Who reads Amish fiction?

Valerie Weaver-Zercher delves into that question in her new book Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels

Thrill Of The Chaste Amish Romance Weaver ZercherRomance is a genre traditionally popular with women, as is Christian inspirational fiction. So it’s no surprise to learn that most readers of Amish fiction books are female.  But what about the men? In Thrill of the Chaste, Valerie shares evidence of male interest in Amish fiction:

The marketing manager at a major publisher of Amish fiction told me that their Amish authors have a “significant male readership.”  “We get lots of confessions from the guys sitting in the easy chairs in the bookstore while the book signing is going on that they’re reading the books, ” he relates. “A lot of guys read them.  Their wives buy them and then they read them.”  He attributes the appeal of the books for male readers to the “whole horse and buggy life” and the rural settings.  Many Amish novels have at least one point-of-view male character, such that the perspective toggles between female voices and male ones.  One of my uncles, a retired farmer, is an avid reader of Amish fiction; and I overheard one man at church say that he had picked up the Amish novel on his wife’s bedside stand one night and couldn’t put it down (Thrill of the Chaste p. 22).

There are of course a handful of male Amish fiction writers as well.  I’d be curious to learn if their titles appeal more to men than the average.  I’ve still got a good bit left of Thrill of the Chaste to read, so perhaps I’ll find that question addressed.

Do Amish read Amish fiction?

What about the Amish themselves?  When the topic has come up with Amish, I’ve noticed a range of responses.  Some feel strongly against them.  Others admit Amish fiction is read in their communities.  You can find shelves full of Amish fiction in stores frequented by Amish, such as Gospel Book Store in Berlin, Ohio or Amish-owned Gordonville Bookstore in Lancaster County.

Valerie begins a recent piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books with a visit to the Gordonville store, and while there counts 57 Amish romance novels for sale.  As to Amish opinion of Amish fiction, she finds evidence of both criticism…

Many of the Amish people I have spoken with display a mix of bemusement and disgust at the novels, especially the covers, with their airbrushed models with plucked eyebrows. They point out glaring inaccuracies in some of the books, such as one Amish person calling another “Mr.” or “Mrs.” On the phone with me, Doretta Yoder expresses more trepidation about the genre than her glowing reviews might suggest. “I have some personal opinions about how some of them write about us,” she tells me, obliquely. “It seems like word has gotten out that if you write about the Amish, you can sell books. I think it’s getting out of hand.”

The wife of a Lancaster County Amish bishop told me about some of the novels she has read and smiled as she recounted some of the common themes and events, including buggy accidents. “This is a great theme,” she said, adding in elevated tones, as if quoting from a novel: “They were thrown violently from the buggy and killed instantly.” She shook her head and searched for the right words. “Frankly, I think they’re shallow. Schusslich. Not realistic.” In Pennsylvania Dutch, schusslich means “clumsy.”

…and interest in the books.

Other signs of a flourishing Amish readership abound. The bookmobile in Holmes County, Ohio keeps a plentiful stock of Amish romance novels, and the librarian told me that they are checked out at a brisk rate; 95 percent of the book­mobile’s patrons are Amish. My friend Karen, who supplies several of her Amish friends with Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter novels, said that they sometimes tease each other for not being able to put the books down. Her friend Lydia was sleepy when Karen visited one morning because she had stayed up too late the night before reading an Amish novel. “I can’t stop reading them,” one Amish woman told a Wall Street Journal reporter; “I usually better not start in the morning because then I sit around too long.” Ruthie, an Old Order Amish teenager in Lancaster, told me that she read a lot of Amish novels as a young adolescent and that now her 13-year-old sister and her friends are reading them, and an Amish woman in Leola told me that some Amish homes have rows and rows of the novels.

It seems true that while Amish fiction has its critics, it has captured the attention of not only a vast English, but also a not-insignificant Plain readership.

We’ll have more to come on Valerie’s book in which she explores the Amish fiction phenomenon in fascinating depth.

In the meantime, how would you answer the question “Who reads Amish fiction?”

