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Top 17 Books Like 'Educated' to Inspire and Empower You

Looking for books similar to ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover? Dive into these 17 memoirs exploring resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of education.


If you loved Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’ with its powerful narrative of resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of education, read on to discover more gripping memoirs that explore the journey from hardship to higher education. Based on a thorough book review of ‘Educated’, these books focus on overcoming challenging circumstances, family dynamics, and the transformative power of learning.

These memoirs offer inspiring stories of overcoming adversity and personal growth.

Understanding ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover

Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’ is a gripping memoir that chronicles her journey from a strict, isolated from the outside world rural household in Southern Idaho to the prestigious corridors of higher education. Raised by Mormon survivalist parents in an abusive family who mistrusted the Western government and formal education, Westover had little exposure to conventional schooling. Her brilliant father, despite his intelligence, exhibited destructive behavior when drunk. Her childhood was marked by dangerous work conditions and a lack of formal education, yet she was determined to break free from her circumstances.

The memoir is a powerful exploration of self-discovery, resilience, and the transformative power of education. Despite her upbringing, Westover gained admission to Brigham Young University and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University. ‘Educated’ highlights not only her personal sacrifices but also the broader themes of overcoming extreme poverty and breaking free from her family's beliefs and expectations.

17 best books similar to ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover

If Tara Westover's ‘Educated’ left you inspired and hungry for more, you're in the right place. We've compiled a list of 17 memoirs that delve into themes of resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of education. Each of these books offers a unique, gripping narrative that will keep you turning pages and leave you feeling empowered. So, if you are wondering what to read after 'Educated' by Tara Westover, keep on reading to find a list of 17 best memoirs!

1. 'Born a Crime' by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime,’ narrates his life as a mixed-race child in the challenging landscape of apartheid South Africa, where his birth was deemed unlawful under strict racial laws. The comedian recounts the difficulties and perils he faced during his upbringing. His mother was instrumental in shaping him, imparting lessons of endurance and how to navigate through a world rife with racial segregation.

Embodied within its pages are themes that celebrate human resilience and tenacity—hallmarks of an impactful coming-of-age story. With both touching depth and humor, ‘Born a Crime’ reveals Noah’s odyssey towards discovering his identity amidst societal divides making it not just an autobiography but also a powerful testament to resilience.

Similarities between the books

  • Triumph over societal and familial challenges

  • Education as a transformative tool

  • Complex family relationships

2. 'I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban' by Malala Yousafzai

The memoir ‘I Am Malala’, authored by Malala Yousafzai, narrates the gripping tale of her crusade for female education in Pakistan and recounts how she survived a life-threatening assault by the Taliban due to her advocacy. The young girl braved extraordinary peril because she dared to go to school and championed educational rights for girls.

Her dedication to advancing education and empowering others intensified even after being attacked. In this stirring narrative of bravery and perseverance, Malala’s book celebrates the pivotal role that learning can play when resisting subjugation.

Similarities between the books

  • Emphasis on education

  • Overcoming oppressive circumstances

  • Personal resilience

3. 'Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - A Journey of Self Discovery' by Cheryl Strayed

wild - books like educated

The book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed is an evocative account of her daunting solo trek across 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Driven to seek healing after the devastating loss of her mother, a dissolution of her marriage, and self-destructive behaviors, Strayed sets out into the wilderness with limited hiking experience and an excessively heavy backpack—confronting both physical hardships and internal strife in the process.

In this compelling narrative that chronicles Strayed’s personal transformation and journey toward recovery, we are presented with a poignant story marked by perseverance and self-discovery. The memoir struck a chord with audiences for its candid depiction of struggle against life’s adversities. Henceforth, it attained status as a New York Times bestseller—an inspirational testament embraced warmly by its readers.

Similarities between the books

  • Self-discovery

  • Overcoming personal obstacles

  • Solo journey of transformation

4. 'The Sound of Gravel' by Ruth Wariner

the sound of gravel - booksl ike educated

‘The Sound of Gravel’ by Ruth Wariner is a memoir that details the author’s life in an unusual family within a polygamist colony in Mexico, founded by her grandfather. Wariner recounts her impoverished childhood in this polygamist cult, marked by severe familial and systemic abuse. Her father was murdered, leading her mother to remarry a man named Lane, who continued the cycle of abuse.

