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The Plain Reader: Essays on Making a Simple Life Paperback – May 5, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (May 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345414349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345414342
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From Scott Savage, editor of the Luddite, Quaker, and Amish magazine The Plain Reader, comes an illuminating anthology of the same name. In essays sure to enlighten and inspire even the most urban and technologically-reliant readers, the writers collected here offer a window into a pared-down life, as they search for (and find) a sense of home, intimacy, and community through the act of simplification. Discussing everything from creating a community through shared labor on a farm to reconnecting with children through home schooling and the purging of radios and televisions to using midwives in place of obstetricians and medical technology, these essays offer alternatives to corporate and electronic America, while resisting the urge to proselytize. Written with heart, thought, and good intention, The Plain Reader may very well be the late 20th century's multi-voiced answer to Henry David Thoreau's Walden. --Kera Bolonik

From Publishers Weekly

The current spate of books extolling the joys of a simpler lifestyle draw varying degrees of inspiration from the segment of the population that has lived in the simplest ways for generations. The Amish, Quaker, Shaker, Anabaptist and Mennonite peoples have always eschewed technology, government-operated schools and overpopulated communities, as well as dependence on corporations and institutions for the necessities of life. Living close to the land, sharing work, worship and play within a small community, these "plain people" claim to live out different values than the rest of America. Here, however, essays drawn from Plain magazine (edited by Savage) display the harsh critical side of what Savage calls "this strange, alternative, upside-down world of horse-driven carriages, televisionless houses, and family-sized gardens," in "communities that view the Bible as a blueprint for living." Readers seeking help in simplifying or spiritualizing their own daily lives may be shocked by the opinions with which this assembly of voices justifies and celebrates their chosen way of life ("I believe," writes Mary Ann Lieser, "one reason doctors encourage prenatal diagnostic testing is their fear of birth and of death"; "Kids are learning how to process all learning through computers," charges Jerry Mander; children "at rock concerts or sporting events," says Gene Logsdon, "scream and stomp in ludicrous animal ecstasy of thought-obliterating noise"). Important societal issues are raised, however, including choices that must be made about computer technology, the global economy, agriculture, health care, public education and environmental impact. And the beauty of some of the writing, especially in Wendell Berry's "Health Is Membership" and Bill McKibben's foreword, elevates the book, allowing it ultimately to issue a provocative, if ill-couched, challenge to us all. Editor, Ginny Faber; agent, Victoria Shoemaker.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Can be read bit by bit, or at one sitting.
Quaker Annie
This book makes you just sit down and think... about how you live your life and what is important.
Mayflower Girl
This is one of those books if you can find a copy I recommend you buy it.
Beth DeRoos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on July 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This selection of essays should be on the bedside table -- and read -- by everyone who claims to want to simplify their life. The truth is, many of us (Baby Boomers, Yuppies, BoBos et al) would like to live a simple life, provided we could still have all the amenities we've grown accustomed to -- cars (but nothing flashy), television (but not cable, of course), movies (art on film), designer clothes (but simple ones), gourmet food (we'll grow the herbs ourselves), computers/Internet access (well, it's just a modern typewriter/telephone and what a research tool!)
Savage and his friends claim that the techno life most of us lead is actually simpler than the lives they lead. In the techno life, we can do away with too much interaction with others. We separate ourselves with complications. We can live in virtual reality, paring down the complications (human beings) into abstracts. We can have friends around the world, although we might not know our neighbors names. We can amuse ourselves, filling our time with fantastic games, entertaining TV, music from around the world. What's wrong with that? It may be that life is so short, and we are spreading ourselves so thin, with all the possibilities at our finger tips, we may be missing real life completely.
They claim the simple life is actually the more complicated life, with all the mess and difficulties of living in a small community, having to rely on neighbors (who we might not even like) for help, raising our own foods, finding ways to entertain ourselves and our families that might involve planting, sewing, talking, writing, singing, and being in the moment (without the new agey spin to it).
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
My husband and I bought this book shortly after we were married, looking for a devotional to read together. What we discovered between it's pages was life changing. It literally spun our home around 180 degrees. This book is a collection of essays originally published in a magazine called "Plain". It is a magazine of small "human scaled" proportions, that is it is entirelly produced by hand using only human power operating a printing press. Because of this labour intensive approach they have actually turned down requests to new subscriptions because they cannot humanly handle the greater load. And that is what this book is about. It is about people telling their stories about living life on a more human scale. It's about touching and smelling and tasteing life. It's message rips at the heart of the current western culture, but gently shows you a whole other world of people who know what life really is like instead of the virtual life we have become accustomed to. It deals with our basic assumptions about work, health, money, education, wisdom, and technology. It tells us that the assumptions we have made about truth are based much less on our educated and enlightened view points than we think. It shows us the naked truth about who were are. And that reality is an uncomfortable read at times. Not very many people who read these essays are ready to be this honest about themselves. But if you are willing it is simply excellent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of those days when I am feeling terribly blessed because I was able to buy a copy of The Plain Reader Essays on Making a Simple Life - Edited by Scott Savage. This is one of those books if you can find a copy I recommend you buy it. It is out of print, so I think the only places you can find a copy are via used books or small new booksellers who may have a copy stuck away somewhere.
So what makes this book a gem? Well, for one thing it is a series of articles on a variety of topics, written by a lot of simple living folks on subjects that those seeking or living a simple life will really appreciate. One might even say its a great book to have next to your bedside so you can read something short, and encouraging before going to sleep.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Liora Hess TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Plain Reader is a collection of articles that once appeared in the magazine "Plain". Its authors are comprised of individuals with varying philosophies on the virtues of a simple life. Some articles are written by Quakers, Amish and Brethren. There are also articles by homesteaders, authors of several books, and others.
Since the authors come from so many different backgrounds, the articles aren't always compatible. For example, several of the articles are extremely anti-technology, anti-electricity, anti-competition, anti-public school education, etc., whereas others espouse the use of some of these things in moderation.
To me, extremism in any direction is the antithesis of simplicity, which, after all, is what this book is supposed to be about. Still, the book is correctly subtitled "Essays on Making a Simple Life" - it is essays by different people, with different backgrounds and different beliefs about what constitutes a simple life. It is an educational read, not only about simplicity, but also about how certain groups view the rest of the world.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
An interesting way to see the world: through amish eyes. Actually, the plot of this book isnt to force you into Amish life.....but to stop and look at the materialistic and all to consumeristic ways of life that we americans live now-a-days.
I cant tell you what a breath of fresh air this book was to me, and how much it opened my eyes to wants, needs and how they ARNT the same thing-even though we fool ourselves into thinking that they are.
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