If you ever wanted to know anything — anything at all — about the Amish, this is the book for you. It’s a well structured book about the lives of the Amish that covers everything from immigration and, later, migration patterns to genetic disorders amongst each sect of the Amish to the seating arrangement at the dinner table to public perception, and will certainly give you a better idea of Amish history and society than Amish fiction authors Beverley Lewis and Cindy Woodsmall ever will.
Especially considering Hostetler is a former Amishman turned “Englisher” and sociologist. He not only knows his topic on a personal level, but he’s clearly done his homework. This fourth edition is a revised and updated edition of the third, which was published in 1980. The first edition was published in 1963.
Overall, I would say that I did enjoy the book. Yet, Amish Society is and interesting, but not fascinating read. What I mean is that instead of wanted to soak up every little bit of information, there were some sections I wound up skimming because they didn’t really interesting me. For example, I didn’t find migration patterns to be a completely fascinating topic. There were bits and pieces such as the distribution of genetic disorders I found noteworthy, but the discussion of migration from one county to another within the same state was not.
I do feel like I know more about this religious and cultural group, though, and I’m glad I took the time to read a nonfiction book about the Amish rather than relying on the Pennsylvania Dutch words I’ve picked up in fictional novels about the Amish.
- Hostetler, John A. Amish Society. 4th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Print. 448 pgs. ISBN: 9780801844423. Source: Library.