Academic First Year Experiences

  • Book Covers 2007 -2019

CSUN's Freshman Common Reading

To the Entering Freshman Class of Fall 2020

Educated book cover

Welcome to Cal State Northridge! CSUN's Freshman Common Reading for 2020-2021 is Educated by Tara Westover.

As a new freshman, you are invited to read this book and to discuss it as part of a campus-wide community of readers. If you are enrolled in UNIV 100, you will have the opportunity to read Educated as part of the course. But even if you're not taking UNIV 100, reading and talking about the book will remind you that shared intellectual engagement is at the very center of the academic community that you are about to join. The Freshman Common Reading Program invites everyone on campus to think, talk, and learn together across and beyond the boundaries of the classroom by using the book as a starting point.

Read this book; talk about it with other students; discuss it with faculty, with staff, with administrators, with friends, and even--who knows?--with your family.

About the book

Educated is an unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school for most of her life, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. 

From the New York Times book review: "Westover eventually makes it to Harvard for another fellowship and then back to Cambridge to pursue her Ph.D. in history. Even then, she’s not yet fully sprung, so deeply rooted are the tangled familial claims of loyalty, guilt, shame and, yes, love. It is only when the final, wrenching break from most of her family arrives that one realizes just how courageous this testimonial really is. These disclosures will take a toll. But one is also left convinced that the costs are worth it. By the end, 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. She is but yet another young person who left home for an education, now views the family she left across an uncomprehending ideological canyon, and isn’t going back."

Assignment ideas for faculty and staff interested in discussing Educated

Discussion topics and classroom assignments faculty and staff can use with Educated are posted on the faculty-staff resource page. If you have a new idea to add to this collection, please email it to Susanna Eng-Ziskin, Oviatt Library.