“Examines the interaction of reading, writing, and religious belief in the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming (the Shakers). The author finds that an increase in literacy, especially after 1850, appears to contribute to an emphasis on individualism and the fragmentation of the church, but also allows them to revise their theology so that they see Shakerism as continuing to grow rather than as in numerical decline. She also argues that multiple kinds of reading and writing reinforces the beliefs of individual Shakers and the church as whole. Through these findings she speculates on the nature of the dialectic between individuals and their communities and between communities and the larger society.”

Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.