Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do the Amish read Classic Literature? Jane Austen? Charles Dickens? Amish Knit Lit Circle will answer your questions.

My new book, Amish Knit Lit Circle  just came out and the title shocks many, thinking the Amish don’t read anything but the Bible. Well, they’re avid readers, but very choosy as to what they read. I take books I’ve read to my Amish lady friends in Smicksburg, PA, anything from Jane Austen to Wanda Brunstetter. Their reactions crack me up. The middle age women and teens dive into them like kids getting presents under the Christmas tree.  Elderly women shake their heads and say, “Silly. Just read the Bible. It has the best stories and they’re true.”  

But the classics seem to be safe. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other greats write from a Biblical worldview, where right is right and wrong is wrong. The morals are high and very clean. But they still have to scrutinize classics, and struggles arise.  

Any writer needs a conflict, and so in Amish Knit Lit Circle I knew exactly what would happen in an Amish and English knitting circle that also was a book club. No fantasy, no ghosts, only realistic fiction. When Christmas rolls around the Smicksburg  Baptist Church is putting on the play, A Christmas Carol, and the English women are busy shopping and whatnot , and don’t have to time to read a novel that month. But when Granny opens A Christmas Carol and reads the first line, “Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that. “

Granny is battling fear about her dear old husband passing away due to money problems, like Matthew in Anne of Green Gables, the book of choice last month.  Here’s an excerpt of this scene where then they discuss which book to read for next:  

 Granny opened it to read, Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  What an odd way to start a book, Granny thought. “Janice, is this a sad book? About a man’s funeral?”

“No, it’s really like a long parable. You see, a miserly old man, Scrooge, is warned by his dead business partner that he needs to change his ways.”

Granny gasped. “A dead business partner? Do you mean this is about talking to the dead?”

“No,” Janice said. “It’s about three ghosts who visit –”

Mona stood up tall. “Ghosts? We don’t read about ghosts, or talking to the dead, or whatever you’re trying to say.”

Janice’s head jerked back as if slapped. “It’s called symbolism. The ghosts take Scrooge back in time to see his faults, and then show him the future.”

Granny could hardly believe she and Mona could both see eye-to-eye on anything. “Foretelling the future? It’s forbidden in the Bible. Janice, I’m surprised your church is doing this as a play.”

Janice’s eyes got as round as saucers. “Charles Dickens was a Christian trying to teach a lesson through this book. It’s kind of like a fantasy.”


The women continue to bicker, but wise old Granny brings everyone back to what’s really important.


Granny put her head back on her rocker and closed her eyes. Lord, I need wisdom. Help me. As soon as she prayed, an idea popped into her head. She smiled and looked around the room. “What is the biggest sin?”

“What?” Mona snapped. “Not being obedient to the Bible.”

“Not loving,” Granny said, almost in a whisper. “We are to love each other, not seek our own way. We are all Christians and I’m thinking we need to respect others’ convictions. If Janice has read this here book, and knows that its meaning will be helpful to point others to the straight and narrow, I say let’s believe the best in her. Love thinks the best, jah, like 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible says? But we Amish have to live by our Ordnung and no fantasy stories are allowed, especially ones with ghosts


In the end, the Amish to read many of Charles Dickens’ books that long winter, from The Life of our Lord, David Copperfield to Great Expectations. And once again, we see, like all my books, there are two cultures, Amish and English, but are knit together by faith, hope and love. ;)



  1. Sounds like an interesting book--I need to through it into my TBR list...
    I was wondering--do the Amish enjoy reading Amish books?

  2. Very interesting Karen! :)
    Amber Schamel