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    1. SharonR

      Reading Amish Fiction

      We wish we COULD ask some Amish folks about their lifestyles/traditions/religions — but here in Florida, there is not any settlements close by! (at least for me, it’s a 3 hour drive to Pinecraft)…..Also, some authors that are out there, do spend time doing their research and try to get things correct and not just “fabricate” stories just to make a “sale”….living in this great USA, we are blessed in having “choices” in what we read. It is up to US, to decide which author is most dedicated to their work, and choose wisely. As far as the “covers”, I don’t pay much attention to them, but read the book, plus read about the author themselves, usually on the last pages of one of their books.
      Historical romance, fiction, novels, or whatever one wants to refer to them, they are still good books to read, and if they brighten one’s day, then no harm done!

    2. Katrina

      Amish Fiction very well-written and

      I read these books-not all of them, but a lot of them. To me, thy are a way to escape, especially if I am tired after a long day at work. The well-written books are addictive-as enjoyable as chocolate chip cookies or potato chips. Since my ancestors were Amish, I try to imagine them in the same scenario. It is clear that some authors spend more time on research than others. My favorite book so far is the one where the English family’s car gets wrecked while they are on their way to spend Christmas, and instead live for a week with an Amish family while their car is being repaired. Improbable? Yes, but very well-written and the English family includes 2 kids who are aghast at the thought that people actually live without cell phones, ipods, or other modern technology I have heard these books called “bonnet and buggy” or a bit more sarcastically, “bonnet rippers”. Of course, this genre leads to the inevitable satire as well (“Operation Bonnet”) anyone?

    3. Loyd

      Positive attitude to former Amish

      I have read some of the Amish fictional books and have noticed that the story is more geared to show the kids leaving the Amish as not being successful in their attempt to connect with the ” English ” world.
      I am a former Amish of many years and know all about the difficult times we go thru in adapting to a new lifestyle as well as the said and ” unsaid” statements from our aquaintances and relatives.
      I would like to see more stories giving us a more positive review to the outside world.
      There are many positive stories out there.
      I do feel the more that the subject of the Amish is discussed, the better it will be.
      I would like to hear some response on subject. Thank you.

      1. Interested

        RE: Loyd


        I’m an author of Amish fiction and I’d be very interested in hearing your story/opinions. I realize, unlike some uneducated readers, that Amish communities can vary WIDELY.

        In my book Amish by Accident (available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.), I strove to represent the Amish as honestly as possible. Being in California though, I have to rely primarily on the internet and books I read (which have been many.)

        I do have Conservative Mennonite friends, some which have come from PA, that dress similarly to the Amish and keep many of the Plain traditions. I am blessed to attend their ‘hymn sings’ once in a while.

        If you are willing to participate in my research, it would be greatly appreciated! You may contact me at jebspredemann@gmail.com.

        Thank you 🙂

    4. Fr. John

      Who Reads Amish Fiction?

      Well, I most certainly read Amish Fiction, and love it!! From my rather deep PA Deitsch (albeit not Anabaptist) roots this genre keeps me in touch with the live of my forebearers. In response to the posited question about my preference for male authors of this genre, I find it to be exactly the opposite.

      The character development and “story telling” abilities of the male authors I’ve read are considerably weaker than those of the ladies. It strikes me that this is largely true of all fiction genres, and does not seem to be related strictly to Amish/Mennonite novellas.

    5. Mona, Kentucky Lady 717

      I read them also…there are some good books out there….Beth Wiseman writes great books, so does Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beverly Lewis, Murray Pura ….just to name a few……check them out if you have not read any of their books…there are many good authors, just can’t think of others right now……

      1. Loyd

        Comment on who reads Amish fiction?

        Thank you both for your replies. The books I read were by Beverly Lewis. It has been a couple years so I don’t recall too much , but the Amish who dated the English was shown as not being able to have a lasting relationship with the “Englisher”. I guess we each came away with different opinions.

    6. Donna Williams

      Dale Cramer

      I’m on Dale Cramer’s third book about the daughters of Caleb Bender. I have enjoyed these three books and it’s hard to put them down. I highly recommend Paradise Valley, The Captive Heart, and Though Mountains Fall, in that order. Great reading! Mr. Cramer’s father was Amish and he writes from a personal perspective.

