The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
By: A.J. Jacobs
Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Humor and Spirituality
What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs. He didn’t just keep the Bible’s better-known moral laws, but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day.
I was exhausted. I had decided to not sleep the night before leaving North Dakota to head back to Istanbul and it was somewhere near 22 hours of being awake that I headed to one of the many bookstores in JFK to keep myself awake. And of course, marvel the luxury of so many English language books. After spending ten minutes browsing the books, reading back covers, and looking for nothing in particular, the store clerk approached me and asked if he could help me or recommend something to me. He handed me this book, and I dove right in.
This book is really entertaining. Jacobs does a great job at explaining the laws, commandments and suggestions in the Bible (some I have never even heard of) and the groups of Christianity or Judaism who still follow them. He then gets the groups’ interpretation of the law and justifications for following some of the more bizarre laws i.e.: not wearing mixed fabric clothing or sitting where a menstruating woman has. Jacobs follows these rules himself, and in turn, explains how he felt and what, if anything, he got from following the law. In addition, he comes across life situations that remind him of Biblical laws, and tries to apply ancient rules to today’s society. The result is generally hysterical and historical.
The book is sometimes very humorous and at other times serious and thought-provoking. I found that in this way, the book was very balanced and never too light-hearted or too serious.
The author never comes across as holy or someone who is bent on trying to convince others that God exists and we must follow His word to a tee. Rather, Jacobs is agnostic and is trying to sort through the rules in order to better understand religion and how it connects and benefits some people. As a man in search of understanding and knowledge, he never becomes preachy and that in and of itself is like a breath of fresh air.
I really recommend this book to anyone who is spiritual. The book itself is funny, and yet very enlightening. I learned some things that I had never known before and it was nice to look at the Bible objectively and see how vast and different religion is in America.