Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Late last year I messaged my friend Tara on Facebook because she asked people for crock pot recipes and discussing food is the last vestige of that platform in my life.

Tara and I met in college. We were both history majors and she was the smartest person I knew so I latched myself onto her in multiple classes and made her study with me. In our last year we worked on a journal together. She was the editor-in-chief and I was something very not editor-in-chief. These were good memories. And then we graduated.

After college we stayed sort-of-in-touch through social media, chatting very occasionally. She went on, as expected, to travel the world and earn advanced degrees at places like freaking Cambridge. I saw her post pictures of the cool things she was up to from time to time and every time she did I nodded at my computer screen in polite pride that someone I knew and liked was doing snobby things without seeming to become snobby.

We hadn't chatted on social media for a few years when I sent her the crock pot recipe, and I couldn't remember seeing much posting from her in recent months and so I didn't know what she was up to these days.

She responded and thanked me for sending it. We Facebook chatted for a little while, catching up. She told me she was still living in England. I told her I was a big fat homo now and how Skylar keeps breaking my stuff but I have to accept it because I already peaked and he's settling for me so this is my best shot at a happy life.

We talked about work. She said that she had just finished writing her first book and she was going to publish it soon. I was all like, "omg that's like soooooo awesome sometimes I write things 2 lol rofl!"

Ok, I didn't say exactly that. But looking back, and knowing how this story ends, I may as well have said that.

We chatted a bit more and then I left for work. On the way to work I nodded in polite pride that someone I knew and liked had actually written a book. "Good for her," I said to myself, thinking of all the people, present company included, who would like to write a book but can never seem to finish one.

"I hope she's able to sell some copies and feel proud of what she wrote," I said, supportively, and like the phenomenally good person that I obviously am.  

Sometime later, a couple of weeks, I think, Tara messaged me on Facebook to ask me a question about publishing contracts. I looked at one and gave her my thoughts. She thanked me. I nodded in polite pride again at the reminder that not only did this person I knew and quite liked write a book, but she found someone to publish it, enough that they even had a contract for it.

Then some time passed. We may have chatted again. I don't remember. Or maybe I just saw her post some information about the book. However it happened, I discovered a way to pre-order the book on Amazon, and so, in my polite pride, I did just that.

"I'll show my support," I said to myself as I clicked on the purchase button.

Sometime later, the book came.


The book is Educated, by Tara Westover.

You may have seen it in every single bookstore in the world this year.

You may have also seen it on the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for eleventy weeks in a row.

Or maybe you saw BARACK FREAKING OBAMA write about how it's one of his favorite books of the year.

Or maybe you've seen Tara brilliantly do about 5 trillion interviews on every show on TV all year long. INCLUDING WITH FREAKING GAYLE.

All of the attention is deserved. I devoured this book, and it is phenomenal. Truly.

It's about Tara's experiences growing up with survivalist parents in the mountains in Idaho, and then miraculously getting herself to college and beyond despite family opposition and having never freaking gone to school or experiencing a single minute of homeschooling.

The story is really captivating. Heartbreaking. Fascinating. Infuriating. Healing.

But beyond that, it is just really great writing from a really great person.

So basically I just want you all to go read it and then tell me what you think about it.

[All of the above said in polite pride.]

This is us at graduation. I know. So hawt. #willtheyorwontthey

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I read this book over the summer in about two days. I could not put it down! It was both fascinating, devastating, and inspiring all at the same time. That is so cool that you know her, Eli! She seems so amazing. I just can’t fathom what strength and perseverance she possessed to overcome her challenges and go on to do so many amazing things.
    It is so true that fact is stranger than fiction because you could not make up some of the crazy experiences she had in her life!! I have recommended this book to everyone and continue to do so! She is an amazing writer and storyteller. I was so excited to see that Obama recommended this book as well!!
    I would love for you to post more stories about your time with her.

  2. To be fair though, Eli, everytime I meet you at Strangerville Live I walk away feeling much like you described. "OhMG he's so cool and what a rad story and wow I'm such a dork why did I even say that to him? I do cool stuff 2 lol rofl"

    Also, purchasing the book on Amazon as soon as I hit publish here. I LOVE triumph over adversity stories! Thanks for sharing and being rad enough to know Tara!

  3. This is fascinating to me, because I went to Purdue with her older brother, Tyler. (I haven't read the book yet, but I believe she mentions him, I may be wrong but I think the book is dedicated to him?) My sister, Mimi, told me about this book earlier this summer and the name was irritatingly familiar, so I did a facebook search and there he was. Not the same as going to school with Tara herself or anything. It was interesting to see that after her book came out he wrote a series of blog posts with his own memories and recollections, that served as a sort of balance to her own. It was so good, and when I went to check it this morning to share here with anyone who would like to read it, he had deleted all the posts! The blog itself is still there, but with no content. Now I will fail my test later today wondering why he would do that?!