    7. Patti

      I just finished Dale Cramer’s Though Mountains Fall last nite love his books. Also Murray Pura’s book. I have read many Amish books and have more in my TBR stash. Patti in VA

    8. Jeff

      Reading vs. writing

      From the reading I’ve done, there are several things that have not been touched. Now I’m not saying what as I have as I am currently writing an Amish fiction story. My biggest concerns are:
      1. Major plot gaps.
      2. Being authentic. (Doing my research!)
      3. Showing no disrespect. (Seen that several times.)
      4. Readers realizing that it IS fiction.
      The last one concerns me as I wouldn’t want readers to go looking for where scenes took place and infringing on any (English or Amish) persons or property.
      It actually is very hard to write!

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Amish fiction that is clearly fiction, respectful, and authentic? I’d like to read that! Very few of the “Amish fiction” I’ve read has met those standards. I hope you’ll find material for research on here.

        1. Jeff

          respectful and such

          Hi Mark,
          What I mean by authentic is not having a scene where the Amish family goes home, switches on the lights and watches YouTube videos. Making sure that people are not working on Sundays, the older teenagers are coming home from high school etc…
          As far as respectful, I don’t want to make someone’s faith, lifestyle or upbringing appear to be a joke. I know the Amish are not perfect, who is? But they have a better sense of decency, work ethic and community than can be found in other places.
          As far as fiction goes, anything is possible. You could write a day in the life story made up of multiple experiences combined into one. You could make up a situation and have an individual or family come to resolve it. I’m not talking about going way out there with stuff like gambling addictions, joining a cult, rehab or anything “TLC-esque” (I’m sure all of you get this…) Fiction, even though it is made up, it still has to follow a sense of reality or it will collapse. I have the characters in my story acting more real; things aren’t perfect and resolution isn’t easy to reach. I just hope that what I write will be enjoyable to readers. 🙂

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            I guess by authentic I mean stories that are realistic and believable. There are minor things that seem more amusing but the biggest thing that stands out to me is conversation that just sounds unnatural and in the few I have read the authority of the bishop, the role “shunning” plays, and the way Amish people are shown as being unaware of the larger society all come across as inauthentic, but that is just my opinion.
            I’ve read maybe 12-15 such books, but I have a daughter who has read many more. I asked her if they seem “real.” She said no, but they are still interesting. 🙂
            The covers seem the most inauthentic.
            My main concern is that people read them and take them as absolutely true. I have met people who feel they know all about the Amish because they have read all of __________’s books.
            I’ve done the same, though — read novels and thought I’ve gotten a good glimpse into another culture or country only to find out it was not as I thought.

    9. J.E.B. Spredemann

      Research/free books

      Sharon, Jeff, and others,

      One of the most helpful places I’ve learned about the Amish (other than living amongst them) is the Amish Q&A group on Facebook. It was founded by former-Amishman John Yoder, Jr., who actively participates, along with many other former Amish. Also, Joe Keim’s Mission to Amish People (MAP) has been quite helpful in research.
      With that being said, I’ve learned that there is SO MUCH variety within the individual Amish groups, so what’s true for one may not be true for another. Most don’t allow photographs of themselves, but some do. Most don’t allow telephones, but some do. Most don’t believe in assurance of salvation, but some do. Due to these differences, a writer has a lot of liberty to create stories that are not only factual (for some!), but also stories that uplift, inspire, and entertain. I aim to write about subjects that God lays on my heart.
      For any who may be interested, I have 2 FREE Amish fiction ebooks available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iTunes. One is geared toward teen/YA readers, although adults usually enjoy it as well, (Danika’s Journey – Amish Girls Series, Volume 2), the other (An Unforgivable Secret) is a favorite among many readers. (P.S. If you read the reviews prior to reading the book, it will most likely ruin the story for you. My advice is to read them after!) I’d love to hear what you think! Remember, a lot of times the truth is actually stranger than fiction… 🙂 Blessings

