Book Report: Greenlights

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Did you think I wasn’t reading anymore? Not the case; I’m reading a long-ass book about working equitation and a book in my color series, on green. But, this green-themed book showed up yesterday, so I diverted to read it on a very rare rainy July day.

I didn’t jump to read Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey, the moment it came out last year, because I was busy reading other stuff. But, my love of memoirs by quirky people got the best of me, and when I was ordering another book, I stuck this one in my order. I’m glad I did, because this book is a fun adventure to read and a nice break from some of the “celebrity” books I’ve seen.

My favorite thing is that MM (as I’ll call him, to keep from having to type his surname over and over) is unabashedly honest about himself, which makes reading about his personal and spiritual journey am unexpected joy. As you probably know, one of my favorite pastimes is learning how different people “tick,” and MM gives you a lot of insight into how he got to be the way he is today. His morality is very consistent, and when he sees himself deviating, he goes off and works on it, by gosh. It’s no wonder one of the reviews on the back of the book is by Lee’s hero Ryan Holliday, the modern Stoic guy.

And, yes, it’s a philosophy book as well as a memoir. I’ll admit that some of the stuff seemed to be a bit simplistic, but I didn’t disagree with any of it, either. And I certainly enjoyed how he presented his ideas in photos of sticky notes, bumper stickers, and images of his hand-written notes from various stages of his life. Seeing someone else’s unedited thoughts is quite insightful, and I admire MM for sharing them!

A sample of the book’s layout.

About the Book Itself

Something else I liked about this memoir is the book itself. I like it when a publisher takes a chance and makes a book’s design a feast for the eyes. The physical book itself is even different in a good way. The book jacket is not the size of the book, and is on lovely paper. Then, when you open the book, you’re greeted with all sorts of photos and words inside the cover. This part contributes a lot to the story of MM, and is a delightful surprise.

The book itself has a theme, and by gosh, it sticks to it. MM talks about “greenlights” in his life, which are signals he’s on the right path. The color green appears in the section dividers, in the Venn diagram used to mark sections within chapters, and every time he says “greenlight.” The use of a typewriter-style monospaced font in any content that’s a poem or a philosophical break helps you keep track of what’s in the narrative and what’s an aside. Plus, the bits in MM’s handwriting show what isn’t edited at all.

Section head.

The Content

The other thing I want to say about this book is that it does what I like best in an introspective book, and that’s to NOT go on and on about every famous person the author encounters, every fancy thing the author ever did, etc. Instead, MM focuses on his own thought processes and introduces only people who let him toward his greenlights, most of whom aren’t all that famous (though a few are). His humility seems genuine, not a put-on, and you end the book not thinking how great it was to get to know a movie star, but rather how great it was to follow a man and learn from his insights as he grows and changes. (I also enjoyed reading about his times in Austin, which brought back memories.)

Why I sat and read all day yesterday.

Nope, MM is not much like me at all, but he earns my respect for being true to his ideals, for learning from his mistakes, and for focusing on what he learns from all his experiences. Well, in that way, he IS like what I’d hope to be!

By the way, I read the book by first reading through the narrative part (the “regular book” bits) so that I could keep track of the passage of time, then I went back and read all the inserts and philosophical asides. Those parts are timeless, though it’s cool to figure out where MM was on his journey when he wrote his notes.

So, if you like modern philosophy, spiritual growth, or funny stories about wrestling on other continents, playing bongos naked, or any combination of the above, you’ll like Greenlights. You might even start looking at your life’s challenges in a more positive way.