EDUCATED by Tara Westover a Favorite Title for Readers Over 60

Educated by Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover is by far the top favorite 2018 title among the over-sixty readers polled by 4Q Catalyst.  Seeing one of the most honored and widely discussed debut books of 2018 at the top of the 4Q list confirms that well-told memoirs appeal to all age groups.  In his own review, Bill Gates called Educated “The kind of book everyone will enjoy. It’s even better than you’ve heard.”

Even if you haven’t read Educated yet, you have probably heard the outlines of Tara Westover’s path from her survivalist Mormon family in rural Idaho where she had no formal schooling, to graduating from Brigham Young University and earning a PhD at Cambridge.  As she talks about the pain and personal costs of traveling that path, Westover brings us inside a world where rigid convictions and constricting family bonds make growing up dangerous, and leaving the family circle almost as unthinkable as staying put.  The summary of her experience sounds grim –and Westover spares no details in recounting it.  So what makes her story so appealing?

4Q readers called it “an amazingly honest delve deep into Westover’s own feelings… brutally honest on the terrible environment of family abuse,” and “a powerful endorsement of the freedom and the challenges that education can bring.”   Educated, they said, delves deeply into the life of Tara Westover as she overcomes what many might find unsurmountable circumstances. “

A vital component of the book’s appeal is that it challenges readers to confront their own family stories and assumptions about success.  As another 4Q reader notes, “The themes of the book raise many compelling questions: How do young children cope with the burden of destructive families and societies?  What distinguishes people who can rise above deplorable conditions?  What does it mean and what does it take to be educated?”   And the questions quickly move beyond the bounds of Westover’s personal story, “My first reaction was the marvelous tenacity and resilience of the human spirit. However, I spent some time trying to find a larger context for the story. I found a number of sources from other people in the story of her life.”

In Tara Westover’s own words, “In families like mine there is no crime worse than telling the truth.”  By telling her own truth is such compelling terms, Westover opens the door to all of us to reflect more deeply on our own choices and the trade-offs made along the path to becoming educated.

With thanks to 4Q Catalyst readers Gerard Kiernan, Richard Price, and Charlie and Faye Ruopp for their reflections on Educated.