** The Amish by Kraybill, Johnson-Weiner and Nolt

The Amish is an often ponderously written description of the Amish communities in the US, with a focus on the wide variety of practices and customs, since each community can and does define its own rules. Beyond buggies and bonnets, the authors explain how the Amish define what parts of the modern world they want to embrace, what to reject, and what to accommodate.

In addition to the occasionally jargon-laden language mentioned above, the poor quality of the graphics and the love for detailed data tables that could be advantageously replaced by graphics (if only good graphics could indeed be created!) detract from the overall experience. So is a puzzling need to defend all things Amish. I’m willing to admit that women do have a strong voice in Amish communities, or that Amish schools are very successful, but why should the author try to evade the fact that Amish society is patriarchal, with no leadership roles for women, or that  depriving all children from a high-school education may indeed deprive children of an important way to exercise their intellectual curiosity?

Still, a great book to delve into the lives of a group that has managed to grow manyfold, and successfully, in the past 50 years.


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