Tara Westover

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Tara Westover
Tara Westover London 2014.jpg
BornSeptember 1986 (age 32)[1]
Clifton, Idaho
OccupationHistorian, author
ResidenceNew York City
EducationBrigham Young University
Trinity College, Cambridge University (PhD, 2014, intellectual history and political thought)

Tara Westover (born September 1986) is an American memoirist, essayist and historian best known for her internationally bestselling memoir, Educated.


Westover was born in a small Idaho farming town (population 234). Her parents were Mormon survivalists who were skeptical of public education, doctors and hospitals, and the federal government. As a result, Westover was born at home, delivered by a midwife, and she never visited a doctor or nurse. Her father’s ideology forbade all pharmaceutical interventions, which meant that Westover and her siblings were not taken to the doctor even for injuries sustained while working in their father’s junkyard. Instead, the children were treated at home by their mother who had studied herbalism and other methods of alternative healing. Because of the way her family lived, Westover was not registered for a birth certificate until she was nine years old, and by that time neither she nor her parents were certain of her exact birth date.

Like many of her siblings, Westover was never put in school. An older brother taught her to read, but after that her home-education was haphazard. She never attended a lecture, wrote an essay, or took an exam, and for several years there were few textbooks in the house which she could use to teach herself. Despite this, she credits her parents with teaching her how to think and how to learn—specifically, how to teach herself.

As a teenager, Westover purchased textbooks and studied independently. She was able to gain admission to Brigham Young University. After a difficult first year, in which Westover struggled to adjust to academia and mainstream society, she began to do well and graduated in 2008 with honors. She subsequently earned a masters from the University of Cambridge on a Gates Scholarship, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University in 2010. She returned to the University of Cambridge, from which she earned a doctorate degree in intellectual history in 2014.

In 2011, while a student at Cambridge, Westover became estranged from her parents and several siblings. The estrangement, and her unusual path to and through a university education, is the subject of her 2018 memoir, Educated.

Educated: A Memoir[edit]

In 2018, Westover published Educated: A Memoir, which told the story of her struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her family’s rigorous ideology.[2][3][4][5][6] The book was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller, and was positively reviewed by the New York Times,[7][8] The Atlantic Monthly,[9] USA Today,[10] Vogue,[11][12] and The Economist,[13] among others.

In August 2018, former President Barack Obama included Educated on his annual summer reading list,[14][15] calling it “remarkable,” and on 4 December, Educated was voted the No.1 book of 2018 in the Memoir and Autobiography category in the Goodreads Choice Awards.[16] That same week, the New York Times named Educated one of the 10 Best Books of 2018.[17]

As of 29 November 2018, Educated had remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 continuous weeks [18] and was in the process of being translated into 30 languages.[19]

Through their attorney, the family has disputed some elements of Westover's book, including claims that her father was schizophrenic and that her mother suffered a brain injury that resulted in reduced motor skills. They also note that the family business has multiple facilities, 30 employees and an automated assembly line, and that two of her siblings have also earned PhDs.[20]


  1. ^ Whitworth, Damian (February 17, 2018). "Review: Educated by Tara Westover — from the Mormon boondocks to a Cambridge PhD". The Times.
  2. ^ Educated by Tara Westover | PenguinRandomHouse.com.
  3. ^ Cryer, Dan (23 February 2018). "'Educated' review: Tara Westover's memoir of a childhood with religious extremists, and finding her own voice (book review)". Newsday. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  4. ^ Davies, Review by Helen (2018-02-04). "Book review: Educated by Tara Westover". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  5. ^ Ciabattari, Jane. "Ten books to read in February". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  6. ^ "The 50 most anticipated books of 2018". EW.com. 2017-12-26. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  7. ^ MacGillis, Alec (2018-03-01). "She Didn't Own a Birth Certificate or Go to School. Yet She Went On to Earn a Ph.D." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  8. ^ Jordan, Tina (2018-03-02). "Spinning a Brutal Off-the-Grid Childhood into a Gripping Memoir". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  9. ^ Hurlburt, Ann (March 2018). "Educated Is a Brutal, One-of-a-Kind Memoir (book review)". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  10. ^ "In 'Educated,' the inspiring story of an isolated young woman determined to learn". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  11. ^ "Tara Westover on Turning Her Off-the-Grid Life Into a Remarkable Memoir". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  12. ^ "Tara Westover's Educated Is Already Being Hailed as the "Next Hillbilly Elegy"". Vogue. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  13. ^ "A riveting memoir of a brutal upbringing (book review)". The Economist. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  14. ^ Cummings, William (August 20, 2018). "'Factfulness' and 'Educated' among the titles on Obama's summer reading list". USA Today. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  15. ^ https://www.facebook.com/roncharles. "Perspective | Barack Obama's summer reading list is everything we need right now". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  16. ^ "Announcing the Goodreads Choice Winner in Best Memoir & Autobiography!". Goodreads. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  17. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2018". Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  18. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - The New York Times". Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  19. ^ "Book — Tara Westover". Tara Westover. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  20. ^ "Educated should be read with a grain of salt", The Preston Citizen, 23 Feb 2018

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