On a recent post reader Jim S commented: “Would love to read a more in-depth treatment of the Amish.” Jim Cates and Rich Stevick replied with some good suggestions.
I’d like to chime in as well. The past few months, I’ve been building a huge guide to my favorite non-fiction books on the Amish (also linked at “Good Books” up there on the right in the main menu).
On the list you’ll find 27 books in 9 categories, including Amish Spirituality, States & Settlements, and Personal Stories.
I share a bit about each book and why it made the list (ended up writing nearly 7,000 words).
As I explain on that page, these certainly aren’t the only great titles on the Amish.
That’s why I’ve included an “Others” section at the end of each category. What are “Others”?
These are either books I haven’t read yet, or ones I would recommend reading after the first picks. Including these, there are over 50 Amish-related non-fiction books on the list.
Good Books on the Amish
Since this website launched in 2006, we’ve featured dozens of book giveaways and author interviews. I’ve learned many people want to know about good written material on the Amish…or having read some titles, what other good books are out there.
So I hope this will be a useful resource for anyone looking for factual and interesting reading on the Amish.
Note: I’ve included Amazon purchase links for most of the books. At no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a portion of the sale price from Amazon if you decide to buy through these links. Thanks!
View the full list here.
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Thanks for this post
Erik, thanks for compiling this list. One time, a few years back, you had a thread where people listed book titles on the Amish that they would suggest that others read. I used that list as a go-by and purchased several, several titles. I read so many non-fiction books on the Amish that I sort of burned myself out on reading any more for a while.
However, just recently I decided that it was time to delve into the subject again and this is sure a good re-entry point. I really enjoy the works by the scholars on the Amish; those that have done actual research and their published work is a compilation & interpretation of their findings.
Academic and personal approaches to the Amish
Gladly, hope it will be helpful Oldkat. I tend to first go for the academic books as well, but also thought it would be good to mix some personal accounts in with the more data-driven and academic works. Sometimes those reveal things about Amish life that scholarly books cannot. I appreciate both. Hope this list will give some ideas for fresh reading!
This is interesting and helpful information and I’m sure it took many hours to compile it. I have copies and have read most of the books listed. I have three Amish friends (Old Order and Swartz.)
who enjoy reading and I enjoy telling them about the latest book I’ve read among those listed. Often they will request to borrow my copy to read.
I sometimes learn of new books about the Amish in book reviews in the Mennonite World Review newspaper. Two recent books I would like to read:
1) Why the Amish Sing by D. Rose Elder (John Hopkins, 2014)
“Elder introduces readers to the ways that Amish music both reinforces and advances spiritual life…”
2)Inside the Amish Riddle by John D. Stoll (Finger on the Wall, 2014) “As a teenager, John D. Stoll sought refuge from wordly society and a troubled family by living in an Amish home for several years….He addresses such questions as, What can modern society learn from the Amish?”
Thanks Al for mentioning these, I hadn’t seen the second yet. I have a copy of Why The Amish Sing here but haven’t gotten to it yet, but I included it in the Others section of the Amish Spirituality works. Looks like an interesting book.
I’m often curious about what Amish readers think of the academic works in particular. On the one hand I’d think it might be a strange feeling to be under the microscope, on the other I know some appreciate the insights they’ve gained from those books, written by outsiders, about their people.
Several times after Amish friends have read books from the list above, they have said to me they are surprised that others have such an interest in some aspect of Amish life that they would write a book about it.
It is a strange feeling… It leaves me wondering if there are other groups of people that get researched and written about like the Amish. Sometimes I think there is just way too much of it, but other times I think it is good to see things written that are true. I find it strange that there is such an interest that these books keep selling. 🙂 On the other hand, there is a lot going on that would be much more interesting to non-Amish people but it’s good to know there are same parts of our lives that are still private.
Question for Mark - Holmes Co.
You might be able to answer something for me that I have wondered about for years. In the Spring of 1983 I visited an OO Amish community in western PA and while I was there I met a Plain harness maker who I ended up purchasing some buggy harness from.
We didn’t actually become pen pals, but we did communicate back and forth for several years via a series of letters. I think in all but one case I initiated the letter, but he always responded to me and he did something that I had never seen anyone do before. He would take the letter that I had sent to him and he would write his reply on the reverse side of that same letter.
The first time he did that I was sort of surprised, but then I started thinking that this was a really good idea since it might have been 3 or 4 weeks since I had written to him. The way he chose to reply to my letter was nice, because I could read what I had said and then flip it over and see his reply to it. I could just work my way down the letter that way and not have to rely on remembering what I had written to him in the first place.
What I would like to know, is this: Is what he did in replying to my letter a common thing in your experience in writing back and forth to other people in Plain communities?
Thanks in advance for your response,
Good morning, Oldkat,
No, writing on the reverse isn’t common in my experience. The only person I knew who did this was an elderly great-aunt who had not only lived through the depression years but then lost everything in a house-fire in her late teens. She was VERY frugal. Very, VERY frugal. 🙂
Most people I know like to keep letters. We don’t keep every letter we get, but a lot of them. Not only are they interesting to read over, letters from friends and family who have died become treasured keepsakes.
Thanks for the reply, Mark
So now I know … he DIDN’T treasure MY letters! Hahaha!
