If you aren’t familiar with the term “mother culture,” I’m actually referring to an article that appeared in Charlotte Mason’s Parents’ Review Magazine way back in 1892. The Mother Culture article does a couple important things. First, it reminds us that books are a way to wisdom — that a solid reading life is imperative if Mom is going to gain the maturity she needs to be a good mom to her older children. Second, it gives us a way — a simple habit-based approach — to help us build reading into the busyness.
The habit involves three simple steps:
- Always have three books available to yourself: a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel.
- Read for 30 minutes per day.
- When you go to read, pick up the book you feel fit for.
I love this for its depth and its simple practicality.
Unlike my 2023 Mothers’ Education Course plan, this is for Regular People, the people who want to continue to read, but aren’t going to meet the 100-pages-per-week goal of an MEC plan.
The purpose of my lists is to offer an example to get your ideas flowing. Some people like to use books off of my lists; others find that these books make them remember other books, and those are the ones they end up reading. No matter. My point is to simply encourage you to feed your soul with good books.
This list is divided into the same categories found in the Mother Culture article, but remember that one man’s stiff book might be another’s moderately easy book (and vice versa) — make sure you categorize your reading stack in a way that makes sense for you.
These lists include books I have read as well as books I own and plan to read (but haven’t yet). I avoid recommending books I’m not actually familiar with, even when they’re famous.
On to the list!
The Stiff Stack
What makes a book “stiff”? The most obvious quality would be reading level — a stiff book is the most difficult to read. Beyond this, the subject might be heavy or require a high level of attention. Sometimes, the book itself might be easy for you to read and understand, but hard for you to work through because it touches an emotional spot in your soul or it confronts a place in your life where you need to repent and grow.
Just remember: the stiff stack is for the most taxing books. If a book is taxing for you, put it in the stiff stack.
The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Abigail Favale
I hadn’t heard of this book, nor its author, when my husband gifted it to me for my birthday earlier this month. I’ve only flipped through it a little, but I can tell it’s going to be an excellent read.
Other recommendations in this category include:
Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers by Louis Berkhof and Cornelius Van Til
Moralia, Volume 1 by Plutarch
Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich
The Moderately Easy Stack
Moderately easy books should still be good books. They are teeming with ideas that grow your mind and expand your soul, but they aren’t nearly as difficult to read as your stiff books. They might be more light-hearted (they might even make you giggle). Sometimes, these books are more modern — one reason they’re easier to read is because they are written in our own time.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
I can’t wait to crack open this book this summer with my local Charlotte Mason book club. Our tradition is to use summer to read a book that is a one-off in some way. We want it to be connected to our philosophy while broadening the conversation. This book has been recommended to me many time by folks I trust, so I’m thrilled I finally get to make time for it.
Other recommendations in this category include:
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
Marva Collins’ Way: Returning to Excellence in Education by Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin
The Novel Stack
Do these really need introduction? If anything says summer to my soul, it is a good novel. Click here for advice on choosing and reading a novel. Please remember that stories are powerful things. It’s important to fill your mind with good thoughts. This doesn’t mean your books can’t contain evil — they should, in my opinion. But tempting you to approve of evil is altogether different, so guard your heart as you choose wisely. In our 2021 Spring Training with Rosaria Butterfield, she gave an excellent definition of a “dangerous” book: a book in which the protagonist prospers through sin and succeeds through idolatry. Dangerous books can (and often should) be read, but they need to be read with both eyes open.
Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead
OH MY GOSH, you guys!! This novel is a masterpiece. This was my first Lawhead, but it won’t be my last. This book was an adventure, a spiritual journey, a historical education, and more. Caveat: There are some things in it that may concern you; you want to read it before considering handing it off to older children. I read it aloud to my teenagers so that I could censor on the fly if I needed to. This is a fictionalized telling of the life of St. Aidan and so beautifully told. It’s long, but worth every minute. I can’t recommend it enough.
Jubal Sackett by Louis L’Amour
Actually, the whole Sacketts series!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
(Again: possible content warning. Sort of depends on how strict you are. Read it before you hand it off to older teens.)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Summer Mother Culture Habit Trackers are Here!
Your Summer Mother Culture habit trackers are here just in time for June 1st.
When you sign up for this freebie, you’re getting a boatload of summer reading goodness!
- The Mother Culture Habit Tracker! This is the habit tracker that started it all. ♥
- A mother’s habit tracker for general habit tracking.
- A matching pair of reading and habit trackers for girls
- A matching pair of reading and habit trackers for boys
- A special reading tracker for beginning readers
Also, share what you’re doing on Instagram — post photos of your habit tracker and books! — using the hashtag #motherculturehabit. I love to see your progress. ♥
Want more book ideas? Check out my past Mother Culture summer book lists:
- The Summer 2022 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2021 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2020 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2019 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2018 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2017 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2016 Mother Culture Reading List
- The Summer 2015 Mother Culture Reading List
Happy summer reading, friends!