An emotionally and atmospherically deep celebration of a family that has stuck together through thin and thinner.



The Today Show host chronicles his family’s story through dark times and great obstacles.

Melvin looks back at his upbringing in Columbia, South Carolina, during the 1980s and 1990s. Though he focuses on his relationship with his father, many other members of his large family play important supporting roles in the memoir. Melvin is in his early 40s, but he has enough experience and wisdom to be able to see his father through a very different lens than when he was younger, when his father’s absences, sullenness, and emotional distance troubled him. Gradually, he learned that his father was a severe alcoholic—and not just an alcoholic, but addiction prone in general, as when he lost himself to video poker, “the crack cocaine of gambling” (now outlawed in the state), squandering much of his paycheck. Melvin has a canny way of putting readers in his younger shoes, capably demonstrating his confusion and need for approval and how these factors shaped his personality. He worked diligently to avoid his father’s fate and become a self-confident, communicative, empathetic adult. The author also fills in the background of the “soft racism” of Columbia and what it was like for a Black family to move across the river to downtown. Many members of his extended family move in and out of the narrative, each bringing their own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. But it all comes back to his Pops, and Melvin won’t settle for a simple answer: “hindered by his own family history, his own parents’ shortcomings and dearth of resources, his lack of a good role model…the systematic and overt racism he faced…the legacy of alcoholism—and likely an undiagnosed underlying depression.” As the author grappled with his family’s legacy, he devised his own philosophy about child rearing: “You want to make their path as smooth as possible, but without spoiling them rotten.”

An emotionally and atmospherically deep celebration of a family that has stuck together through thin and thinner.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307199-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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