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Plain and Simple: A Journey to the Amish

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,595 ratings  ·  384 reviews
Charmingly illustrated and refreshingly spare, Plain and Simple speaks to the seeker in each of us.

"I had an obsession with the Amish. Plan and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary." So begins Sue Bender's story, the captivating and inspiring true story of a harried urban Californian
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 25th 1991 by HarperOne (first published 1989)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,595 ratings  ·  384 reviews

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Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was given to me as a gift with the proviso that I return it to the giver when finished. I read it quickly and then read it again slowly, over a period of months. It has a simple, clear style: the short paragraphs remind one of a literally simple but intellectually dense Buddhist discussion on wakefulness and being. Author Bender makes a journey that many of us might make in a lifetime: from a cluttered, busy, “what am I missing?” lifestyle to one that is far less dense. “You are missin ...more
Saloma Miller
May 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
I hadn't taken "Plain and Simple" off my shelf in ages, so when I just did, I was surprised that I wrote in the margins my reaction to some of what she herself deems "a cloyingly sweet, rosy-colored-glasses rendition of my personal fairy tale, with me cast as the frog princess... with my new friends, the gentle, pious, hardworking, unself-conscious Amish, cast as the heroes and heroines." (Page 82).

She also describes herself on page 4 as someone who "organized her life around a series of black-a
Jun 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: not really
A had problems deciding what rating to give this book. I hovered between a two star and a three star and finally decided to be generous and give it a three. It's a very fast read and while it was nicely written I felt like this was one of those "all about me" books instead of giving the reader any real insight into the alleged purpose of the book - to better understand the Amish and their culture. Either way, this book wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it is still a nice, quiet little b ...more
Sep 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: midwest, memoirs
Sue Bender is an artist who became fascinated by Amish quilts and dolls. She wanted to learn more about simplified living, so she found an Amish family and stayed with them for a few weeks. Sue's writing is as spare and stripped down as an Amish household, but I appreciated some of her observations. One insight is that the Amish people she met didn't treat anything as an unpleasant chore. Instead, all work was valued and honorable, and there was no need to rush to accomplish tasks. She was also ...more
Larry Bassett
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Based on the subtitle, A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, I guess this is supposed to be a book for women and I am just attracted to it because I am a contrary man. So men can’t be interested in a simpler life? OK, so almost all the reviews and ratings are by women. (I looked through about a dozen pages and found less than a handful of male raters.) So I guess GR men are pretty much not interested. Such a shame for us men.

You could probably label this a self-help book and maybe that explains the ex
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Re: an Amish kitchen: "But the room glowed. The feeling went beyond everyday cleanliness and order. The air felt alive, almost vibrating. Can a room have a heartbeat? Can space be serene and exciting at the same time? I'd never been in a room that felt like that."

"No one rushed. Each step was done with care. The women moved through the day unhurried. There was no rushing to finish so they could get onto the "important things." For them, it was all important."

"Which parts of today's process were
Nov 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the insights in this book. I enjoyed the simple style. While I find the direction some of Bender's conclusions take to be a little confusing, I appreciated the overall idea.

This isn't a how-to book about how to live simply, nor is it a book about the Amish, really. It's about one woman's dissatisfaction with her harried life and the path she travels to live more deliberately. She doesn't become Amish (sorry for the spoiler), but from them she learns some important lessons about the val
Dixie Diamond
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
Books like this weird me out.

(Okay, this is more of a general rant than one directed specifically at this book.)

For one thing, I always find I relate better to the Amish than the misguided yuppies who descend upon them. That doesn't really make sense considering I'd describe myself as a pretty typical office-job, awful-commute, doesn't-grow-anything-but-spider-plants, suburbanite. I still find myself thinking, "Well, that's what you get for being a social-climbing, materialistic, overachiever, y
Oct 28, 2008 rated it liked it
One of the things I liked least about this book was that despite her apparent fascination about the Amish, I felt like Bender's tone was always a bit superior. She claimed to feel drawn to the simplicity and purpose of the Amish way of life, yet there always seemed to be a sense of, "Only the truly unenlightened would choose such a life." Perhaps since I come from a strong faith community myself I felt myself getting almost defensive about her seemingly voyeuristic stay with the Amish. Plus, aft ...more
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Like the author, I have always had a fascination with the Amish. I find their culture interesting. The author actually lived with two different Amish families. She wanted to learn their ways and why they are the way they are. She thought that she could improve her art by studying their simple life style.

While her experiences were interesting, I thought she still didn't get it in the end. The lessons she learned she couldn't seem to apply directly to her life. I felt the real lesson to be learne
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was short and sweet, and although it was not exactly what I was expecting, it was a good read. It made me think about what I consider to be success in a new way, and to think about how I feel when spending my time, whether it be working or pursuing hobbies.
Tanya D
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
I did not like this book. I liked learning a bit about the Amish, but the information is so basic, with so little insight, that I could have probably learned the same from a Wikipedia article. I get that the author is "simply" writing about her experience living with a couple Amish families for a few weeks. The two families can hardly stand for the whole of Amish life, which she fully admits, so most of what Ms. Bender observes is very specific to these families.

So what's the point? It could be
Sep 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Valeriecluff Cluff
Mar 04, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is about a lady who seeks something, though she isn't sure what, among the amish. I found it intersting to learn a little about the amish people, though not a great deal. Her search away from the hustle and bustle of her everyday life lead to no definite questions and answers, but mostly to contemplate when unsure...what matters most, and then to simply. The biggest thing I took from this book was learning to find joy in every little task day to day, no matter what the task. It is find ...more
Sonja G.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie-book-club
This book was a quick read, but it seemed a bit boring to me. It gave me a little insight into the Amish life, but it was fairly general and did not really connect me to any of the characters. There wasn't really a ton of detail on their religion or daily life except that they did each chore one at a time and worked hard to keep their houses clean. I kept wondering how the author just up and left her family and children for weeks at a time to live with the Amish without even mentioning them or f ...more
Hannah Liddell
Apr 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
This lady is irritating and doesn't really teach the reader much about Amish people. They're essentially a prop for her mid life crisis.
Kathryn Mattern
I enjoyed this book, to begin with, because I grew up in Pennsylvania with 'Amish' people in my immediate environment, and neighbors who had chosen to stay 'out in the world' after their Rumspringa. This book written by a Berkeley woman artist - and I live in Berkeley and remember her first art exhibit - is filled with homely wisdom presented in a way that is not homely, which is quite an achievement in itself. Sue Bender was attracted by the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the Amish 9 ...more
Mary L.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved the way she described her journey to bring joy into her life and how the patchwork pieces all fit together when she was finally done. She told of her journey in a very conversational style, like she was talking to you personally. I found much that I will be able to put into my own life to make it more what I want it to be. Thank you Sharon for this wonderful book.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quick and easy read but with lots to think about.
Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
My dear friend Katherine gave me this book for my birthday, and it was a treat to read. Though I don't know if I could or would want to live just like the Amish, I have so much respect and appreciation for their principles and rules. Their life is focused around God and community. Through such focus comes great insight into what really is important in life, which Sue Bender shares with us through her experience and understanding. Some of the passages particularly stood out for me since, at this ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any of my creative friends
Recommended to Peggy by: Quaker resources
I have just finished reading this book that I started years ago, for some reason reading up to page 136 and abandoning it without completing the final 13 pages. Recently updating my bookshelves (literal and Goodreads) I rediscovered Plain and Simple and determined to take this off the "started" or "currently reading" shelves.

I cannot imagine why it has taken me so long to do this justice to myself and the book unless possibly "fate" knew revisiting it later would be important. It is a wonderful
May 08, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what I think of this book. I read it for our club and we won't be meeting until next week... I might change this review after that. In the meantime, after just finishing it, here are my impressions.

I had my first real experience seeing the Amish up close... sort of... on our trip to Ohio a couple of summers ago. They are interesting, and I love that they lead a simple life. I wasn't sure what the author was going to "get" from her experience, and in fact, neither did she. What she f
Feb 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: have-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Plain and Simple awakened in me the feelings that I had when I visited and expereinced Amish Country in my early 20's. The simplicity of their lives was appealing to me then, but even more so now as my life is busier than ever. This book is a reminder to enjoy our tasks, do our best and not rush through to the "next thing on the list" -- and to always be on call for those in need. Good quick read.
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my all-time favorite books. Her experience living with the amish. Her new found appreciation for life's simple joys. I love and revisit this book often.
Kirsten Murphy
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kirsten by: Mom (who got it from Debbie!)
I greatly admired the experience of the author and the Amish community with whom she lived for a year and realized that I need to simplify more and appreciate the things that are plain more than the things that are fancy (hey, there's a children's lit book connection here to Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco - another book I love!).
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I kind of liked this book and kind of didn't, the perfect example of a 2.5 star. I have always been curious about the Amish. I love their simple lifestyle. I learned a lot about them in this book. I didn't like the way it was written. I didn't get drawn in like I have with other books. I also didn't like the style/personality of the writer's writing. But it was good just not how it was written.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the second time I have read this book. I wanted to feel some calm and simplicity and get the idea that simple is best in my life. Always wanting to declutter and organize. This had inspired me years ago and has done the same thing again.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
(NF)woman’s fairytale obsession with the Amish and her real-life experience of living amongst them – community, simplicity and acceptance are wonderful themes, but I thought this book was a little too eye-rollingly ridiculous
Maggie Grace
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A chaotic soul searches for simplicity.
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500 Great Books B...: Plain and Simple - Sue Bender 1 7 Jul 27, 2014 01:36PM  

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Born in New York City, Sue Bender received her BA from Simmons College and her MA from the Harvard University School of Education. She taught high school in New York and English at the Berlitz School in Switzerland. She later earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of California at Berkeley. During her active years as a family therapist, Bender was founder and Director of CHOICE: The I ...more
“Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.” 22 likes
“Miracles come after a lot of hard work.” 13 likes
More quotes…