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An Honest Review of Matthew McConaughey’s Memoir “Greenlights”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

In my spare time, I read and enjoy books of virtually every genre. However, I have never personally been interested in reading memoirs or autobiographies. That is because until recently, I have always had the brazen opinion that most celebrities publish memoirs merely to afford their next yacht or correct a PR disaster by sharing their side of a story. Despite that, I was raised by an English teacher who taught me the value of reading books I may not be inclined to pick up at first sight. After a few of my friends swore I wouldn’t regret buying Matthew McConaughey’s memoir Greenlights, I heeded the advice of my friends and my mother and decided it was time I see for myself if one of America’s most notorious male actors could write a good book.

Since finishing Greenlights, I can exuberantly say it is not only a good book but a great book. In fact, Greenlights may be one of the best books I have read since coming to college. Before reading Greenlights, I had no idea what to expect. McConaughey explains his memoir best in the beginning of the memoir, by telling readers Greenlights is “not a traditional memoir.” McConaughey continues with “I have no interest in nostalgia, sentimentality or the retirement that most memoirs require. This is not an advice book either.” Already, at the very beginning of the book, McConaughey had caught my attention. By the end of the book, I concluded that McConaughey had kept his promise not to preach to readers nor use the whole book just to talk about himself.

McConaughey’s book was successful because he touched on many topics you would find in a regular self-help book, such as overcoming obstacles, being confident in your own opinions, grappling with loss and failure, and a lot of introspection. He examines everyday occurrences through a philosophical lens, aligning every outcome in his life with something that has happened in the past and something that will happen in his future. While most readers probably don’t have the exact same experiences as McConaughey, he shares stories of his adventures in a way that feels relatable to the reader. At the conclusion of most of McConaughey’s comedic anecdotes from his life, I found myself relating to the lessons he learned and the changes in outlook he had throughout his life.

In addition to the familiar nature of McConaughey’s coming-of-age stories, Greenlights was an impactful read because of the poetic nature in which the book was written. McConaughey includes simple quips such as “what goes down will come up,” and constantly uses verbiage that, simply put, sounds pretty to the ear. McConaughey describes his memoir as “a love letter to life” and writes his entire memoir as if it were in fact a love letter.

If humorous anecdotes, philosophical messages and poetic quips still don’t compel you to buy this book, perhaps you will be more inclined to purchase Greenlights as an audiobook. The audiobook, lasting about six hours, allows you to listen to the dreamy, southern drawl of McConaughey himself as he reads his memoir and even laughs at his own stories. 

I have discussed Greenlights with various figures in my life, including both my father and my boyfriend. Everyone who I have talked with about Greenlights brings up a different moment from the book that stuck out to them, or a different interpretation of the book entirely. I believe everyone who listens to Greenlights has something to gain from it, whether that be a confidence boost or a new way to view getting older. McConaughey’s life philosophy is to accept our differences, encourage mistakes, and work as hard as you can to do what makes you happy. If you want a comedic book that provides a unique insight on life, Greenlights is for you.

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Abby is a third-year at Florida State majoring in International Relations and minoring in Underwater Crime Scene Investigation. When she isn't studying or writing, you can find her hiking, thrifting, watching movies, or reading a good book.