Skip to Main Content

The Forum

2021 Leadership Reinvented

Tara Westover

Best-selling Author and Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School

Tara Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. An older brother taught her to read, and after that her education was erratic and haphazard, with most of her days spent working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother. She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned a master’s degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009 and her Ph.D. in History in 2014. Currently, she is a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, working on projects related to media and political polarization.

In 2018, she published her memoir, Educated, which explores her struggle to reconcile her desire for education and autonomy with her desire to be loyal to her family. Educated was an instant commercial and critical success, debuting at #1 on The New York Times best-seller list and remaining on the list for more than two years. It was also a finalist for several national awards, including the L.A. Times Book Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The New York Times named Educated one of the “10 Best Books of 2018,” and the American Booksellers Association voted it the “Nonfiction Book of the Year.“

To date, Educated has sold more than 8 million copies and has been translated into 45 languages. President Barack Obama included Educated on his annual reading list, calling it "remarkable," and Bill Gates listed it as one of his favorite books of the year, saying, "It's even better than you've heard.” For her staggering impact, TIME Magazine named Westover one of the “100 most influential people of 2018"

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”The New York Times Book Review

“Westover is a keen and honest guide to the difficulties of filial love, and to the enchantment of embracing a life of the mind.”The New Yorker

“An amazing story, and truly inspiring. It’s even better than you’ve heard.”—Bill Gates

“Heart-wrenching . . . a beautiful testament to the power of education to open eyes and change lives.”—Amy Chua, The New York Times Book Review

“A coming-of-age memoir reminiscent of The Glass Castle.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Westover’s one-of-a-kind memoir is about the shaping of a mind. . . . In briskly paced prose, she evokes a childhood that completely defined her. Yet it was also, she gradually sensed, deforming her.”The Atlantic

“Tara Westover is living proof that some people are flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable. Her new book, Educated, is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life. . . . ★★★★ out of four.”USA Today