Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A MemoirEducated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Westover’s story is as gripping as her prose is moving. There is a lot for the reader to process from her memoir. The following are my top three takeaways: (1) once objective reality and knowable facts become dismissible, the physically strong will be left to make and justify the rules based on fabricated conspiracies, elastic theologies, and magical thinking; (2) to become educated is a choice and does not happen passively; (3) number 2 is the remedy to number 1.

Also, can somebody make this a movie already?

This review also appears in Goodreads.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year HistoryFantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasyland was a fun read for at least two reasons: (1) each of the underlying themes seemed custom-made to validate my preconceived notions about why people (Americans, particularly) are quick to believe unsubstantiated claims, and (2) Andersen’s style is smart, conversational, and funny.

I really wanted to give Fantasyland five stars, but it was frustrating in one pronounced way: Andersen waits until the second half of the final chapter to do most of the work of tying together the themes and ideas of the previous 45 chapters. It makes for a satisfying finish (a method that probably serves Andersen’s fiction readers well), but this approach leaves the reader with long stretches of what begins to feel like recitations of “oh, and look at this other weird thing people believe.”

Also, I know it wasn’t Andersen’s purpose, but I wish he’d given the reader just a little more by way of suggested remedies, more how-to advice on making America reality-based again. Perhaps a companion volume is forthcoming?

All that said, this book deserves a wide audience and to be added to civics syllabi everywhere. It won’t turn everyone into rational empiricists overnight. But a basic understanding of the historical and developing reasons why facts and reality have taken a backseat to relativism and magical thinking for so many Americans (on the left and the right) is a good starting point, and Fantasyland delivers just that.

This review also appears in Goodreads.