Book Nook: Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Image Credit: Samaneh Sadeghi Marasht

Natalia Duran commends Matthew McConaughey for his new biography and explains why she recommends reading it.

What to read…

Life, and all that comes with it, is a journey. A ride along what can sometimes be a smooth, less travelled route. Or perhaps, a bumpy road with heavy traffic. Anywhere you go, at any given time on this journey- there will be a sign. It may be a stop sign; it may be a caution sign or every now and then, it may just be a green light. 

Matthew McConaughey, in his new biography, Greenlights (2020), talks about the journey that is life, the unsolvable riddle we are all walking through. The Oscar-winning American actor, best known for his leading roles in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Interstellar (2014), decided to take a different turn in his career and publish a memoir, but he prefers to call it, “an approach book.” In his new book, he divulges details of his personal life, the experiences he has had, and the lessons he has learned over the years which led to his coming up with his own approach to living: “how to get relative with the inevitable,” a state of success he calls, “catching greenlights”.

It wasn’t until very recently that I started reading non-fiction. It wasn’t a book I thought I would be interested in, but I chose it without thinking about it twice. My curiosity toward what felt like a foreign genre got me researching non-fiction books. And, as a film student and a big fan of  Dazed and Confused (1993) I knew about Matthew McConaughey as an actor, but I realised I never thought of him as more than that. I was immediately captured when I read what the book was about. I find it so fascinating how we all live in the same world and can have an endless number of approaches, ideologies and beliefs towards life itself. 

Reading Greenlights led me to question my actions, my values, my knowledge of life and those around me without even meaning to, teaching me how to keep an open mind. McConaughey’s memoir challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, it taught me the importance of knowing when to speak my mind and knowing when not to. It was so interesting to me how a book could speak of things I thought I knew a lot about, and still managed to surprise me, to shock me and even made me disagree in good spirit. The purpose of McConaughey’s biography wasn’t to show a concrete plan full of ideologies that would solve life and make it easier. It was about learning how to create your own beliefs, how to find your own path and how to be yourself without stepping on anyone else’s freedom. This is what makes it worth reading. It’s all about his life and the experiences he has lived through, yet it gives you the space and freedom to shape it into your own life, to take what serves you and dispose of whatever doesn’t. It’s a book that teaches you to realise what works for you and how to put it into action. 

McConaughey wrote this biography with the hope that anyone who reads it gets to laugh, cry, and wonder with him about the riddle that is life. And that by doing so, his story may work as a guide for others who wish to catch more greenlights, to be okay with who you are and learn that eventually, every red and yellow light must turn green. This book puts into words and brilliantly conceptualises the abstractness that comes with being human.  

And where to read it...

Like any college student, I am a coffee enthusiast. A morning cannot start well without an overflowing cup of joyful black coffee. And in the midst of early chirps from the magpies, while half of the world lays asleep, I like to sit in the big faded brown couch that waits for me in front of my window every morning. In one hand I hold my favourite mug, it has a multicoloured male chicken stamped on it with the words “Nice” written on top; I'll let you figure that one out. And in the other hand, I hold my daily dose of life questions, a short philosophical read across McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights

I like to believe that waking up early isn’t for the hard workers, for the fast-paced, or the never-ending energetic souls. Instead, it’s for the daydreamers, the poets and the life-wanderers. It’s a safe time for anyone who likes to defy it all, to test it all, to put the world on edge because nobody is awake to stop you. And thus, I join sipping coffee, wrapped up in a blanket and reading anything that allows me to meditate on this game that we call life. Greenlights successfully got me doing so. 

McConaughey’s simplicity, wit and wisdom taste beautifully during the verge of a spring morning. He has become my teacher before college, my early coffee date, my friend that always has good advice. Believe me, I never thought I’d be the kind of person who would enjoy reading in the morning instead of sleeping in, but I do, and I think that’s how I know I have found a great book. Because, before the world begins again on yet another day, before the everyday ups and downs arrive, I decide to sit on that couch and feel the rising sun come up through my window while holding a steaming cup of coffee and forgetting about it all through the pages of that book. And my friend, I hope someday you do too.