Despite these harrowing experiences, Wariner eventually escaped the colony with the help of her brother Matt and Lane’s fourth wife, Marjory. ‘The Sound of Gravel’ is a powerful narrative of resilience and the journey to liberation.

Similarities between the books

  • Escaping oppressive environments

  • Importance of education for freedom

  • Personal resilience

5. 'Heartland' by Sarah Smarsh

heartland - books like educated

‘Heartland’ by Sarah Smarsh is a deeply humane memoir that examines poverty in the American heartland, specifically in rural Kansas. Smarsh grew up amidst extreme poverty, with her family often relying on food stamps and welfare. The memoir explores the intersection of class and opportunity in America, offering an unsentimental tribute to the working-class people of rural Kansas whose labor is often invisible or disdained.

Smarsh’s narrative is a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize, highlighting its significant impact. ‘Heartland’ is a compelling story of resilience and the pursuit of a better life despite challenging circumstances.

Similarities between the books

  • Overcoming extreme poverty

  • Impact of education

  • Resilience in adverse conditions

6. 'The Glass Castle: A Memoir of a Dysfunctional Family' by Jeannette Walls

the glass castle - books like educated

The Glass Castle, a heartbreaking narrative by Jeannette Walls, delves into her erratic and challenging upbringing within the confines of a nomadic lifestyle. Her parents were equipped with an artistic flair. They embraced a life marked by idealism and staunch nonconformity that proved to be both their downfall and their redemption. The children often found themselves left to their own devices due to parental neglect—battling instability and severe poverty caused partly by the father’s struggles with alcohol addiction and the mother’s emotional distance.

In this personal chronicle, Walls captures the indomitable spirit found within dysfunctional families like hers where siblings—including her younger ones—had each other’s backs in times of turmoil. They mustered strength from adversity as they collectively sought education, carving out successful paths distinct from those of their upbringing. Through The Glass Castle, readers journey through a collection of profound memories which shed light on enduring hardships similar to those illustrated in another remarkable story about overcoming familial dysfunction titled ‘Educated’.

Similarities between the books

  • Growing up in dysfunctional families

  • Role of education in escaping difficult backgrounds

  • Self-discovery and individual growth

7. 'North of Normal' by Cea Sunrise Person

north of normal - books like educated

North of Normal recounts the life story of Cea Sunrise Person, set against the backdrop of the Canadian wilderness. She was born to a teenage mother immersed in the countercultural movement of the 1960s and had an extraordinary childhood living with her unconventional family, which included her pot-cultivating grandfather. Their home was a teepee in northern Alberta where they participated in atypical activities such as eating insect-infused stews and relying on primitive sanitation methods.

The narrative takes a turn when Person’s life is upheaved by her mother entering into a new relationship, prompting them to frequently move from place to place and break into cabins for shelter. Through North of Normal, readers gain insight into how one navigates emotional hardship and seeks stability while trying to carve out her own identity within an unorthodox family environment.

Similarities between the books

  • Seclusion from conventional society

  • Overcoming tumultuous life circumstances

  • Pursuit of stability and identity

8. 'Crying in H Mart' by Michelle Zauner

crying in H Mart - books like educated

Michelle Zauner’s ‘Crying in H Mart’ is an intimate account chronicling the author’s life as someone of mixed heritage, her affinity with Korean cuisine, and the deep emotional toll wrought by her mother’s passing due to cancer. The title points to a specific chain of North American grocery stores focused on Asian goods—a place where Zauner often sought comfort among its shelves—highlighting the pivotal role of Korean culinary traditions in managing her sorrow.

Originally following an essay published in The New Yorker bearing the same name, Michelle wrote this memoir subsequent to losing her mother in 2014. It has garnered acclaim for laying bare intense personal loss adorned with traces of dark humor throughout its narrative, securing it as an essential read for individuals who have navigated through similar valleys of grief.

