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Alright, alright, alright!

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Image of the cover of the book Greenlights by author Matthew McConaughey to accompany the book review by The Reading Edit on the same page. Cover features a headshot of the author deep in thought.

Alright, alright, alright!

Greenlights isthe memoir of Academy Award winning actor, Matthew McConaughey. I listened to the audiobook of Greenlights, narrated by the man himself. I wouldn’t typically be drawn to anything by Matthew McConaughey (movie, book or otherwise), so I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed his memoir. It is candid, intelligent, insightful and highly entertaining. The truth is, I couldn’t put it down!

This isn’t a memoir of some wild Hollywood playboy or a rags to riches story. Greenlights is Matthew McConaughey’s thoughtful retelling of his most pivotal, life-affirming or life-changing stories and adventures. Along the way, he offers his bumper stickers and prescriptions for life, poems, notes to self and ‘green light’ moments. 

So what are ‘green lights’? In the words of McConaughey, green lights mean go, advance, continue. They give us what we want and don’t interfere with our direction. Sometimes green lights can be disguised as a yellow or a red light – they might present as a caution, a detour, an interruption, a death, sickness on merely a thoughtful pause. They slow us down or stop our flow, but somehow, they give us what we need. McConaughey suggests that throughout life we can identify where the yellow and red lights are and engineer our course to catch more green lights, the path of least resistance. 

This is not a conventional memoir. Nor is it an advice book. McConaughey, aged 50, describes it as an ‘approach book’. The content for his memoir is based on 35 years of journal entries, poems and prescriptions for life. 

“I haven’t made all A’s in the art of livin, but I give a damn. And I’ll take an experienced C over an ignorant A any day.”

Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey was studying law before he diverted to film school (green light!) and later got his first movie role in ‘Dazed and Confused‘ (1993) (green light!) where the legendary line ‘Alright, alright, alright’ was born (green light!).

His early family life in Texas and a life spent travelling the world (including a gap year in Australia as a Rotary exchange student) make up much of the book, rather than his Hollywood exploits. He readily admits that he gets more inner growth and satisfaction from his travels than his career. 

McConaughey candidly shares the green lights that lead to his most successful movies, as well as his decision to turn his back on a highly successful rom-com career. Ultimately, this red light became a green light when after nearly two years without work, declining some of the biggest and most lucrative roles in Hollywood, he ultimately landed the role of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club (2014) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Greenlights gave me everything I want from a memoir. I laughed, I learnt, I was inspired and I was always entertained. 

“Greenlights – here’s to catching more of them. Just keep livin”

Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey

Published 2020 by Headline, 304 pages (audiobook 6 hours, 42 minutes)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Image is of the cover of the book Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Cover features a young boy walking along the beach with his backpack on and a bird soaring overhead. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

This is the diary of a year in the life of Dara McAnulty; a fourteen year old boy, growing up in Ireland, with a deep love of nature. Through the turning of the seasons, Dara’s observations of nature are told with childlike wonder and amazement, but also with wisdom and insight that belies his years. 

Dara lives with his mother, father, sister and brother. They are a very close family, together sharing a love of adventure and nature. Everyone in the family is autistic, except for Dara’s father. His parents were once told that Dara would ‘never be able to complete a comprehension, never mind string a paragraph together’. In actual fact, writing helps him make sense of the world. In Diary of a Young Naturalist, Dara’s words are poetic, heartfelt, brave, compassionate and inspiring.

Woven alongside Dara’s observations of nature in each changing season are typical teenage and family events. He is very honest about the bullying he has endured at school up until this point. At the end of Spring, the family relocate to the east coast of Ireland, Dara starts a new school and is finding his place in the world. He is invited to go on field trips with conservationists. 

Increasingly, his connection to nature brings a stronger need for awareness and conservation. His frustration, disappointment and feelings of helplessness in regards to the protection of nature and wildlife are shared by many of us, and in his book, Dara urges and inspires us all to keep taking action, to keep caring.

The feelings of so many of us, young and old. Those of us that care. We feel it, every hour of every day. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting, but it’s vital to keep pushing on, doing heartfelt things.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara notices and knows so much about the natural world around him; from the tiniest bug to the oldest trees; from birds of prey to the regular feathered visitors in his backyard garden. I wanted to read this book slowly; to absorb all of Dara’s observations and relate them to my own, here on the other side of the world in Australia. I wanted to stop and look and appreciate the nature that exists alongside us everyday. There is a lot of solace to be found in nature. It’s the antidote to our busy, anxiety-filled lives. Dara’s observations plug you into nature, prompting a stillness and awareness that connects deeply with your heart.

‘We all have a place in this world, our small corner. And we must notice it, tend to it with grace and compassion.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

I love the navy blue hardcover of this book, the typeface and the texture of the pages. I love that it’s in the form of a diary and that the young naturalist’s year is divided into the seasons. At the end of the book is a delightful glossary which includes the pronunciations of words in both English and Irish Gaelic. The inside front and back cover has a rough map of Northern Ireland indicating several places mentioned in the book.

Diary of a Young Naturalist is a small book that gives so much. I simply adore it.

Published 2020 by The Text Publishing Company, 288 pages.