Thoughts on Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I’m new to this whole celebrity bio genre, so I don’t really know how to define my expectations for this book: life of a celebrity who has done crazy things, cowboy gone Hollywood lifestyle? What do I know about Matthew, really? Abs? Rom coms? Interstellar (that was a good movie…) It’s not something I’d normally pick up, but I was surprised to hear it so highly recommended by several people whose opinions I respect. Then we decided to read it in my book club, so I dove in.

I decided to listen to the audiobook, and as soon as Matthew started diving into his rollicking childhood in this unexpected-Texan-poet-of-all-honesty way, I was hooked.

What is this book? I don’t know. Like the main “character,” it doesn’t really fit into any boxes you’d expect. It’s a collection of stories from a very interesting life. It’s a lesson, shown via stories, about being objective, and getting relative, keeping yourself going when life is hard–and (most interestingly) keeping yourself grounded when it’s a little too smooth. It’s about the need to pursue, balanced with the need to restore.

In tone, it’s honest, not preachy. It’s poetic, a little mystical, and laugh-out-loud funny.

I came away with a few takeaways, and as I talked with other people about the book, I thought it was interesting to see how different pieces of insights and observations stuck to and hit us differently. There are simply so many of what Matthew calls “bumper stickers,” in this book–tidbits of things he’s learned and wants to remember.

And here’s the thing. I may not 100% agree with every single one of Matthew’s bumper stickers. There are some people out there who don’t and won’t like this one because of that. However, I’d argue that the point is that I don’t have to agree with every thought to appreciate the whole. This is the author’s story, and he’s not telling anyone else how to live theirs. In fact, I think that’s one reason that this book works so well, and why it’s so clever in a year where everyone is eager to tear each other apart over different opinions. He’s simply a living character, telling his story.

The interest and the connection isn’t grown from a perfect leading man, but from from a complex and likeable one, with an interesting journey to share.

In the journey of this book, we experience and reflect on how life can have its greenlights, yellow lights, and red lights. We see and understand– along with a reflective Matthew– how each of these presents different opportunities. It might also leave you (as it did me) with a desire to document things more, so that one day you can look back on it and see what you couldn’t in the (then) present moment.

Just as in works of fictional literature that I love, I find – in Greenlights – a compelling non-fictional character, pieces to connect with, and eye-opening perspectives. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good time and a little down-to-earth whiskey wisdom.

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