Similarities between the books

  • Exploration of self-identity

  • Personal evolution

  • Mourning and healing

9. 'Unbroken' by Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken - books like educated

Laura Hillenbrand’s ‘Unbroken’ tells the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, who went from being an Olympic runner to a WWII bomber crewman. After surviving a crashed Army Air Forces bomber in the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini's remarkable survival story unfolds. Following his survival of a devastating plane crash in the Pacific, he endured 47 days adrift at sea on a raft before facing severe adversity as a prisoner in Japanese POW camps for over two years. His journey exemplifies how hope can lead to transformation and underscores both the indomitable nature of the human spirit and its capacity for change.

As an inspiring narrative that remained on The New York Times bestseller list for over four years, this work details Zamperini’s tale filled with challenge, perseverance, and redemption. It captivated so many that it was eventually brought to life through Angelina Jolie’s film adaptation. Underlining its role as not just recounting events but as a celebration of life’s potential, uplifted by unyielding hope.

Similarities between the books

  • Exceptional resilience

  • Personal adversity

  • Transformative journey

10. ‘The Escape Artist’ by Helen Fremont

the escape artist - books like educated

‘The Escape Artist’ by Helen Fremont is a deeply moving memoir that explores the intricate relationship between memory, trauma, and the enduring bond between family members. Fremont shares her experiences as a young woman growing up in a family haunted by secrets and the legacy of her parents’ survival during the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.

Utilizing the concept of storytelling as a means to unlock and understand the past, Fremont pieces together her fragmented family history, offering readers a window into her journey of healing and self-discovery. Through evocative prose and rich imagery, she delves into themes of resilience, love, and the quest for understanding amidst adversity. ‘The Escape Artist’ stands as a powerful narrative of overcoming personal and familial challenges, highlighting the unyielding strength of the human spirit.

Similarities between the books

  • Overcoming familial challenges

  • Exploration of memory and identity

  • Personal resilience and healing

11. 'A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier' by Ishmael Beah

a long way gone - books like educated

Ishmael Beah’s memoir, ‘A Long Way Gone’, presents a poignant narrative of his life as a young conscript in the war-torn landscape of Sierra Leone. This account details Beah’s transition from an innocent childhood into the grim reality of warfare, where he was compelled to become a soldier at a tender age. His subsequent escape and recovery journey are underscored by remarkable courage and unwavering will to piece his life back together.

In this candid memoir, we delve into the profound effects that armed conflict has on children—both mentally and physically. It serves not only as an eye-opener to these brutal impacts, but also stands as eloquent evidence of how resilience and self-discovery can be catalytic in reshaping one’s destiny after such severe trauma.

Similarities between the books

  • Surmounting severe challenges

  • Resilience and self-discovery

  • Recovery and personal development

12. 'The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars' by Dava Sobel

the glass universe - books like educated

Dava Sobel’s ‘The Glass Universe’ recounts the pivotal role played by women astronomers at Harvard Observatory in advancing astronomical science. These women surmounted considerable societal and academic obstacles to make seminal contributions that have been fundamental to our grasp of the cosmos, despite their accomplishments being frequently undervalued.

In her book, Sobel pays homage to these trailblazing female astronomers for their steadfast resolve and commitment as they sought knowledge in spite of daunting challenges. It serves not only as a celebration of their extraordinary feats, but also acknowledges the significant influence they wielded within the scientific fraternity.

Similarities between the books

  • Overcoming societal and familial obstacles

  • Quest for knowledge

  • Personal development

13. 'When Breath Becomes Air' by Paul Kalanithi

when breath becomes air - books like educated

Paul Kalanithi’s ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ presents a compelling memoir filled with:

  • His evolution from being a medical student to becoming a neurosurgeon

  • His confrontation with inoperable lung cancer

  • Contemplations on life, mortality, and the essence of living

  • Thoughtful examination into the nature of human existence

This narrative poignantly navigates through one man’s search for significance and self-discovery via personal growth and education. The contemplation by Kalanithi on his impending death coupled with his pursuit for a life imbued with meaning creates an emotional connection that deeply affects readers, cementing this work as profoundly influential.

