Review Update: ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaughey

Back in October, 2020, I mentioned Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey’s memoir that celebrates his 50 years on Planet Earth, his quests for Hollywood success, his family, and the life lessons he has learned along the way. I wondered then if I would be able to get a review copy and write about it here in my long-running but little-known book review blog.

I was not able to get a review copy from Crown Publishing Company, even though several other publishers have me on their reviewers’ lists. Another practitioner of book reviews, however, recently took pity and mailed me her copy a few days ago. (Here is what I wrote about Greenlights back in October.)

I can tell you now that Greenlights is an unusual and often entertaining memoir. Fans of the actor will find plenty to like in this book, including: rough-and-tumble tales from his childhood; how a role in the low-budget movie Dazed and Confused helped him make it through the fearsome gates, moats, and alligators of Hollywood; and the life and business lessons he has learned while dealing with the advantages and disadvantages of success in the entertainment world.

The book also should please many of the people who believe successful celebrities must use their fame and wealth to help promote and support worthy causes. In McConaughey’s case, he is now serving as the City of Austin’s first Minister of Culture, “working to promote a culure of competence and shared values across cities, institutions, universities, academics, and athletics.” He is also a “professor of practice” in the Radio-TV-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin. And he and his wife Camila founded the just keep livin Foundation, “dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future.”

Central to McConaughey’s thinking is the concept of “greenlights.” Sometimes life gives you easy paths to cruise through, and sometimes there are red lights that flat-out stop you. When you hit a red light, you need to quit just staring at it and obsessing over it. Instead, you must find some ways to make your own “greenlights” and keep going.

There also are some timely reflections and introspections in this book. brought forward by major events in 2020, including the murder of George Floyd and the “social justice revolution” that followed, plus “a red-light drama called COVID-19.” McConaughey writes: “Both of these red lights forced us inward, literally quarantined us to search our souls for a better way forward. In doing so, we took inventory of our lives and who we are in them–what we care about, what our priorities are, what matters.”

He believes that “if we work individually to make the justified changes for a more value-driven and righteous tomorrow, the red-light year that 2020 was will one day, in the rearview mirror of life, inevitably turn green, and perhaps be seen as one of our finest hours.”

Si Dunn