Listen To Your Instinct: A Henry Winkler Book Review

by - November 14, 2023

For those that have never had the luxury of being in the same room as Henry Winkler, his memoir, Being Henry: The Fonz… And Beyond, is the equivalent of gathering around his dining table and hearing his best stories firsthand.

In just under 250 pages, Winkler gives readers an intimate look into his life and career. He said he can’t remember not feeling an intense need to perform. What he never felt, however, was support. He shares anecdotes from his childhood, where unfortunately his parents did not understand or seem to care that their son had a learning challenge.

Winkler has been candid about his struggles with dyslexia, going so far as to create a children’s book series called Hank Zipzer. Along with writer Lin Oliver, the title character is a child that shares Winkler’s struggles and the powerful message of overcoming.

“I couldn’t read and everybody said that I was lazy, I was not living up to my potential,” he said during his book tour stop in Naperville, Ill. “I was told I would never achieve, I would never amount to much, and in my mind I was thinking, ‘How is that possible?’ But if all of these adults are saying the same thing then it must be true.”

“I think a heard child is a powerful child,” he continued. “It is so important to listen. I think that the ear is the center of the universe.”

It took a life of success and failure to fully comprehend who he was, and he makes sure the messages of the book are fully understood to his audience each night on his book tour.

“When I looked at the whole book, I finally realized it literally was the journey from where I started being who I thought I should be to becoming a more authentic me to being who I am,” he said.

During his conversation with Barry co-star D’Arcy Carden for the Chicago Humanities Festival, he acknowledged that while his reputation of being one of the nicest people in Hollywood still seems foreign to him, it took him years and the help of a therapist to accept love. Carden shared many instances where Winkler has been a wonderful friend: weekly phone calls, pep talks, congratulations gifts, just because flowers, a place to stay… She agrees that nice is not a strong enough word to describe him.

“He’s so much more than that,” she said. “Nice is pretty easy, actually.”

Most importantly, his memoir shows that he’s human. A surprising point of view in the book is of his wife, Stacey. She shares her honesty, much like Winkler does in the rest of the book, but her passages speak of topics that range from his immaturity to his anxieties. It’s refreshing to read her thoughts and understand a side of him that hasn’t been publicly expressed before.

Henry Winkler may not personally invite every reader to his dining room table this Thanksgiving, but Being Henry: The Fonz… And Beyond shares the same warm, personal touch. Yes, it is about the specific stories that have shaped his life. It is also about how anyone’s journey can be similar if they trust the process, and trust and believe in themselves.

“I am going to be presumptuous enough to tell you this,” he said each night. “Every single one of you is powerful. Every single one of you. Some have tasted your power, some of you are afraid of your power, some of you don’t know you have it yet. But I’m here to tell you that your head only knows some things. Your instinct knows everything… Your instinct is your guide to living and I am telling you that you don’t know what you can accomplish until you just listen to your instinct.”

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