Friday, July 25, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Book Cover for The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. JacobsAvoiding shellfish was easy. The stoning of adulterers proved a little more difficult - and potentially controversial. Was it enough to walk up to an adulterer and gently touch them with a stone? Even that could be grounds for accusations of assault, especially with female adulterers in Manhattan. So what's a good Bible-reading boy to do? Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in head first and attempt to obey the hundreds of less-publicized rules. The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal, and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes. Jacobs immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, fights idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations - much to his wife's chagrin. His beard grows so unruly that he is mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He tours a Kentucky-based Creationist museum, dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and studies scripture with Jehovah's witnesses. And he wrestles with the seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first century brain, yielding unexpected ephiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers secular and religious, The Year Of Living Biblically is part York Notes to the bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down...

Pahahahaha, now this is a fabulous book and I'm actually quite keen to read his first, The Know-It-All. I like the way he writes and being quite certainly anti organised religion myself (let me remind you that that says nothing of faith, people) I think it's a marvelous idea for a year-long experiment. And that said, I don't much like the way it ended ... I mean, I guess there's no other way for it. His year was up. But I think I would've liked an "after" chapter, discussing what he kept in his real life from his biblical year. Because, don't get me wrong, I think there's a lot of cool things one can steal from organised religion (all of them really) without needing to be a church-going fundamentalist. I like the Jew's Friday Night Supper (Shabbat) ritual and I think one day when I have a family I'd like to have a weekly family dinner night (needn't be a Friday), including some extended family. I think it's a fab idea to have a tradition where your kids know that once a week you're sitting down for dinner (at a table, something we did rarely as kids) and interacting with your family, discussing your day etc. Granted this should ideally be a part of everyday, but I think it's nice to have something special too. I also am in-line with just about all moral tradition, which is a lot of what religions are trying to teach.

That said, it was fascinating to read about some of the lesser known more hysterical (fanatical?) rules that the Bible dishes out. One of my favourite bits was how he compared the fact that the Bible mentions homosexuality 6 times ... the exact same number of times that it mentions "the law of fair weights and measures". And as he so truthfully points out, no one is out there "focusing their wrath" on improperly calibrated weigh stations?

So for me, this book had many laugh out loud moments. I can't say whether a staunch believer in religion will feel the same, but I'd recommend it!

> Follow A.J. Jacobs on Twitter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW! I ADORE your book reviews! I am going through them all now, trying to see what books look like a good read. Thanks.

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