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    Books & Reading, Mother's Education

    The Summer 2021 Mother Culture Reading List! (Plus Summer Reading Habit Trackers!)

    June 3, 2021 by Brandy Vencel

    Time for the second summer reading list! The more intense 2021 Mothers’ Education Course list is here. Today’s list is for the Regular People, the people who want to continue to read, but aren’t going to do 100-pages-per-week goal of an MEC plan.

    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:

    1. Always have three books available to yourself: a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel.
    2. Read for 30 minutes per day.
    3. When you go to read, pick up the book you feel fit for.

    I love this for its depth and its simple practicality.

    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.

    My 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 book I have read as well as books I own and plan to read (but haven’t yet). I stay away from 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 Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    This is my top pick for the Stiff Stack. I bought this book back in April. Like many books on the topic, much time is spent thinking about the rise of the Nazis. So many books talk about this that I almost shied away because it felt like One More Book on the Same Topic, if you know what I mean, but honestly Arendt is a very influential thinker, and considering our cultural climate, maybe another good book in this vein is exactly what I need to help me form my thoughts.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    Arithmetic by Paul Lockhart

    By What Standard? by Tom Ascol, et. al.

    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 your own time.

    The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

    This is my top pick for the Moderately Easy Stack. Not only am I re-reading it this summer, my oldest came home from college raving about it. It’s been over 15 years since I last read it, but it seemed time to revisit. Inside scoop: Scholé Sisters will feature it on an upcoming episode.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    Ideas Freely Sown by Anne White

    Slanted by Sharyl Attkisson

    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 recent Spring Training with Rosaria Butterfield, she gave an excellent definition of a “dangerous” book: a book in which the protagonist prosper through sin and succeeds through idolatry. Dangerous books can (and often should) be read, but they need to be read with both eyes open.

    In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    This is my top choice for the novels category. It’s my summer read, by the way. It’s huge. “Uncensored,” incidentally, doesn’t mean they put a bunch of sinful stuff back into the book that was previously taken out. The book had had a number of chapters removed in an attempt to have it published in the Soviet Union. These chapters included a double agent for the Americans and also a Christian character. This version is translated from Solzhenitsyn’s original work.

    Other recommendations in this category include:

    The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini

    The Lion and the Saint by Laura E. Wolfe

    Villette by Charlotte Brontë

    Grab Your Mother Culture Habit Tracker Collection!

    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

    Fill out the form below to get yours via email. Also, share what you’re doing on Instagram — post photos of your habit tracker and books! — using the hashtag #motherculturehabit.

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  • Reply Tracey Lopez July 8, 2021 at 6:46 am

    Thank you, Brandy.

    The list looks great. I love to read and I like the idea of always keeping a book with me, for times of waiting. Didn’t Abraham Lincoln always have a book in his pocket?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 8, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      Did he? I didn’t know that, but I love him for it. ♥

  • Reply Angelica June 9, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    Oh, I’ve been keeping an eye out for this post! Guess it’s time to get my summer reading sorted!

  • Reply Anna June 4, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Oh, thank you for bringing In the First Circle to my attention! My husband and I listened to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich during our recent anniversary trip, and I’ve been wanting more Solzhenitsyn, but wasn’t ready for The Gualg Archipelago. This looks perfect and I’ve got an Audible credit to spend! I’ll be reading Ideas Freely Sown along with Cindy Rollins’ summer Morning Time group, and I think Live not by Lies will count as a stiff book. And I’ve got quite few others on the go, or that I will return to when those are done. So many good books! ❤️

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2021 at 10:17 am

      Oh! I didn’t realized Ideas Freely Sown was in Cindy’s picks this year. That’s so great! So many good books, so little time …

  • Reply Chrysti June 4, 2021 at 4:39 am

    Great list. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was mentioned in another book I’m reading so I’ll have to check this one out,

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2021 at 10:16 am

      I feel like he’s making a comeback! My father was a huge Solzhenitsyn fan, so he was a household name for me growing up. ♥

  • Reply Rahime June 3, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    I love that you included Lockhart’s Arithmetic! ☺️

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Predictable. 😉

      • Reply Rahime June 4, 2021 at 10:07 pm

        What can I say?!

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