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        I might add a note about Joe Keim’s “Mission to Amish People.” I have checked that out several times and find it somewhat questionable. Many of the people they work with have left very conservative Amish groups and their experiences are very different from those in more moderate or liberal groups. Keep in mind that an “ex anything” site will be biased. Talking with a former Catholic, for example, who left the church with ill will, can give a non-Catholic a very dark picture of Catholicism. Same for ex-Mormons, ex-Baptists, ex-Amish, ex-Muslims. Some people have axes to grind… and where there is sometimes a good reason for them to feel that way, it does not give a rounded view.
        One example: On the Mission to Amish People site much is made of Amish people not being allowed to read scriptures in anything but High German, which we supposedly do not understand. Well, in our setting we read the scriptures in High German (which we learned in school), PA Deitch or Dutch, the Amish mother-tongue, the KJV Bible, and the Life Study Application Bible. Sometimes we compare different versions. Our most used version in the PA Deitch one, as that is what we talk at home. So to make it sound like Amish people are deprived on scriptures they can understand is misleading.
        Just my opinion…

        1. From an Amish romance author

          Hi, Mark–

          I write Amish romance and currently have 5 Amish titles in print. I pride myself on being respectful to the Amish as I know many of my Amish fiction writing peers do. I have several Amish friends who serve as consultants and help me make my books as authentic as possible. The one thing I have learned in all my research is that the Amish are a very complex people. I, like many, have a admiration and love for their culture and simple lifestyle.

          That said, I would be honored to gift you a copy of one of my books. If you’ll email me at amylillard918@gmail.com, I’ll get one to you.

          Thanks to you and everyone for a great discussion today!

          1. Mark - Holmes Co.

            Thank you, Amy. I’d be pleased to read one of your books. I wasn’t trying to get a free book, but that is kind of you to offer!

    10. Jeff

      J.E.B. facebook

      J.E.B., could you give me a link to the facebook page you mentioned? I don’t have an account and have no idea how to use facebook, but I would love to read whatever is out there. Thanks!

      1. J.E.B. Spredemann

        Re: Jeff

        Here’s a link to the FB page, Jeff.


        I don’t know how much you’ll be able to see, since it is a closed group. By the way, if you’re planning to publish your work (indie or tradpub) I highly suggest that you join Facebook. This way, you’ll be able to connect and possibly even build relationships with your readers. I’ve met many wonderful people this way. Also, there are groups that are highly beneficial for authors, especially if you’re just getting started. Blessings…J.S.

    11. Amish writers and readers

      Just happened upon this discussion. I’m studying the Amish who live in the Sarasota area to be included in my next book. (fiction)
      I live near Amish and Mennonites in central Pennsylvania and visit Lancaster County frequently. I’ve always been fascinated with the culture and have great admiration for the Amish.

      I’ve written and published two series on the Amish, “The Zook Sisters of Lancaster County” and “The Zook Famiy Revisited.” My other books are Christian novels – mostly contemporary.

      My desire is to write books that edify as well as entertain. My Amish families always show their love of God and their high morals, but they are human and have trials and emotional problems as well as the English.

      Just as some of the previous writers have said, there are many types of Amish groups, which makes it more interesting for writers. I believe most Amish books are appropriate for any age and both sexes. (My husband enjoys my books as well as my youthful readers.)

    12. Jennifer

      I’d love to read an Amish fiction book by an Amish person! People that are not a part of the Amish church or lifestyle can only be so accurate without having experienced it firsthand.

      1. Helen Curtis

        Amish fiction

        Try Linda Byler

        1. Kate F.

          I love Linda Byler’s books!

    13. Jim (Jakob) Kramer

      Amish Fiction

      I have to say, I have enjoyed Beverly Lewis’ books immensely. She writes about the Amish as I know them. I live not far from an Amish community, and they even understand my Dialect (Schwaebisch-Badisch)! I have known one Amish couple for over 30 years, spent time with them at their home, and in their store. They are generous, have a wonderful sense of humor, sensitivity to people (they helped me many times when I needed someone to talk to), and honest. I have yet to meet anyone who surpasses them in good old fashioned values such as these. They are also amazingly aware of technology, although they don’t use it themselves, and of the problems in modern society, since they do not live in a vacuum. That is important to remember, I believe!

