories coming out this fall, which I’m still working on, called “Ball” – most of them about the dark, dysfunctional side of love and sex… After that, I’m not sure. But I know I’ll be sitting on my couch knitting!

About the author:

Tara Ison is the author of the novels “The List” (Scribner), “A Child out of Alcatraz” (Faber & Faber, Inc.), a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and “Rockaway” (Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press), which was featured as one of the “Best Books of Summer” in O, The Oprah Magazine, July 2013. Her latest book “Reeling Through Life” (January 2015), is a collection of personal essays on seminal films and their influence on her life. A short story collection, “Ball,” will be released Fall 2015. Both titles are from Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press. Visit the author online at

Giveaway info:

Title: Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies
Author: Tara Ison
Publisher: Counterpoint/Soft Skull
Author website:

5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, January 30, 2015.

Can’t wait? Order a copy now!

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4 Responses to Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies by Tara Ison

  1. Mike January 25, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Sounds interesting would love to win it!

  2. Stephanie January 27, 2015 at 1:55 am #

    This looks like a really good read!!

  3. Tarah January 28, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Sounds amazing I’d love to read this!

  4. nancy reynolds January 30, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    What a great idea for a book. Thanks for this chance to win. Best of luck with this and all you do.