Similarities between the books

  • Pursuit of significance

  • Self-discovery through education

  • Managing life’s hardships

14. 'Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - A Coming of Age Story' by J.D. Vance

hillbilly elegy - books like educated

In Hillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance shares the narrative of his life, set against the backdrop of his impoverished Appalachian roots. His family’s struggles with addiction and economic hardship are woven through a tale that also captures the essence of Appalachia’s cultural and political environment, as portrayed by Vance’s collection of poignant memories from his youth.

Vance’s memoir navigates important themes such as devotion, accountability, and stern affection—values imprinted on him during his formative years—that were pivotal in shaping his path to betterment. Through this personal account, Hillbilly Elegy critiques those who exploit economically disadvantaged populations while bringing attention to wider societal challenges within the Appalachian region. The crux of Vance’s story is surmounting familial disarray and regional adversity en route to achieving individual accomplishment and enlightenment.

Similarities between the books

  • Overcoming poverty and familial instability

  • Role of education in personal development

  • Influence of family history

15. ‘The Color of Water’ by James McBride

the color of water - books like educated

'The Color of Water' by James McBride is a poignant and honest memoir detailing the author’s challenging upbringing within a biracial family in Brooklyn and Queens. His mother, a white Jewish woman, and his father, a black man, navigated societal prejudices and economic hardships, contributing to an environment rife with challenges. McBride relates these experiences with resilience and humor.

This powerful narrative is evidence of the indomitable human spirit and storytelling’s profound ability to foster healing and change. ‘The Color of Water delivers an affecting experience that speaks volumes to those who have endured similar struggles related to race and identity within their own families.

Similarities between the books

  • Triumphing over societal and familial challenges

  • Personal fortitude

  • Familial influence on individual development

16. 'Rocket Boys' by Homer Hickam

rocket boys - books like educated

‘Rocket Boys’, also published under the title ‘October Sky’, is a memoir in which Homer Hickam recounts his upbringing in a coal-mining town and how he clung to his dream of constructing rockets. Despite growing up amidst limitations and community pressures, Hickan’s fascination with rocketry guided him toward a career at NASA.

This stirring narrative showcases the journey of chasing one’s dreams and illustrates the life-changing impact that education and relentless determination can have. ‘Rocket Boys’ stands as an affirmation of the critical significance of steadfastly following your passions against all challenges.

Similarities between the books

  • Personal transformation through education

  • Pursuit of aspirations

  • Overcoming societal and familial barriers

17. 'The Distance Between Us' by Reyna Grande

the distance between us - books like educated

Reyna Grande’s memoir, ‘The Distance Between Us’, recounts her early years in Mexico and the experience of being apart from her parents following their migration to the U.S. It traces her eventual emigration to join them. Throughout Grande’s story, she grapples with financial hardship, family division, and an unwavering resolve to thrive in unfamiliar surroundings.

This moving tale delves into the difficulties that immigrant families often encounter and their steadfast determination required for triumphing over such adversities. The narrative poignantly captures Grande’s quest for a better life as well as education’s transformative role in that journey.

Similarities between the books

  • Triumphing over hardship

  • Using education as a tool for elevation

  • Personal growth and educational accomplishments

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Frequently asked questions

What are the main themes of ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover?

‘Educated’, authored by Tara Westover, delves into the journey of self-discovery and liberation from a dysfunctional family amidst extreme poverty, highlighting education’s profound role in personal transformation.

How does ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls compare to ‘Educated’?

Exploring the resilience and personal growth that arises from overcoming adversity, The Glass Castle and ‘Educated’ delve into the hardships associated with growing up in dysfunctional families. Both narratives underscore the vital role of education as a tool for transcending difficult situations.

What is the significance of education in the memoirs listed?

Within these autobiographical accounts, education is portrayed as a critical tool for surmounting hardship, liberating oneself from restrictive circumstances, and attaining both personal development and empowerment.

Are these memoirs suitable for readers who enjoyed ‘Educated’?

Absolutely, memoirs akin to ‘Educated’ can be equally uplifting and invigorating as they resonate with common themes of tenacity, the journey of self-discovery, and the profound impact that education has on transformation.

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