Rylander Memorial Library

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November 28, 2007

This I Believe, The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, Foreword by Studs Terkel, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman - Plain Secrets, An Outsider among the Amish, Joe MacKall- On The Hunt, How to Wake Up Washington and Win The War on Terror, Col. David Hunt


Reading Recommendations:

Nancy Bannister

November 28, 2007

This I Believe, The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, Foreword by Studs Terkel, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman -

Based on the National Public Radio series of the same name, This I Believe features 80 essayists, from the famous to the unknown, completing the thought that begins the book's title. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others.

Featuring a list of well-known contributors, including Isabel Allonde, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, William F. Buckley Jr., Penn Jillette, Bill Gates, and John Updike, the collection also contains essays by a Brooklyn lawyer, a part-time hospital clerk from Rehoboth, Massachusetts, a woman who sells Yellow Page advertising in Fort Worth, Texas; and a man who serves on the state of Rhode Island parole board.

The result is a stirring and provocative trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs, and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them, reveal the American spirit at its best.

And, Plain Secrets, An Outsider among the Amish, Joe MacKall -

Joe MacKall has lived surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish community of Ashland County, Ohio, for over 16 years. They are the most traditional and insular of all the Amish sects: the Swartzentrubers live without gas, electricity or indoor plumbing, without lights on their buggies or cushioned chairs in their homes, and without "Rumspringa", the recently popularized "running around time," that some Amish sects allow their 16-year-olds.

Over the years, MacKall has developed a steady relationship with the Stetler family (Samuel and Mary, their nine children, and their extended family). Plain Secrets tells the Shetler's story over these years, using their lives to paint a portrait of Swartzentruber Amish life and more. During this time, Samuel's nephew, Jonas, finally rejects the strictures of the Amish way of life for good, after two failed attempts to leave, and his bright young daughter reaches the end of school for Amish children - the 8th grade. But Plain Secrets is also the story of the unusual friendship between Samuel and Joe. Samuel is quietly bemused, and one suspects, secretly delighted, at Joe's ignorance of crops and planting, carpentry and cattle. He knows Joe is planning to write a book about the family, and yet he allows him a glimpse of the tensions inside this intensely private community.

These and other stories from the life of the family reveal the larger questions posed by the Amish way of life. If the continued existence of the Amish in the midst of modern society asks us to consider the appeal of traditional, highly restrictive, and gendered religious communities, it also asks how we romanticize or condemn these communities, and why. MacKall's attempt to parse these questions, to write as honestly as possible about what he has seen of Amish life, tests his relationship with Samuel and reveals the limits of a friendship between "English" and Amish.

One more book I'd like to mention - On The Hunt, How to Wake Up Washington and Win The War on Terror, Col. David Hunt -

Col. Hunt has extensive operational experience in counterterrorism, special operations and intelligence operations. He has trained the FBI and Special Forces in counterterrorism tactics, served as security advisor to six different Olympic games, testified as an expert in many more terrorist trials, and lectured at the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, and a former senior research fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His advice on winning the terrorist "war" will surprise the reader.

See you at Rylander!