‘Educated’ begins with an open book

Chris Owens - Contributing columnist

The great thing about a book is that you never know exactly what you are going to get when you open it.

I admit that I read the book “Educated” well after most of my colleagues on the Clinton County Reads Committee. With so many books to consider as we try to narrow down the selections for the ballot, it is difficult to read them all.

The great thing about our committee members is that they are book connoisseurs. Discussing books with several of them over the course of 12 years, I have developed complete trust when they say a book deserves a spot on the ballot.

So, Tara Westover’s popular memoir “Educated” earned a spot on the ballot and was selected by county residents for the 13th annual Clinton County Reads before I read the book.

I had heard quite a few discussions about the book. I had read some reviews of the book. I knew it was a bestseller (and has remained on the New York Times list for more than a year). But I had not opened the book.

And you cannot truly appreciate this book until you read it.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Westover tells her story of being raised in rural Idaho in a Mormon survivalist home. Her parents distrust the medical profession and the public education system. Westover does not step foot in a classroom until she is 17 years old, yet she proceeds to earn a doctorate from Cambridge University.

But you cannot truly appreciate her amazing story without reading the book. There are so many layers, so many “characters,” so many important topics of discussion. In other words, “Educated” is an ideal selection for Clinton County Reads.

I encourage everyone to participate in this year’s event, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Wilmington Public Library with a program led by retired educator Joyce Kelly and concludes with a dinner and program at the General Denver April 11.

The Wilmington, Sabina, and Blanchester public libraries and Books ‘N’ More will sponsor a variety of related programs and book discussions throughout the month. (A complete schedule can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ClintonCoReads/).

Westover’s book is not easy to read. There are many episodes she describes from her life that will, at the least, make you cringe. You likely will yell at her several times for things she does.

But what grabbed me – and likely attracted such fans of the book as Bill Gates and President and Michelle Obama – was Westover’s insatiable hunger to learn.

Once she saw images of the Brigham Young University campus on the Internet, she drove 40 miles to the nearest bookstore to get an ACT study guide. When she found math problems in that book she could not understand, she drove back to the bookstore the next day to get an algebra textbook.

Westover overcomes obstacle after obstacle throughout the pursuit of her education – lack of money, health problems, family issues, abuse, emotional instability. She had every reason to wave the white flag and surrender.

She never does.

Throughout the history of our country, many people have had to fight for the right to be educated. Westover’s circumstances make her fight a unique one, but reading her story should make us all appreciate just how important an education is.

In the end, you will close this book and be inspired. I could not ask for anything more from a book.

Chris Owens is the Director of the Blanchester Public Library and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Clinton County Reads Committee.

Chris Owens

Contributing columnist