Room, by Emma Donghue


Summary: 5 year old Jack has never left Room. To him, it’s all of reality. But then his mom tells him of an outside world that she lived in before the bad man took her away. He has a hard time believing.



The following is my analysis adapted from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind’s description of how to think about a novel. It will have spoilers. 

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

The life-changing event that actually is narrated in the book is when Jack and his mother escape Room and have to start a life outside. Everything seems so strange to Jack, he has to learn to talk to other people, to navigate stairs, to understand the “fame” that he has archived by simple fact of escaping.

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

At first, I had difficulty with the voice of the narrator doing a 5-year-old voice, but I got used to it. After that, I was completely immersed in the story.

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

Oh yes, from wanting to escape the room to wanting to go back to the room where he felt things were “normal” this book does a fantastic job of giving a realistic and sympathetic portrayal.

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?


👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

Jack wants to please his mom, but he is not excited to be brave and escape the room, and when he does escape, he’d like to go back to where it’s safe, quiet, and small. But he can’t go back because the kidnapper has been arrested and, obviously, his mom won’t let him. He repeatedly asks his mom to take him back, or at least to have his stuff from his room. That is his one power, really, is to ask adults to give him what he wants.

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

Jack is telling the story. As a 5 year old, I don’t think he’s lying, but I think some things may not be perceived the same as the would in an adult’s point of view.

👽Where is the story set? Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? 

The story is at first set in a room that they have been kept in since the kidnapping of ma and the birth of Jack. It was built by the kidnapper. This is a story in which the universe is indifferent to what happens to the characters. They must make their own way.

👽What style does the writer employ?

First person from POV of a 5 year old.

👽Images and metaphors. Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

Wow, so many. Anything and everything in the room has a name and a significance to Jack. That’s why he yearns for it all when he escapes.

👽 Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

It does, the story is circular in that it starts in Room and it ends with a final visit to Room to say goodbye.

👽How might the writer’s times have affected her?

You know, I’m not sure. It was written during the Great Recession, but I don’t see how that, or Obama, or any other major event during that time changed the tone or voice of Room.

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?

Not really, it’s a narrative of escape, a story and nothing more.

Nonfiction November 2019 – Week 4


Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – Nonfiction Favorites (Leann of Shelf Aware): We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.


This is a difficult question that I don’t know the answer to. So let’s explore what I like about specific books. One book I really liked last year was American Overdose. It’s about the root causes of the opioid epidemic. This book did seem to jump around a bit in topic (something I don’t appreciate much) but it made up for that by covering each topic with a lot of heartbreaking and eye-opening details. It was the fantastic research, the topic, the newness, and the incorporation of personal stories of real people that made this book so great.


Crazy, by Pete Earley is another nonfiction book that I really loved. It’s about the failure of the mental health system, and the use of prisons as places to lock up mentally ill people. This book, too, had eye-opening and heartbreaking detail. But this one was partly memoir partly investigative journalism. I loved the way Earley incorporated the story of his son into the beginning and end of the narrative. It made the story pop because it was so personal.


Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson is another fantastic piece of non-fiction. Since this is memoir and not investigative journalism, there weren’t any eye-opening and heartbreaking details (which I apparently enjoy), but it was really funny. And I could relate to the mental illness aspect of the book, having bipolar disorder.

So: eye-opening & heartbreaking details, good journalism (if it’s journalistic), a personal touch, humor.


How to Read the Bible: Chapter 8, by James Kugel


The 8th chapter of Kugel’s tome describes the two ways (modern and ancient) to interpret the trials of Abraham, who underwent many hardships in his early days before settling down to become the father of a nation.

Ancient Interpretation

In the eyes of ancient interpreters, the trials of Abraham brought up the question: why would a benevolent creator allow so much hardship. For one thing, Abraham was obedient in everything God told him to do, and he was the founder of God’s Jewish nation. Therefore, God apparently brings hardship to those who he loves most. The ancient interpreters decided that God was testing Abraham, to prove that he was fit to be founder. Instead of a test being proof that God doesn’t love him, it’s proof that God does love him – because it gives Abraham the opportunity to prove his worth.