      I have tried Amish fiction books by a few other authors, and am sometimes appalled at the lack of real knowledge. When the German language is not correct, or in some cases even close to being tolerable, it makes reading a torture. I won’t mention any other authors’ names here, because there is no need to put people down.

      I especially appreciate Beverly Lewis, because she researches everything extremely well. I thought of writing something myself, but can’t seem to get started. Besides, who would read mine?–I write in German more than English, and they already are translating many of B. Lewis’ books into German! I’d love to know how popular they are in the “Old Country”–since that’s where the Amish people’s ancestors are from.

      I hope people will continue to write fiction that is worth reading, as does Ms. Lewis, and that the others will approach the subject matter with sensitivity to the people, and strive for as accuracy when describing beliefs, practices, settings/locations, and yes, especially language.

    14. Dee

      I love reading Amish fiction and nonfiction. I guess you would say I am facinated with their life style and how pure they are. They are very hard working people and I admire them.

      1. Carol

        Amish fiction - Dee

        Caution to Dee
        Your fascination with the Amish and their purity. They are human just like the rest of us and the same problems with mental illness, abuse, etc. are there but we just don’t hear the whole story when we read a lot of Amish fiction.

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          Very well said, Carol!

        2. Jeff


          I have found that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, “purity” is in the eye of the beholder and of a personal belief.
          I’ve been working on my book for over 2 decades now and have always looked at it with the point that not everyone is perfect, nor is a group, society or religion. There are pros and cons to nearly everything. I’ve tried to make my characters more human and not fluffy. I want my readers to identify and understand who the characters are without going to one extreme or another. It’s not easy, especially in so many stories people or things are idealized and put in a certain category. Just because someone rides a Harley and have tattoos doesn’t make them a wild rebel, and just because someone is Amish doesn’t make them pure and innocent.

    15. Jim Kramer

      Amish Fiction Thoughts

      For me, I need characters I can believe in. Do they seem real?
      I like a good story line. Will I guess the ending three pages in, or will I want to keep reading?
      I loathe pornography, dirty talk, profanity, and smut.
      Preciosity and overly cute, flowery language belongs in 19th Century French Literature!
      I am unashamedly a Christian.
      I speak perfect German and English. I read French and Hebrew.
      The early Beverly Lewis novels are what I enjoy, because she writes about the Amish as I knew them. Her latter novels go out on a limb sometimes,and the style seems to have changed a bit toward the simplistoc short sentences Americans now seem to prefer. I still read hers, because she knows The People.
      I am writing one of my own, only I don’t know if I could consider publishing it. It is a practice, an ongoing exercise, as are my shorter Dialect vignettes from my life and things friends have shared. I am using those to maintain my Schwäbisch-Badisch Dialect.
      Last time I checked, I am 100% male.

    16. Elizabeth Fisher

      I wrote Amish children's book

      I thought you might be interested in the children’s books that my daughters and I wrote. When my daughter Lillian Ruth Fisher, was in 5th grade she started writing a story a school along with her best friend classmate, Anna Mae Lapp. They were writing it for fun and had no intention of becoming published. It took them two years and at the end of their 6th grade year I decided to type the story for them. As I was typing I realized that this was really a good story and I checking into becoming self published and that was the beginning of The Twins of Sandy Brook Farm. It was first printed in 2013. In 7th grade they started their second book. This one was much harder for them because they knew that if it was good enough, it would become a book! It took them 2 years to write that one and in 2016 we published The Twins Pillow Fights and Missing Cookies. Since they are Amish, their stories are very true to life. Now my daughter is 19 and not quite in the children’s book writing age bracket and I had lots of little girls asking when book three will be published, so last summer I wrote the third book along with my 15 year old daughter, Kathryn, and in 2019 The Twins and the Lost and Found Horse was published. We have had lots of fun being a self publisher and we would love to send books to anyone who is interested!
      Liz Fisher

    17. Diann

      Who reads Amish fiction

      I love to read Amish fiction. My favorite authors are Beverly lewis & Wanda brunstetter