Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Riddle of Amish Culture

The Riddle of Amish Culture

3.5 2
by Donald B. Kraybill

See All Formats & Editions

Since its publication in 1989, The Riddle of Amish Culture has become recognized as a classic work on one of America's most distinctive religious communities. But many changes have occurred within Amish society over the past decade, from westward migrations and a greater familiarity with technology to the dramatic shift away from farming into small business


Since its publication in 1989, The Riddle of Amish Culture has become recognized as a classic work on one of America's most distinctive religious communities. But many changes have occurred within Amish society over the past decade, from westward migrations and a greater familiarity with technology to the dramatic shift away from farming into small business which is transforming Amish culture. For this revised edition, Donald B. Kraybill has taken these recent changes into account, incorporating new demographic research and new interviews he has conducted among the Amish. In addition, he includes a new chapter describing Amish recreation and social gatherings, and he applies the concept of "social capital" to his sensitive and penetrating interpretation of how the Amish have preserved their social networks and the solidarity of their community.

Editorial Reviews

Explains clearly [the Amish people's] ingenious bargains with secular modernity.
Whole Earth Review
The riddle of Amish culture in America is: how does it continue to dramatically prosper while unilaterally resisting the very core of mainstream American prosperity—technology? The surprising answer—adaptation and compromise—is given in loving detail in this great book.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Kraybill relies on his own and others' research, as well as on personal interviews with Amish men and women. The resulting book is a hybrid—written in a non-academic style that is appealing to the general reader who wishes to learn more about these unusual Americans, but also exploring the Amish in scholarly depth.
Christian Century
A sophisticated portrayal of the apparently simple but actually very complex Amish . . . A well-illustrated guide, this work gives loving but unsentimental attention to the precarious culture under examination.
To find clues to why this Old Order people flourishes in the modern era, Kraybill (sociology and Anabaptist studies, Messiah College, PA) studied an Amish settlement in Lancaster County, PA. Based on interviews, ethnographic observations, and demographic profiles, he discusses their Anabaptist legacy, rural lifestyle, opposition to the 1984 film , and changes in the community since the 1989 edition. Includes photographs<-->despite the prohibition against such<-->showing some compromises with modern life; demographics; Scripture texts used; and research methodology notes. Published in cooperation with the Center for American Places, Santa Fe, NM, and Harrisonburg, VA. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Christian Century - Michèle Lamont
This book is a perfect tool for introducing undergraduates to sociological analysis. Kraybill skillfully depicts an intriguing world that promotes collectivism against the dominant individualism. We come to understand how Amish life makes sense to those who adhere to it.

Product Details

Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
Center Books in Anabaptist Studies
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
11 MB
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Karen Johnson-Weiner
Kraybill's study of the Lancaster Amish community is an excellent introduction to the Old Order world for both students and general readers. He enables us to see the Amish not as leftovers from the past, but as 21st century people whose confrontation with modernity is guided by the same devotion to religious principles that marked their ancestors as radicals. This book helps us solve the riddles of Old Order society.

Stephen C. Ainlay
I cannot think of a better way to introduce students to the richness of Amish life. The Riddle of Amish Culture takes the reader into the intricacies of Amish life and culture. Kraybill frames his rich narrative description with sophisticated analysis. While thoroughly accessible, Kraybill's book never insults the reader's intelligence. His treatment of Amish life resists stereotypes. In fact, he routinely explodes them.

Richard Rouillard
The well documented book is an excellent field trip. It includes informative chapters, excellent notes, thorough bibliography all presented with clarity and correctness.

Ed Daniels
The Riddle of Amish Culture is essential reading for anyone who wants to unlock the 'mystery' of a fascinating people whose simple, community oriented ways have much to teach us. Professor Kraybill's extremely informative book is a valuable resource, every semester in my classes for teachers.

D. R. Elder
Students of human nature and those baffled by the seeming inconsistencies of Amish culture will find compelling explanation in Donald Kraybill's The Riddle of Amish Culture. In the new research on youth groups, Kraybill explains how a time of testing the limits and tasting the fruits of worldliness in adolescence has a 'redeeming function.'.

Marc Olshan
Kraybill's masterful analysis of Amish life provides the perfect springboard for students to explore the meaning of modernity and to question the assumptions of their own culture.

Paul Boyer
Beyond the tour buses and stereotypes lies the complex reality of Amish life. In this welcome update of a classic study, Donald B. Kraybill explores with deep insight and solid research the fascinating ways this fast-growing traditional community negotiates its evolving relationship with a modern world of business, tourism, shopping malls, and roller blades. No dry academic book, this beautifully written work exudes the juices of lived experience and conveys its author's profound respect for, and understanding of, Amish life.

Thomas J. Meyers
Carefully crafted, richly nuanced and accessible to both the informed reader and the novice, Donald Kraybill has once again produced a remarkably clear and meticulous study of one of North America's most intriguing religious minorities. The Riddle of Amish Culture opens a window into the complex reality of Amish society that crisscrosses the postmodern, modern, and traditional worlds.

Peter Ester
Donald Kraybill has written a brilliant exposition of Amish life. A sociological tour de force and must-read for those who wish to understand Amish culture.

Meet the Author

Donald B. Kraybill is Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania. Widely recognized for his work on Anabaptist groups, he has authored and edited many books, including The Riddle of Amish Culture and The Amish and the State, both available from Johns Hopkins.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Riddle of Amish Culture 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MJApollonius More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent survey of the perplexing Amish, with information gained from field work, interviews, and source materials. Kraybill went to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the largest concentration of Amish in the U.S. (and so in the world), to prepare a scholarly but readable study. He gives a fairly brief history of the movement, placing it in the context of the Radical Reformation, and then goes on to its successful transplanting to the United States, where it grew from 5000 people in 1900 to more than 180,000 at present. He is thorough in documenting various phases of Amish life, including clothing styles and religious and social structure. He tries to answer hard questions like why the Amish are not allowed to drive automobiles but can still ride in a car driven by someone else. I think there is sometimes a vague idea about the Amish that they are just hopelessly locked into some distant time period and refuse to "catch up" with modern society. Instead, the reader finds out that the Amish are constantly making compromises with the outside world, but with the goal of keeping the community together, for the good of each member's salvation. I have also recommended the classic Harrison Ford movie "Witness." It's probably Ford's greatest role, the barn-raising scene is beautiful, and you can watch the movie and then read the book and find out what the Amish are REALLY about!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago