Raising Readers, Reflections
comments 2

Reading as "Mother Culture": A Bibliographic Essay

Mother Culture

In September, I was privileged to give a talk on the practice of reading as it relates to “Mother Culture” at a Charlotte Mason retreat. The phrase “mother culture” is a popular one in Charlotte Mason educational circles, but it should be practiced by everyone, particularly those of us who tend to pour into the lives of young people in some capacity.

Simply put, mother culture is the practice of filling up your cup so that you have something left to give to those to whom you minister. It’s not limited to reading, but reading is a straightforward way to begin this practice.

I decided after the retreat that it was time to stake stock of my progress on the 2018 Redeemed Reader Reading Challenge. If I’m missing any particular category, I still have a few months in which to make up for lost time.

Literature is a rich and glorious kingdom. ~Charlotte Mason

The Grand Slam Challenge

My daughter and I both took on the Grand Slam Challenge: 100 books in 2018. But not just any 100. Nope. There are requirements to this challenge. The whole point of the requirements is to force us to diversify our reading.

Total books read as of this writing (according to Goodreads): 119. Not bad! I’m ahead of schedule.

Surprising Favorites

The books that most surprised me this year:

Fiction: A Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts. I’m not going to say a lot about this one–yet. It’s a women’s fiction book written by a Christian about two women (and their families), both of whom are struggling with grief, significant rupture in their family relationships, and even a doubting of their faith. Their love for one another, their willingness to stand in the gap for one another was inspiring. I couldn’t put this one down. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a hopeful one. The baptism imagery at the end was profound. We’ll be coming back to this one!

Nonfiction: Ourselves, book 1 by Charlotte Mason. I had struggled in the past to make it through the first couple of chapters, but I dived in this summer with an Instagram read along. It was so good! Very thought-provoking and cause for much reflection.

Nonfiction Junkie

It turns out that I’m a nonfiction junkie. When I’m not reading books to review here on Redeemed Reader or reading aloud books to my kids, I often gravitate towards nonfiction. I have a theory on this: narrative nonfiction and well written biographies are every bit as good as fiction… only they’re true.

My top biography read this year:

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas (about William Wilberforce). Go read it. Watch the movie. So good. I’m praying that the Lord will raise up a Wilberforce for our own times–particularly for issues such as abortion. Food for thought. I might have shed a tear or two at the end….

My top narrative nonfiction read this year:

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Readers, this was a completely mesmerizing, sleep-losing story for me. I love a good disaster narrative, and Millard’s prose is splendid. Her inclusion of so many of Garfield’s own words has made me pine for the loss our country experienced when he was assassinated.

My one gap in the nonfiction list: a nonfiction book about a hobby.

Hmm…. Do I have any hobbies? You bet: reading is right at the top of that list! But I decided I couldn’t count books about books for this category. Or books about parenting, education, home management, business, etc.

The most helpful general “informational book” I read this year:

Thanks to a nudge from Megan, I bought and read (like, in a day, y’all) How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White. She’s a kindred spirit. Delightful.

Books With and For Kids

Reading to and for kids (and for reviewing here on Redeemed Reader) totally counts! I did require myself to only count books “as recommended by Redeemed Reader” that I hadn’t personally reviewed (there’s a whole category on the challenge about books recommended here on RR).

The books I enjoyed experiencing most with my kids:

  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Audio narrated by Nick Offerman. Excellent and hilarious.
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. I read the first one aloud this summer amidst downright guffaws and cackles from the peanut gallery.
  • Wise Words by Peter Leithart. We all enjoyed this series of fairy tales with Proverbs as morals.
  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Audio narrated by Jim Dale: only way to go. We listened to this with my parents on an extended road trip in May. Everyone in the car enjoyed it!
  • Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. My kids totally got into this one as a summer read aloud.
  • Tangerine by Ed Bloor and our other Love-Your-Neighbor Book Club picks. My kids have enjoyed them, and I’ve enjoyed re-reading the selections.

The books I enjoyed reading most for review purposes:


My gaps were surprising: I need to read a couple more mysteries! And I’m missing a book “popular when my parents were kids.” Time for a phone call to Mom for that one. I’m also missing a book older than 200 years old (I’ve got the “even older” book: Much Ado About Nothing). I need some suggestions for a book older than 200 years!

I finally made it through Jane Eyre this year and was going to count that as a book recommended by a parent, but it turns out: it’s the only book I’ve read that’s long enough to count for “a book ten times your age.” Ahem. So I read My Name is Asher Lev and counted that as my mom’s recommendation (she’s recommended both over the years, and I’m so glad I finally read them both).

Have you taken the challenge this year? How are you measuring up as we enter the final quarter of the year? Where are your gaps?


Please follow and like us:


  1. I felt the same about Amazing Grace. We need a Wilberforce for our generations.

    Have you tried Bonhoeffer by Metaxas?

    • Hi Ruth,

      I have read the student version of Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer and found it pretty academic and dry. I’m wondering how much different his adult version is….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *