Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – a Book Review

I had been hearing a lot of buzz about this memoir, and after reading it I can see what all the fuss is about. There is a brilliance to Matthew McConaughey that isn’t often conveyed in his films. Later films, yes. Earlier ones with the pretty and often brainless leading man? Not so much. The thing is, he knew this. He purposely almost tanked his career in order to break free from his typecasting as the romcom leading man, something he does outline in his memoir. This is an excessively difficult thing to do in Hollywood, especially for someone so handsome. Let’s be real, there are prejudices against everyone, including beautiful people. The world looks at them and thinks there’s not much more to them than that: a pretty face and rockin’ bod. Everyone should be allowed their complexities and unique ability to shine as a human. In Matthew McConaughey’s case, he took it whether it was offered or not.

In this memoir, Mr. McConaughey is up front, honest, and visceral in the details of his life. He brings the ugly, the perfect, the funny, the shameful, and the unbelievable of his life in vivid detail. He is a natural storyteller. I listened to this on audio, and I really feel like there’s no other way to read this book. He narrates it himself, so it’s basically like sitting with him while he narrates the story of his life. I was stricken by what a philosopher he is. He really has things to say and lessons to teach that have come from a long and full life of self discovery. We should all be so open and curious and brave in our pursuit of our true self. And we should be unapologetic about not really fitting into boxes.

In today’s world, we are so polarized. It feels as if no one makes actual judgments based on instinct or logic anymore. We don’t close our eyes and ask ourselves “what do I really believe?” We allow the world and pushed social norms to dictate our choices, actions and beliefs. We don’t strip off our clothes and play bongos naked in our living rooms because that would be weird, right? Well who the fuck cares?! And you know what? None of us are happy! We aren’t authentic. I see a lot of reviews that assert this book makes Matthew look smug and self absorbed, that he thinks too highly of himself. That’s fair, but I actually didn’t get that at all. He’s content. He’s confident wearing his own skin. He’s earned it. This is a memoir, and you shouldn’t expect someone to sugar coat or withhold honesty about their successes. Frankly, I feel it’s a reader’s own prejudices that shine through when they only see the good a writer shares about themselves without noticing that they also showed their vulnerabilities at the risk of making themselves look bad. He admits to his failures. He just didn’t let them stop or define him, and he has a right to be proud of the successes.

Maybe happiness isn’t as simple as stripping down and playing the bongos in your living room. That works for Matthew McConaughey but it wouldn’t work for me. And maybe you’re reading this saying, “you’re wrong! I’m living my authentic self!” And that’s great. Keep doing what you’re doing. But some of us need to take a page from Matthew McConaughey’s book (not literally, that’s unconscionable book abuse) and start looking for greenlights, moments that present themselves and give us permission to forge ahead and make our own path. Greenlights is so worth it. This book is surprisingly eloquent, funny, and sometimes surreal. Very well done, Mr. McConaughey. 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published October 20, 2020 by Random House Audio. ISBN 9780593416952. Runtime 6 hrs 42 mins. Read by the Author.


About Amy @ A Librarian and Her Books

I'm a law librarian from the state of Missouri and a graduate of Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. My real passion is in fiction, which is why I started my blog to share my thoughts with other bibliophiles. I live with my husband and two wonderful children and a collection of furry feline companions.
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