    Would you say this book is anything like The Glass Castle?

    1. Amy Rose, She talks a lot about her brother Tyler in the book as well. He seems amazing too. The book did remind me of The Glass Castle, but more intense! I wish that blog was still up. It would have been interesting to read.

    2. Oh, that's interesting that he took his blog posts down! I read them all back when you found them.

      The book was very interesting. I'm amazed to hear that you know her, Eli!

  4. Aaaaaaaaaand purchasing this book right freaking now.

  5. Just read this for my book club and DEVOURED it. It was exactly as you said - fascinating, captivating, infuriating, heartbreaking. So cool that you know her!

  6. Just Ordered it, also why does the USA and Canada have different book covers? Like what's the reasoning...

  7. This should be the first book in "Eli's Book Club." (You know, like Oprah.) We've all ordered it this morning, we'll all read it, and then there will be a special podcast with Tara at the end.

    1. We could certainly read it in the It Just Gets Stranger online book club on goodreads!


  8. Can your next blog post have the crockpot recipe, and title it something really click bait-y like, "Cooking with Tara Westover, What's In Her Crockpot!" (Is it borscht?) (Did I spell that right?)

  9. Cannot wait to read this. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. Whaaaat?! I am currently 11th in line for checking Educated out from my local library. Now I am even more pumped to read it.

    On an unrelated note, does anyone have any mob connections? Or ideas for how to intimidate people? Like maybe the kind of persuasive intimidation that would cause someone (or maybe 10 someones) to suddenly be disinterested in a book and bend to my will?? Asking for a friend...

    1. I'm #727 in line for the audiobook on my library app. Number 11 doesn't sound so bad.

    2. That is a horrifically large waitlist!!! One of the few things to be grateful for when living outside of a huge metropolitan library system is shorter waitlists. The downside is that my library often doesn’t have the books that I want. Haha!

  11. I AUDIBLY GASPED. I read that book a few months ago and am still talking about it to everyone within earshot. YOU KNOW HER?!

  12. My book club LOVED this book! We were all so absorbed with how she made it in life. And to think, you went to school with her! So awesome!

  13. "...because I already peaked and he's settling for me so this is my best shot at a happy life."

    Ok, I know the line was thrown in there for laughs...and I did laugh, but damn, that was some harsh reality dropped on us. My god, how old is your soul??? How many past lives have you lived until now? We aren't supposed to know this essential Life Truth until much later. While it might not apply to everyone (and there's no way it applies to you and the amazing Skylar because you are a fox!), that is some varsity, Oprah-level self awareness you got goin' on. What a burden you carry.

  14. Also, essential oils!!! Another connection you and Tara share.

  15. This book was one of the best I read this year. It was (and she is) amazing.

  16. The minute you mentioned history major, I KNEW it was THE TARA whose memoir I read in two days this year. So good!

    And to those who wonder why her brother deleted his posts, it may have to do with the critical bool reviews that stirred up family issues.

  17. High praise, from some president guy AND Eli Freaking McCann


  18. I picked this book up on the spur of the moment at my grocery store of all places because I homeschool my children and I thought it was a feel-good book about homeschooling. I started reading it and had to stay up way past my bedtime because I could not put it down. I finished it the very next day and was still trying to come to terms with all I had read when my sister called to tell me she had just finished reading a book she thought I would love--sure enough it was Tara's book. I've told everyone I know to read it. It is incredible. What a story! What a woman! Definitely NOT a feel-good story about homeschooling, but a feel-all-the-things story about her life.

  19. Oh my gosh, I read this book months ago and looooooved it! She’s amazing!! I can’t believe you were buds in college!

  20. I can see the updated book jacket reviews now:

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

    “Riveting . . . Westover brings readers deep into this world, a milieu usually hidden from outsiders. . . . Her story is remarkable, as each extreme anecdote described in tidy prose attests.”—The Economist

    "A remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind." — PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

    "Good for her." -Eli McCann, college friend

  21. Huh. My wife just read a book for book club in a similar vein that was TERRIBLE and she hated pretty much every minute of it. I'll send this her way to get the bad taste out of her brain. Plus, BYU history major solidarity for you folks. I wonder if my wife overlapped you all, but I think she may have been too far ahead time-wise.

  22. I freaked out when you finally said her full name. I LOVED Educated! I think it was one of my favorite books I read this year. Me and Obama could be twins ; ) I work at a library and we have had eleventy million holds on it all summer long. I swear half the time I answer the phone it's someone requesting this book. Everybody go read it!