- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743291484
- ISBN-13: 978-0743291484
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,056 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible Paperback – September 9, 2008
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"A.J. Jacobs is so funny he can make watching his beard grow hilarious. The Year of Living Biblically is the most unexpectedly delightful - and consistently charming - book I've read in a long time. It will have you laughing out loud, nodding in disbelief, and rethinking what you believe about the Bible. It will also have you tallying your sins: I coveted his humor and envied his facial hair. And that's no lie."–Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible and Where God Was Born
"A.J. Jacobs has written a - how else to put it? - Good Book. Let me take my review from the original, Psalm 2, verse 4: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.' And let me suggest that readers, whether they know their Bible or not, get to know A.J. Jacobs. But not in a biblical sense, please."–P.J. O'Rourke
"The Year of Living Biblically is an extremely compelling book, appropriately irreverent and highly entertaining. More significantly, it is a tale of an intense and intelligent spiritual search that will speak powerfully and instructively to a generation of seekers."–Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College
"In the twenty-first century few, if any, Christians truly attempt to follow the Bible in its literal entirety, even us evangelicals. In this yearlong experiment A.J. Jacobs attempts just that, with disarming sincere, refreshingly humorous, and unexpectedly insightful results. I commend this inspired narrative to anyone actively exploring the continued relevance of biblical living, religion's need for critical self-reflection, and the timelessness of authentic faith."–Reverend Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics and president of Sojourners/Call to Renewal
"A. J. Jacobs has written about the Bible in a manner that is brilliantly funny but unerringly respectful, learned but goofy, deeply personal yet highly relevant. I am covetous and wish him smited."–Mary Roach, Bestselling author of Spook and Stiff
"A book that is at one and the same time delightfully readable and profoundly memorable is a wonder! The Year of Living Biblically is exactly that. A. J. Jacobs has perceived the distinction between the wisdom of the Bible and its absurdities. It is a shame that so many of both our clergy and our politicians seem incapable of making that distinction."–John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious and former Episcopal bishop
"As a man incapable of developing any facial hair aside from a really amazingly cruddy moustache, I would have bought this book for the astonishing big beard chronicle alone. That The Year of Living Biblically grows, beardlike, into a long, hilarious, tangled, and ultimately moving story of spiritual growth is all the more astonishing. But why should I continue to be surprised at what springs from A. J.'s head? He is a brilliantly hilarious writer who truly lives up to that oft-misused adverb/adjective combination and then some. Plus: HE IS GOING TO HEAVEN. So how can you not afford to tithe your salary to his cause and buy this book?"–John Hodgman, Daily Show correspondent and author of Areas of My Expertise
"Seeing that most people violate at least three of the ten commandments on their way to work -- even people who work from home -- says a lot about the scale of A. J.'s feat. The fact that you need to buy six copies of this book to unlock the code to save all humanity...well, that's just pure genius."–Ben Karlin, cocreator of The Colbert Report and coauthor of America: The Book
"Setting out to explore the consequences of strict adherence to biblical laws, A. J. Jacobs encounters a series of experiences that are as hilarious as they are thought-provoking. Along the way he teaches us both the fallacies of modern day religious fundamentalism and the joys of discovering the transcendent and timeless truths of faith."–Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director, Human Genome Project, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
"Throughout his journey, Jacobs comes across as a generous and thoughtful (and yes, slightly neurotic) participant observer, lacing his story with absurdly funny cultural commentary as well as nuanced insights into the impossible task of biblical literalism."–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
A.J. Jacobs is the author of Thanks a Thousand, It’s All Relative, Drop Dead Healthy, and the New York Times bestsellers The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, and My Life as an Experiment. He is a contributor to NPR, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City with his wife and kids. Visit him at AJJacobs.com and follow him on Twitter @ajjacobs.
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I read this with a long list of questions: everything from "what's the deal with mixed fabrics?" to "how can any woman belong to anything that's so expressly sexist?" and Jacobs impressed me by acknowledging everything succinctly. This book isn't just anecdotal, but impressively dense with research. He explores everything from hasidc judaism all the way to baptists and the bible belt, getting an intimate look at the beliefs and percieved benefits of people from all different faiths. I would have liked him to continue his Abrahamic investigation into the quran instead of stopping at the news testament. But perhaps, coming from a jewish family, he felt unqualified.
All in all, I definitely got what I was looking for in this book: an objective perspective on many of the beliefs and rituals of modern Americans and the high-lights of an impressively exhaustive investigation of the bible. I think it should be mandatory reading for everyone, regardless of their personal faith.
While trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible, A.J. Jacobs discovers contradictions, some explicit, others springing from differences in translation and interpretation. He has difficulties incorporating the realities of modern life (like having to carry a chair with him so he doesn't accidentally sit in a seat a menstruating woman has been in; it's unclean) and it is only due to the eternal patience of his wife that he is able to live within some of these restrictions (although she draws the line at a rule that states he can't touch her at ALL for weeks after her c-section delivering their twins; spoiler: he suspends his "quest" for about a month after their birth).
The challenge the author undertakes in this book is something I, myself, would NEVER attempt, but I did find his account illuminating. Like him, I think a lot of people seek to live the best lives they can by following tenets set out in the good book, but being human, fail to varying degrees. Jacobs's quest did lead him to being a kinder, more thoughtful person, so even as a self-described agnostic, by the end of his journey, he felt it was worthwhile.
I don't want to go too in depth about my views on religious; my personal beliefs aren't relevant to this review. It's a well-written, engaging, funny account that answers a lot of questions I had about how would one have to live if they really took the Bible as literally as they said they do. His conclusion confirmed what I suspected: it's impossible to follow ALL the rules literally and EVERYONE cherry picks.
But don't take it from me. Read this and be yourself, enlightened. It's not going to make you a true believer (it certainly didn't affect my beliefs in any way), but it might increase your understanding.
Somehow the author manages to shed light on many religious topics and practices without being offensive, preachy, disrespectful, or overbearing. Regardless of the person he’s spending time with, Jacobs always comes away more knowledgeable and open minded. Jacobs met with rabbis, Amish, and Red Letter Christians, to name a few. About the latter, they adhere strictly to the direct quotes of Christ, and Jacobs learned that although Christ didn’t say anything about homosexuality, he had a lot to say about giving and sharing with others.
I often hear people say something is biblical and that it must be followed. I also hear the opposite: something is NOT biblical and shouldn’t be a behavior or ideal to subscribe to. Jacobs tried living all the teachings, laws, and commandants in the bible and showed that it couldn’t be done. A person might spout off the story of the good Samaritan, for example, and yet be prejudiced as all get out. Jacobs was earnestly attempting to follow the Ten Commandments when he told his little boy his English muffin was just that, an English muffin and not a bagel like the tiny tot wanted. His son had a tantrum, causing the author to wonder if lying is okay for such occasions.
Jacobs’ year of living as closely as possible to biblical laws, commandments, and principles changed the way he now thinks about things. He’s more grateful and mindful these days, and he completed the project with a greater sense of the spiritual side of his nature; he also feels more peace and appreciation. While Jacobs remains agnostic, I love his statement about his newborn’s eyes: “I spot what a nun I know calls ‘God’s DNA.’ Those eyes are alive.”
Read this book. It’s funny, educational, and honest. It’s based, by the way, on the Revised Standard Version. His favorite verse is Ecclesiastes 3:1, a scripture that I often remind myself of.