The most important test that Abraham underwent was when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac in a fiery offering to God. This was horrifying to the Jewish interpreters, who were told later in the Bible never to sacrifice their own children. However, they came up with a good reason. At the time that they were writing their interpretations, they were undergoing a lot of hardships themselves. Many had to become martyrs for their religion. But they asked: is it ok to be a martyr, or is that like suicide, which is forbidden? Thus, they interpreted Isaac as knowing that he was going to be sacrificed – he was therefore the first martyr, and gave implied permission for others to follow suit. For instance, they noted that Abraham, who was over 100 years old at this time, couldn’t have tied up an unwilling 10-12 year old, who could obviously run and struggle. Furthermore, they rationalized using this passage:

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and he put it on his son Isaac, and he took the fire and the knife, and they walked the two of them together. Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father?” and he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And they walked the two of them together. Genesis 22:6-8

First of all, the Bible never repeats itself or says anything for emphasis, rationalized the ancient interpreters, therefore the repetition of the words “And they walked the two of them together” must have a hidden meaning. They supposed that, since Hebrew had no word for “is” that the passage meant “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering: my son.” Thus, Abraham did tell Isaac about that he was the offering, and Isaac then walked together with his father in that knowledge.

Modern Interpretation

Modern scholars would not see the story of Abraham as a single unit of stories, but as a group of writings by different people written at different times – the writers J, P, and E (as described in Chapter 1). Therefore, the text doesn’t have a single “Abraham was tested” theme. In fact, some of the hardships that Abraham went through seem to be his own fault. When he lied to the Egyptians by telling them that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife, Pharaoh took Sarah as his concubine. When God punished him for taking Sarah, Pharaoh came back and asked Abraham why he had lied, and sent him on his way. Meanwhile, Abraham had become rich because of his relationship to Pharaoh’s concubine. Modern interpreters would tend to think Pharaoh was the one who was wronged in this situation. In fact, the story may be a way of accounting for Abraham’s great wealth later, rather than a story of a hardship.

As for the story of sacrificing Isaac, modern scholars see it as an etiological explanation for why the Bible and laws later said that nobody should ever sacrifice their child.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

The Age of Henry VIII, Lecture 1


Next year, I will be reading the Wolf Hall Trilogy, by Hilary Mantel. During this time, I want to learn more about the sociopolitical landscape of the time of Henry VIII, both in England as well as world events that might also shape this vital time in history. I will start by listening to this 24 lecture series about Henry VIII.

Lecture 1

The image of Henry VIII is more recognizable, even to Americans, than any other King. He may not have been well-loved, but his history has a certain allure. Henry VIII reigned for 38 years (1509–1547). There is much popular culture surrounding Henry VIII which started with Shakespeare’s play. The popularity of this play throughout the following centuries give the impression of a powerful, influential king. In the 20th century, King Henry VIII was reimagined yet again: Charles Laughton’s Oscar winning performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Anne of a Thousand Days (1970) with Richard Burton, and the 1972 BBC television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

(The lecture continues as a description of what will occur in the rest of the course.)

Out of my own research, I’d like to note some other things that are going on in the world during and slightly before Henry VIII’s reign. I found this information here.

First black slaves in America brought to Spanish colony of Santo Domingo.
c. 1503
Leonardo da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo sculpts the David (1504).
St. Peter’s Church started in Rome; designed and decorated by such artists and architects as Bramante, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael, and Bernini before its completion in 1626.
Henry VIII ascends English throne. Michelangelo paints the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Balboa becomes the first European to encounter the Pacific Ocean. Machiavelli writes The Prince.
Turks conquer Egypt, control Arabia. Martin Luther posts his 95 theses denouncing church abuses on church door in Wittenberg—start of the Reformation in Germany.
Ulrich Zwingli begins Reformation in Switzerland. Hernando Cortes conquers Mexico for Spain. Charles I of Spain is chosen Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sets out to circumnavigate the globe.
Luther excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Suleiman I (“the Magnificent”) becomes Sultan of Turkey, invades Hungary (1521), Rhodes (1522), attacks Austria (1529), annexes Hungary (1541), Tripoli (1551), makes peace with Persia (1553), destroys Spanish fleet (1560), dies (1566). Magellan reaches the Pacific, is killed by Philippine natives (1521). One of his ships under Juan Sebastián del Cano continues around the world, reaches Spain (1522).
Verrazano, sailing under the French flag, explores the New England coast and New York Bay.
Troops of the Holy Roman Empire attack Rome, imprison Pope Clement VII—the end of the Italian Renaissance. Castiglione writes The Courtier. The Medici family expelled from Florence.
Pizarro marches from Panama to Peru, kills the Inca chieftain, Atahualpa, of Peru (1533). Machiavelli’s The Prince published posthumously.
Reformation begins as Henry VIII makes himself head of English Church after being excommunicated by Pope. Sir Thomas More executed as traitor for refusal to acknowledge king’s religious authority. Jacques Cartier sails up the St. Lawrence River, basis of French claims to Canada.
Henry VIII executes second wife, Anne Boleyn. John Calvin establishes Reformed and Presbyterian form of Protestantism in Switzerland, writes Institutes of the Christian Religion. Danish and Norwegian Reformations. Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.
John Knox leads Reformation in Scotland, establishes Presbyterian church there (1560).
Publication of On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies by Polish scholar Nicolaus Copernicus—giving his theory that the earth revolves around the sun.
Council of Trent to meet intermittently until 1563 to define Catholic dogma and doctrine, reiterate papal authority.
Ivan IV (“the Terrible”) crowned as czar of Russia, begins conquest of Astrakhan and Kazan (1552), battles nobles (boyars) for power (1564), kills his son (1580), dies, and is succeeded by his weak and feeble-minded son, Fyodor I.


History Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2020

History Challenge

Hi All! After scouring the archives of challenges in the past, I discovered a paucity of history challenges. I plan on reading a lot of history next year, and think it would be interesting to see what others are reading too. I will post a linky on the first day of every month so you can include any nonfiction history books you’re reading. The rules are not strict – if you consider the book to be history, then go ahead and post it.

Personally, I will be reading a bunch of books about the world history (mostly English) around the time of Henry VIII. This is because the third book of the Wolf Hall trilogy will be coming out, and I want to understand the sociopolitical background of the book while I’m reading it. Incidentally, you’re welcome to join me for a readalong of that trilogy. 🙂


I’m starting reading the books now, so I’ll just start the challenge on December 1st 2019.

Update November 15, 2020

Another uneventful week. And another picture taken for the sole purpose of having one for the blog. That’s a picture of Aaron reading the second Percy Jackson book to the kids. They’re enjoying the series. It’s blurry because I took it from far away, where I couldn’t be seen by D. Whenever I take a picture of one kid, the other kid demands one be taken of him or her. lol But really, it was meant to be a picture of Aaron reading – not one of M in particular. 🙂

Why do I even bother folding clothes?! (Again, the blurry zoom-in.)

This week we worked on painting D’s room pink and purple. It looks surprisingly good. 😁 Hopefully this weekend we’ll get her new loft bed and desk (also pink and purple) assembled. Then she’ll be set to do homework away from distractions. So far, she hasn’t had much homework, though. On Sunday, we’ll be taking pictures of the kids with their biological mom so that we can frame them hang them on their walls. It’s my birthday / half birthday present to them. They’re both pretty excited about that. We’ll also get a family photo, since we don’t have any with all of us. I’ll hopefully be able to share them with you next week.

Ooh! I found out that my library carries digital copies of Economist and New Scientist! I don’t have to pay for them!

This is the time of year when I start searching for reading challenges that fit my goals for next year. I couldn’t find one, so I started a Social Justice Nonfiction Challenge. I’m going to focus some of my reading time on social justice books next year, and hope people will add links to their own reviews on my blog so I can see what they’re reading and learn about new books.

Books Completed


Currently Reading

Currently Reading

I’m getting to the point where I’m reading too many books at once again, lol. I have Economist and New Scientist checked out from the library and hope to get them finished up by this weekend. I restarted my Bible-reading project, and will be posting updates about that a couple times a week. I’m doing a study of the sociopolitical landscape around the time of Henry VIII in anticipation of my reading of Wolf Hall trilogy next year (feel free to join me in a buddy / group read! I’ll be reading about 50 pages a week). I hope to post notes on one lesson a week for 24 weeks.

How to Read the Bible: Chapter 7, by James Kugel


You may remember from long ago that I was working on a long-term project to read the Bible along with a lot of supplementary reading. I have read the Bible a few times, and this time I really want to study it. One of the supplementary works that I have been reading on and off is How to Read the Bible, by James L. Kugel. If you want to read my summaries of earlier chapters:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7 is a short chapter in which Kugel describes to aspects of the Bible: the two ways of conceiving God, and the perception of angels in the Old Testament.

Modern readers of the Bible tend to view god as omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. That is the later model of God in the Bible. In earlier texts, God is not everywhere simultaneously. As an example, during the Tower of Babel story (Genesis 11:1-9), God has to go down to earth to see what was going on.

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. Genesis 11:5

If he omnipresent and omniscient, he wouldn’t have to go make this trip. He would simply be there and know. Furthermore, God walks in the garden of Eden, as well as appearing in other places in the early texts as a human-like figure. This is against the currently common conception of God.

As for angels: it is common for men and women in the bible to mistake angels for men at first. One example is when an angel comes to Manoah and his wife in Judges 13:2-24.

God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!” Judges 13:9-10

As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. Judges 13:20-21

This general confusion is a theme throughout the Old Testament. It isn’t entirely clear why people are so confused about whom they are talking with.