Seriously, thanks for the feedback. I always wondered if that was “an Amish thing” or if it was just something that he did personally. So there it is.
Your comment about your Aunt living through the Depression is very interesting. I had often wondered if the Plain communities were impacted as much as everyone else was during that time period. Maybe I will have to write a letter to you about it sometime!
Thanks so much for compiling this list. I will find it a great help. While I have owned and read many of the books on the list, there are others I hadnt heard of or considered. I will be adding these to my wish list. And also thanks for providing the links to purchase them. That makes it more convenient!
Glad to do it Kevin. At some point I’d like to at least add short blurbs to the books in the “Others” section as well.
I started to do so, but then decided to go ahead and just finally get the list published and that could be added later 🙂
Holmes County Book Signing
Your post is a good idea, Erik! And a great resource.
This Saturday, Nov. 8, is the 5th Annual Holmes County Book Signing in Berlin, Ohio, to meet and greet authors. Some of the books and authors have to do with the Amish, and some don’t.
The list of 30-40 authors is at:
Gospel Book Store Book Signing - Berlin, OH
I’m glad you mentioned this Linda. It crossed my mind that this post would be a good opportunity to do so. Some familiar names are on the list, including authors we’ve seen around here like Marlene Miller, Rich Stevick, and Joan Hochstetler. I’ve never been to an event with so many authors in one place.
Thank you for this resource, Erik. At the top of my list, based on your review, is The Amish Way. I agree with your comment, that it is surprising that it took so long for a book focusing on Amish faith to published. The seemingly constant focus on the Amish from a sociological (the what) perspective without looking at the scriptural reasons (the why) gets old. That said, the first book on this list I will probably read is The Amish, as I see it is available at my local library.
I am glad to see 1001 Questions and Answers and The Amish in Their Own Words on the list.
The "why" of Amish life
I think you’ll enjoy reading “The Amish” Naomi, and I agree that it is important, even essential, to get the why. I probably could have included more than 27 titles in this list, but thought that a good cut-off for now, with expanded reading in the Others section. As more books are published and come on the radar here I’m sure we’ll need to add to the list.
You are the best, Erik! Thank you for doing this for us. I see several titles I have not yet read, and I am so glad to KNOW what books to look for!
My pleasure Margaret!
Thank you for this great resource! I will be sure to have it available at work (the library) and at home. I’m sure it will come in handy in both places! And thanks to others here for additional suggestions, too.
Glad to hear it Alice Mary. I think I wrote somewhere today it had been nagging at me for quite some time to get a list like this done.
"Full Disclosure" notice (well deserved)
I like the full disclosure part that you included about Amazon and other sites. I think that is very smart of you. Although, I’m sorry, my silly person part of me is begging to come out, I really want to quote a Canadian 1990s rock song for you, its called “Poets” by the Tragically Hip and the line is “Don’t tell me the universe is altered when you find out how he gets paid”, I am sorry to sound critical, but that was the first thing that came to mind when I read that when I clicked on the “Good Books” link. Running a blog and writing the books you have takes money, as does visiting real time Amish America, and as far as I’m concerned, taking a share from certain web sources is fair return for otherwise keeping Amish America free for us to read.
Thanks Shom, I appreciate that. Yes I wanted to be clear about that. I think people understand that websites cost time and resources to run, sometimes quite a bit.
Frankly, if I didn’t run ads or have other ways of generating an income from this site, I simply wouldn’t be able to spend anywhere near the time I’ve spent on it. And that would make me sad 🙂
In the case of the books, I really like the setup–readers don’t pay a penny more if they buy through the links I provide (versus just going direct to Amazon).
The 4-8% of the book’s price that the Amazon Associates program pays me all comes from the selling side.
The other good part is that for most products, I’ve found Amazon has the best prices or is very competitive (I did include a non-Amazon, non-affiliate link for one book where I found a drastic price difference – 1001 Questions & Answers on the Christian Life is actually a lot cheaper buying from the Pathway-associated site–or at least it was when I checked).
I see. Very good, interesting information on how such an online service works.
Either way, I should have added thank you for providing the new resource and adding it a really great tool for understanding the Amish world.
We can tell that Amish America is a passion project for you, Erik, as an avid AA reader I appreciate the uniqueness of this site, I’m sure that the Amish who are aware of this thing appreciate it for being a balanced resource overall toward outsiders.
Keep up the good work.
Why thank you Shom!
I have a decent collection of older Amish booklets-pamphlets from as far back as the late 1800’s that I refer to all the time. Thanks to your list I see I might have a few more to add, Thank You for the work that you have put into it!
I forgot to mention
The 1001 Questions book is a condensed version of “Doctrines Of The Bible” written by Daniel Kauffman, an Old Order Mennonite.
I have an Original Copy, and will say that the 1001 Question book is SLIGHTLY different, but only in spelling & readability. It takes nothing away from the Original.
There is also a super small paper back version called “Bible Doctrines Briefly Stated”
The Connection Magazine
Hello – I saw an old post about The Connection magazine out of Topeka, Indiana. Can you tell me if they are still in business? I would like to subscribe. Thanks for any info.
Yes, The Connection is still being published. I recently bought a copy of the July 2017 issue at a thrift store in an Amish community. Their phone number is 260-593-3999. Address is P.O. Box 603 Topeka, Indiana 46571