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Matthew McConaughey’s (“Sing 2”) memoir has no business being as good as it is. As I perused Audible for a nonfiction book, “Greenlights” caught my eye — not because I’m a diehard McConaughey fan, but because I had seen it circulating Bookstagram and BookTok and decided to give it a go. This was two years ago. I’ve read McConaughey’s memoir six times since. 

The following statement is probably going to haunt me forever, but here goes nothing: Matthew McConaughey’s “Greenlights” is one of, if not the, best celebrity memoirs ever written. 

I’ve listened to “Greenlights” in each season, on nearly every mode of transportation, alone and with others. I listened to the memoir lying in the grass in my front yard. I listened to it biking the 24-mile trail behind my house. I forced my best friend to listen to it on our road trip up north to Petoskey. I read it while wrapping presents, under the glow of my Christmas tree. 

The charm of “Greenlights” can be fully attributed to McConaughey’s musical southern drawl. It is crucial — essential — that first-time readers listen to the memoir for the best experience. McConaughey’s book is meant to be heard; the style of “Greenlights” leans more informal than formal, more personal than professional. On paper, the sentences might seem unfinished and lengthy, but it’s because they’re supposed to be spoken: 

“We all step in shit from time to time. We hit roadblocks, we fuck up, we get fucked, we get sick, we don’t get what we want, we cross thousands of ‘could have done better’s and ‘wish that wouldn’t have happened’s in life. Stepping in shit is inevitable, so let’s either see it as good luck or figure out how to do it less often.” 

No, McConaughey is not the next great American novelist. His writing is unrefined and relaxed, but that’s the point — McConaughey is sharing an intimate look into his life, and he’s doing it faithfully. There is no ghost writer, there are no unnecessary frills or false philosophical fillers. It is just McConaughey telling his story and telling it absurdly well at that. 

I’ve read numerous celebrity memoirs in my day — they’re my “guilty pleasures,” if you will. From Emily Ratajkowski’s “My Body” to Betty White’s “If You Ask Me,” I have crossed out title after title from an extensive spectrum — and nobody does it better than McConaughey. I’ve wept through emotional memoirs like Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House,” and I’ve laughed with celebrities like Issa Rae and Stanley Tucci as they’ve recounted entertaining tales in their respective works, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” and “Taste: My Life Through Food.” Yet, though I’ve collected celebrity memoirs like infinity stones, the only one I’ve returned to is McConaughey’s. 

“Greenlights” is sentimental and serious, amusing and clever. McConaughey does justice to his book with his gripping recital; his talent for storytelling — his gift of gab — is what sets his memoir apart from others and keeps me crawling back. 

“Greenlights” is divided into eight parts, chronologically retelling McConaughey’s life experiences starting from childhood. In each part, McConaughey interrupts himself with what he calls “bumperstickers” — “lyrics, one-liners, quick hitters, unobtrusive personal preferences that people publicly express” — in addition to snippets from past journal entries and extended soliloquies. They make the listening experience fun and exciting because they bring the authenticity of storytelling to the page. They resemble the familiar tangents of friends going off-track when recounting last night’s events, the sudden realizations people uncover when they relay past incidents. By extension, the memoir feels more realistic, more true, like you’re eavesdropping on the stranger across the bar rather than reading a polished autobiography.

On top of the personal, lyrical style of writing, what makes McConaughey’s memoir great is the memories he shares. The stories are hilarious — from the bizarre rites of passages McConaughey and his brothers underwent, like winning a 3 a.m. pissing contest, to the time McConaughey showed up on set without looking at his script, only to find he had a four page monologue in Spanish — and are brought to life by McConaughey’s captivating narrations. There’s nothing funnier than when the person telling the story can barely get through it themselves; hearing McConaughey’s laughter magnifies the hilarity of it all.  

“Greenlights” is freckled with sentimental moments too, including the story of how McConaughey met his wife Camila Alves, whom he first encountered in a dream. In fact, McConaughey relays several dreams in his memoir, many of which guided him figuratively, and all of which guided him literally to places like the Amazon and Africa. 

Of course, McConaughey talks about his career in show business; he began college as a straight-A pre-law student and ended as a barely passing film major intent on making his way in Hollywood. He recalls walking into the casting room for “Angels in the Outfield” and being hired immediately for his all-American look, when he got the call that he’d be acting alongside Sandra Bullock (“The Lost City”) in “A Time to Kill,” the dreadful amount of romantic-comedy scripts he’s read and the moment when he decided to only take on projects he believed would challenge him as an actor. He is honest about his struggles to be seen as a legitimate actor and his frustration with numerous box-office failures. I imagine that anyone interested in show business could learn a thing or two from these remembrances, which are full of advice and nonchalant wisdom.

I know McConaughey isn’t perfect, and that’s not the point of this article. This isn’t a love letter to McConaughey — the last film I’ve seen of his was “Interstellar” back in 2014 which left me both dazed and confused — but to his well-written, entrancing memoir. I could listen to McConaughey talk for years, and at the rate I’m rereading his memoir, I’ll probably reach that point sooner rather than later. 

Managing Arts Editor Lillian Pearce can be reached at