Tara Westover’s education took place not in a classroom, but a junkyard on Buck’s Peak, a rugged mountain in a rural county in Idaho.

Raised in a devout Mormon family, she never attended school because her parents, mainly her father, believed that public education was a trap set by the government and the Illuminati.

Instead, she was expected to work long days in the family junkyard, collecting and cutting scrap metal to be sold. Sometimes, she would bottle herbal tinctures with her midwife mother.

Her bestselling memoir “Educated” — which has spent 87 weeks on the New York Times Bestselling list – describes how, after never receiving even an elementary-school level education, Westover began attending Brigham Young University at age 17. She went on to study at both Cambridge and Harvard, ultimately earning a Ph.D in history.

Her nonexistent early education – which left her ignorant of events like the Holocaust or the civil rights movement — provides a foundation for the book’s plot. Westover’s quest to achieve an education separates her from her extremist family, leading to turmoil throughout the book, which is equally focused on her early childhood and her education.

What makes “Educated” special is the style of language that Westover used and how her memoir seems to bend genres.

Westover’s writing is seamless.

A combination of poetic observations and painful memories should create an odd contrast, but Westover blends the two perfectly, making the 330-odd pages fly by quickly.

Told in the first-person, Westover narrates her life from the age of five to her early 20s, allowing the reader to forge a connection to the author. This connection makes the book seem personal and raw, trapping a reader’s emotions in the first few pages.

“Educated” is a memoir, but it takes the shape of a mystery, a drama and a feel-good contemporary fiction book throughout the story. Her bizarre family life – which morphed from dysfunctional to abusive — and her own passion keeps the reader from feeling like the story is flat. Westover’s struggles, which she outlines clearly and honestly, entice the reader to keep turning pages.

In her book, Westover wastes no words trying to paint a linear journey from uneducated child to Ivy League graduate. Her memoir includes mistakes and pitfalls she encountered while navigating into the “real” world of academia and away from her only home. This honesty and Westover’s passionate voice make the story an inspiration and a lesson in determination.


"Worth the Read?" is a column by Raegan Miller, dedicated to reviewing books on the New York Times bestseller list in effort to determine whether the book truly deserves the title.