Thursday, August 18, 2011

What do the Amish read? Do they read Amish fiction?

What do the Amish read? Do they read Amish Fiction?

Someone asked me recently if the Amish are reading all the “Bonnet Books” or Amish fiction out there on the market.  She wondered if they read fiction at all. This question makes me realize that there’s a big misconception about how separate the Amish are from society at large.  It reminded me of my daughter’s shock at seeing Amish at Kennywood, an amusement park in Pittsburgh. Or when my husband and I took a train ride out West; Amish people were on the train and people whispered, “They must be moving somewhere to bring ‘new blood’ into a settlement.” We had to hide our laughter. They were on vacation! The Amish really do like to have fun, believe it or not.  An Amish friend, Noah, hopes to go with my husband deep sea fishing someday.
Now, back to the question, do Amish read fiction? Yes, if it’s good clean reading. I take books I’ve read to my Amish lady friends in Smicksburg, PA, anything from Jane Austen to Wanda Brunstetter. Their reaction cracks me up. The middle age women and teens dive into them like kids getting presents under the Christmas tree.  The older women shake their heads and say, “Silly. Just read the Bible. It has the best stories and they’re real.”   
But it can get a little complicated. When it comes to Amish fiction, they can get a little touchy. They want their people represented correctly. Amish fiction authors can be banned by certain church districts. Each church is approximately 200 people and each has a bishop. A complaint about an Amish fiction writer went to the bishop and he banned this dear author, whose my favorite. She wrote about the Old Order Amish using powwow medicine in Lancaster. The Amish bishop thought it made his people look uneducated and silly. So, he threw out the baby with the bath water and banned all books by this author. 
They are also tired of Amish fiction books that make the bishop the villain. They’re insulted by this because they say the bishop has to be the most humble among them. Like Jesus who washed his disciple’s feet, the bishop has to act like a servant. We all know a good story needs to have an antagonist, but the mean Amish bishop is getting really old to them. "Totally unrealistic," they say.
For more info, read The Amish Way by Donald Kraybill. He addresses how the Amish are at a real crossroads, not knowing what to adopt from modern society and what to discard. He talks about Amish ministers using Max Lucado and Rick Warren books while writing sermons. The rule of thumb on books is that they should line up with a Biblical worldview. It’s the same with fiction.   
Hope this helps. Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Excellent post, Karen. Thank you!

  2. Hi Karen, it's always fun to see the interesting things you do like this blog that I just found. My fam and I just got back from a vaca at Raystown Lake in PA. Many mennonite families were vacationing there. One of the ladies had a swimsuit like mine! My girls got quite a kick out of that. The families were very friendly and talkative. One lady was reading a magazine called Mennonite Life.

  3. Wow, fascinating! I'd never even thought about how they might react to fiction focused on their way of life. Thanks to Rita G for linking over here!