The Plain Reader

The Plain Reader: Essays on Making a Simple Life | Edited by Scott Savage | The Ballantine Publishing group, a division of Penguin Random House, 1998

I was honored when Scott Savage, my editor at Plain magazine, included one of my essays in his collection. I was even more honored when I found my story wedged between selections by Bill McKibben, David Kline, and Wendell Berry. Here’s the opening paragraph of my essay, “Among the Amish.”

“Like the wrinkles of a colorful Amish quilt, the peaks of the Blue Ridge gradually soften into gentle hills by the time you reach Yadkin County, North Carolina. It’s along the neatly paved back roads, rising and dipping with the land, that the quiet beauty of spring-green hay fields, rimmed by distant mountains, takes over. Buck Shoals Road is one of the few here not named for a church, but it compensates by riding past three houses of worship in less than three miles.”

And here’s an excerpt from the back cover of the book: 

On roads far from the intrusions of modern technology, the Amish, Quakers, and other “plain folk” live their unencumbered lives, close to the land, in peaceful, smoothly-run communities. The thought-provoking, often challenging essays in The Plain Reader are written by men and women who rarely speak outside the borders of their local townships, and provide us with unique perspectives on life stripped down to necessity. Originally published in Plain Magazine, these pieces are sure to inspire reflection. 

Reading about a garden cooperative in Connecticut, the raising of a home with only plaster and straw in hand, a fascinating trip to New York City through Amish eyes, compels each of us to wonder: Can I too survive without television or that high-tech appliance cluttering my kitchen counter? Am I just a cog in the wheel of the global economy? Is isolation from one another and from the earth the simple destiny of humankind? Each rich, personal essay in this provocative collection offers solace, wisdom, joy, and quiet space for contemplation.