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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    The Summer 2022 Mother Culture Reading List! (Plus Summer Reading Habit Trackers!)

    May 31, 2022 by Brandy Vencel

    Time for the second summer reading list! The more intense 2022 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 the 100-pages-per-week goal of an MEC plan. As I mentioned in the MEC list post, I combine these two concepts by keeping a pile of books that fall into MEC categories, but reading them in a Mother Culture style, picking up the book I feel fit for at the time, and not concerning myself with page counts or other reading goals. (My goal is just to read for 30 minutes per day.)

    If you aren’t familiar with the term “mother culture,” I’m 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 path 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 older children.

    Second, it gives us a method — a simple habit-based approach — to help us build reading into the busyness.

    The habit method of Mother Culture 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 it’s time to read, pick up the book you feel fit for.

    I love this for its depth and its simple practicality.

    (Note: If you don’t have a regular reading time, I recommend scheduling one — actually put it on your calendar. This will help you build the new habit.)

    The purpose of my lists is to help you 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 goal is to simply encourage you to feed your soul with good books.

    The list below is divided into the same categories found in the Mother Culture article, but please 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 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 (in terms of your reading skill level), but hard for you to work through because it touches an emotional spot in your soul or 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.

    Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington

    I’m not even a quarter of the way through this book, but already it’s proved itself as a stiff book. It’s a lot to think about. One of the themes of my reading over the past couple years has been in the vein of scientific abuse, medical malpractice, iatrogenesis, lack of consent, and various other issues that arise when scientists and doctors acquire a god complex. It would be lovely if this book were merely a work of history — a dark past, but a past that remains where it belongs. So far, it feels very much like today’s issues are a continuation of these same themes.

    Socrates Meets Descartes by Peter Kreeft

    Peter Kreeft has written a whole series of books, the “Socrates Meets…” books, in which Socrates is portrayed as having a conversation with some famous thinker. The intention seems to be to introduce the ideas of said thinker in a more conversational style. My husband gifted me three books in this series; I’m starting with Descartes. On deck are Kierkegaard and Marx. In spite of the conversational style, I’m classifying these as “stiff” because I’m going to have to use my whole brain when I read them.

    Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

    Ugh. I’m about halfway through this and it is a load to carry, let me tell you. But I don’t see how we live in the world and avoid this issue, so I figure I best face it in the best way I know how: in a thoughtful and well-read manner. It’s interesting to read Shrier in this because she’s not a Christian. She’s concerned about many of the same issues I am, but she’s coming at it from a different perspective. I appreciate how she is broadening my thinking on the subject.

    The Logic of the Body by Matthew A. Lapine

    This one is another gift from my husband. I haven’t opened it yet, but I’m itching to. I hope I have time to get to it over summer. The back cover claims Lapine is trying to “retrieve a theological psychology.” I am not exactly sure what that means, but I am looking forward to finding out.

    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.

    So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

    I’m considering this one as a read aloud for my children, actually. I feel like the 2-year shutdown really threw us off our game. My children at home aren’t where their brother was at their ages — they have less experience in so many areas. We have tried very hard to keep up standards of excellence, but the reality is that 2 years of not doing much of anything takes a heavy toll. I’m looking to this book to instill some ideas they didn’t manage to get organically.

    You, Happier by Dr. Daniel Amen

    I’ve been following Dr. Amen’s work for quite some time now. I appreciate how much he’s been exploring non-synthetic options for issues with attention, cognition, depression, and so on. I’ve learned quite a bit from his books and I’m looking forward to this one.

    For the Family’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley

    Can you believe I’ve never read this one? I have always meant to, but there was always some other book that needed to take priority. This year, however, I decided I wanted to prioritize reading books on family that I’d been putting off. The easiest way to make that happen was to make “family” a category in my 5×5 Challenge. This book is one among five on the topic that I’m reading in 2022.

    Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom

    In the summers, my Charlotte Mason reading group stops whatever it is we’ve been reading and enjoys a change. We’ve read a number of different books this way. This year’s selection is a book on outdoor-life-as-physical-and-occupational-therapy. At least, that’s how I describe it. People used to just let children run around and play, especially when they were little. Now, everything is organized and programmed. Children pay the price for that; this book explains why and how. I’m 2/3 the way through and loving this book!

    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.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

    I put a Science Fiction/Fantasy category into my 5×5 Challenge this year. If I remember correctly, this came about in a roundabout way. For some reason, I did an internet search on “libertarian fiction.” I think this was because I knew there was lots of Marxist and anti-Marxist fiction; I wanted to know if other political theories got their own novels. Someone made a list and this book was on it; whether Heinlein would own it, I have no idea.

    The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

    A bus ride in the afterlife? Yes, apparently. This book is bizarre. The Amazon description claims the book will “change the way you think about good and evil.” I can’t say it did that, but I do think it gave me some insight into human nature that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s a quick read and interesting.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    I’ve known the general storyline of this book for years, but never read it until recently. It’s super disturbing, a real portrait of a fall into sin and licentiousness. For all that, Wilde manages not to give so many grim details that the reader is dragged into sin himself. There is so much to think about in reading this book. I’ve been considering the danger of sin without evident consequences — we often resent our consequences, but we don’t realize what a horrible place the world would be if they didn’t exist. My daughter and I are reading it together; we’ve ended up discussing blame, selfishness, narcissism, bad company corrupting good character, forgetfulness as a substitute for forgiveness and atonement, and more. Not a book for the faint of heart.

    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

    I try to read at least one Dickens novel aloud per year. This year, we did Great Expectations. It was the first time I’d ever read it, too. It was such an interesting read. There were a number of prominent ideas worth considering. One I keep returning to is the idea of a child being spoiled by the promise of an inheritance and how exposure to wealthy culture caused him to despise a good home simply because it was modest.

    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

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

    Want more book ideas? Check out my past Mother Culture summer book lists:

    Happy summer reading, friends!

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  • Reply Jill May 28, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Brandy! I’ve been scanning your lists and had heard of the lapines book “logic of the body”before. Curious for your take after you read it? Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 29, 2023 at 9:31 am

      I’m sure it’ll make it onto one of my annual Afterthoughts Book Awards posts someday!

  • Reply Tanya June 1, 2022 at 7:04 am

    I love and dread your lists. I already have so many books piled on my back burner, I have plenty to cycle through. But then I sneak a look at your lists and have to add more. LOL I do think I’ll replace something with Medical Apartheid and Irreversible Image–both of those sound fascinating. I have to say I have never read Heinlein, but yours is not the first list I’ve seen recommend him lately. He’s one I’ve always been aware of but never read. I’ll have to keep an eye out and pick one. Right now I’m back on my old murder mystery kick–between P. D. James’s Dalgleish books and Ann Cleeve’s Shetland/Inspector Perez books I’m a little obsessed. But I need to throw in some new sci-fi, so I’ll check him out. Thanks for all your hard work, I’m looking forward to using the trackers this summer. 🙂

  • Reply Lucy Barr-Hamilton May 31, 2022 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for both these lists… nick and I have a 3 month sabbatical from church this autumn and I think I need to use the summer holiday from formal education, and the sabbatical to start a better reading habit, find my long lost commonplace book and set some targets! Sabbatical is particularly focused on food and farming and the Bible so I am going to mine your various lists for nutrition related books.

    Re Dickens: Oliver Twist is on AO, so apart from that one, where would (or did) you start with a Dickens readaloud? I’ve read lots but they are all so very long, I can’t imagine reading one aloud!

    One last question I meant to ask after the other list, do you wear barefoot shoes?! We have been for about 6 or 7 years now, and your lists make me wonder if you have gone this direction too!

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