10 Books Like Educated by Tara Westover

Books Like Educated

Are you captivated by tales of resilience, self-discovery, and the triumph of the human spirit? 

If you found yourself engrossed in the compelling narrative of Tara Westover’s ‘Educated,’ then you’re in for a treat. In this blog post, we’ll explore a collection of books that share similar themes of overcoming adversity, pursuing education against all odds, and ultimately finding one’s place in the world. 

Whether you’re seeking inspiration, insight, or simply another unforgettable story, these recommendations are sure to satisfy your appetite for that perfect life story.

Books Like Educated

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

“The Glass Castle” is a memoir that vividly recounts Jeannette Walls’ unconventional and poverty-stricken upbringing in a dysfunctional family led by her deeply imaginative yet irresponsible parents. 

The narrative takes the reader through the author’s journey from her nomadic childhood, filled with extreme poverty and chaos, to her eventual escape to New York City, where she becomes a successful journalist. 

Walls’ storytelling is marked by her resilience, the deep love for her family, and her relentless pursuit of a stable and successful life despite the odds stacked against her.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Educated” and “The Glass Castle” explore themes of family loyalty versus self-actualization, the struggles of overcoming a tumultuous and impoverished upbringing, and the transformative power of education. 

Both memoirs provide a compelling look at the complexities of familial relationships and the resilience required to break free from a cycle of dysfunction.

2. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

“The Sound of Gravel” is Ruth Wariner’s heart-wrenching memoir of her childhood in a polygamist cult in Mexico, where she was the 39th of her father’s 42 children. 

Wariner describes the extreme poverty, abuse, and neglect she endured in a polygamous community, as well as her courageous journey toward escape and healing. 

Her story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the desire for a better life.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Educated” and “The Sound of Gravel” share themes of growing up in extreme religious environments, the impact of such upbringing on personal identity and worldview, and the extraordinary measures taken to pursue freedom and education. 

Each memoir highlights the author’s struggle for autonomy against the backdrop of their family’s radical beliefs and practices.

3. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

“Hillbilly Elegy” is a memoir and sociological analysis of the white working-class population of the Appalachian region. J.D. Vance recounts his upbringing in a poor Ohio town and the social, cultural, and economic challenges his family faced. 

The book explores themes of social decay, addiction, and the importance of personal responsibility and resilience. 

Vance’s journey from a troubled youth to a Yale Law School graduate offers insights into the American dream and the barriers faced by those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Major Similarities: 

Like “Educated,” “Hillbilly Elegy” delves into the dynamics of a challenging family life and the pursuit of education as a pathway out of poverty. 

Both books address the impact of family and cultural background on personal development and the struggle to find one’s place in the world outside of a troubled upbringing.

4. North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

“North of Normal” is Cea Sunrise Person’s memoir of her childhood spent deep in the Canadian wilderness with her counter-culture family, away from societal norms and modern conveniences. 

Raised by a teenage mother and surrounded by relatives living off the grid, Person’s upbringing was marked by poverty, drug use, and unconventional life lessons. Her quest for a different life leads her into the world of modeling and ultimately, to a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Major Similarities: 

“Educated” and “North of Normal” both feature stories of women who grow up in unconventional, often challenging environments, and their subsequent quests for education and a “normal” life. 

Each narrative emphasizes the tension between familial bonds and the pursuit of personal identity and independence.

5. Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell

“Educating Esme” is a diary-style memoir that offers an inside look at Esme Raji Codell’s first year of teaching in a Chicago public school. 

Faced with the challenges of a difficult classroom environment, Codell uses innovative teaching methods to engage her students and foster a love of learning. 

The book is a candid and humorous look at the trials and triumphs of teaching and making a difference in the lives of students.

Major Similarities: 

While “Educated” focuses on the author’s own pursuit of education, “Educating Esme” shares the transformative power of education from the perspective of a teacher. 

Both books underscore the impact of education on personal growth and the overcoming of adversity, albeit from different sides of the educational experience.

6. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

“Wild” is Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, undertaken as a way to recover from personal tragedies, including her mother’s death and the dissolution of her marriage. 

Strayed’s journey is both physical and emotional, as she confronts her past, battles the elements, and discovers her own strength and resilience. The narrative is a raw and honest exploration of grief, healing, and self-discovery set against the backdrop of the American wilderness.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “Educated,” “Wild” is a story of personal transformation and the search for identity through the lens of a challenging journey. 

Both books delve into the themes of overcoming adversity, the power of nature as a means of self-discovery, and the quest for a deeper understanding of oneself outside the confines of one’s upbringing and past traumas.

7. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

“The Liars’ Club” is a memoir by Mary Karr that tells the story of her turbulent childhood in a small Texas oil town. 

Karr paints a vivid picture of her family, including a storytelling father and a volatile, secretive mother. Through her lyrical prose, Karr explores themes of family, memory, and the impact of a dysfunctional upbringing on identity and resilience. 

The memoir is both a coming-of-age story and a testament to the strength of family bonds, even in the face of chaos and dysfunction.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Educated” and “The Liars’ Club” explore the complexities of family relationships and the ways in which a challenging upbringing can shape an individual’s path to self-discovery and healing. 

Each author navigates the delicate balance between the love and loyalty they feel for their families and the need to forge their own identities.

8. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

“Maid” is Stephanie Land’s memoir detailing her journey as a single mother struggling to make ends meet while working as a maid and pursuing her dream of becoming a writer. 

Land offers a powerful and eye-opening account of poverty, the challenges of navigating government assistance, and the stigma attached to low-wage work in America. Her story is one of perseverance, the dignity of work, and the fierce love for her daughter that motivates her to build a better life.

Major Similarities: 

Like “Educated,” “Maid” is a story of overcoming significant obstacles in pursuit of education and a better life. 

Both books highlight the transformative power of determination, the challenges of breaking free from a cycle of poverty or dysfunction, and the role that personal agency plays in shaping one’s future.

9. Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

“Running With Scissors” is Augusten Burroughs’ memoir of his bizarre and chaotic upbringing after his mother sends him to live with her psychiatrist. In this unconventional household, Burroughs encounters a cast of eccentric characters and experiences a lack of boundaries and conventional family dynamics.

The book is a darkly humorous and sometimes shocking account of survival, identity, and the quest for normalcy amidst profound dysfunction.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Educated” and “Running With Scissors” deal with the theme of growing up in highly unconventional and challenging environments. 

Each memoir showcases the author’s journey to understand and overcome their past, highlighting the resilience required to navigate and ultimately transcend a tumultuous upbringing.

10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“When Breath Becomes Air” is a poignant memoir by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, who writes about his life and battle with terminal lung cancer. Kalanithi, who had spent years studying the meaning of life and death through literature and surgery, is confronted with his own mortality, prompting a deep reflection on how to live a meaningful life. 

The book is a meditation on the intersection of life, death, and identity, offering insights into finding purpose and beauty in the face of the inevitable.

Major Similarities: 

While “Educated” focuses on Tara Westover’s quest for knowledge and identity against the backdrop of her family’s beliefs, “When Breath Becomes Air” explores similar themes of personal discovery and the quest for meaning, but through the lens of facing death. 

Both memoirs are profound explorations of how individuals confront and navigate profound challenges to forge their paths and understand their place in the world.

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