One of the most interesting things about American culture is that we have such different communities all living in the same place. Perhaps the most perplexing communities is that of the Amish, who are dedicated to living a simple, technology-free life, even in the 21st century when faced with such rapid change. You might wonder how they can continue to live the way they do, or how the outside world affects their tight-knit communities, and if their practices are healthy. To someone who knows very little about the Amish, it can be confusing to try to understand their way of life.
Luckily, there have been many books written on the Amish and have insider knowledge and research that gives us a clear view of who they are. Here are three of the must-read books on the Amish so that you can learn more about who they are and what their future looks like.
The Amish by Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, Steven Nolt
If you’re looking for a general overview and insight into the Amish people, a good book to read for general knowledge on them is The Amish. It’s a good book for those who do not know anything about the Amish and even those who do. The book covers a broad scope of the North American Amish people in the 21st century and how they live. The authors give you a glimpse at the many diverse settlements of Amish people and how they differ, from progressive communities to those who are highly conservative. You can learn why the Amish restrict their use of technology, how they choose ministers, why they wear plain clothing, and what roles women play in the Amish community.
The book incorporates many data and charts, giving you a deeper understanding of the Amish and covers critical aspects of the Amish community, including their beliefs, approach to technology, diversity, the power of custom and tradition, changes in occupations, gender, Rumspringa and youth issues, recent controversies, and much more. If you know a good deal about the Amish, you can still read it to find out more in-depth, insider knowledge on the more conservative Swartzentruber Amish, a closer look at Amish affiliations, and fascinating data showing that not all Amish are the same.
Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits by Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt
Curious about how the Amish run their businesses and how they handle issues surrounding their way of life and the legalities of the federal and state government? Then this book should interest you. It details how Amish people have shifted to running furniture workshops, construction crews, food stands, and other small businesses in recent years, and how they handle things like the internet, legal liability, marketing, and other things they must learn to navigate.
It also shares how moving from the farm for entrepreneurial success affects Amish society, and explores the Amish business story from the Lancaster County Amish perspective, one of the most highly entrepreneurial Amish communities.
The Amish and the State edited by Donald B. Kraybill
The thing about Amish people that you’re probably most curious about is how their communities and the way they live interacts with the American government. The Amish have a history of their laws butting against those of state laws, and this book is a collection of essays describing how the Amish have encountered and resolved conflicts related to military service, schooling, Social Security, health care, and other vital issues.
More often than not, the Amish have had to negotiate and sometimes use the assistance of a sympathetic public or powerful political allies. In this book, you’ll also get to learn about the Amish Steering Committee, the Amish’s resemblance of unified political leadership, and how they’ve been instrumental in numerous legal issues affecting the Amish up to the present day.