corner corner The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible


This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!

3 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingglade1wing from Greensboro, North Carolina USA on Friday, February 10, 2012

8 out of 10

I have become a fan of the genre they're calling "participatory journalism." I enjoy reading about authors' adventures with various challenges. I particularly like Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman and their "stupid boy projects," but A. J. Jacobs is becoming a favorite as well. In The Know-It-All, he took on the challenge of reading the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica, with interesting and often humorous results.

In this book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs tackles the question of how to live a religious life. He decides to live by the laws of the Bible as literally as possible, again with interesting and often humorous results. Jacobs skillfully handles topics that could easily be explosive, by using his own self-effacing wit and admissions of his own questions and doubts, as well as his wonderfully open mind, to explore religion. He learns the value of ritual and law, and has some of his preconceptions turned upside down.

This is a wonderful story of exploring one's faith and being willing to keep learning throughout life. Because Jacobs is of Jewish descent, he concentrates far more on Old Testament scriptures, concentrating on the New Testament for only one month in the year. I would have liked him to have spent more time with this area but understand why he didn't. What I liked most about this book was Jacobs's wonderfully open mind. He resisted scoffing at many things that seemed bizarre or unexplainable, and came away with new perspectives. I loaned this book to a coworker, who did not enjoy it as much as I did; I believe he felt some of Jacobs's lightheartedness was offensive or sacriligeous. If, however, you are willing to be open-minded along with the author and not allow your own faith to be threatened, you are in for a treat with this book! I highly recommend it. 


Journal Entry 2 by wingglade1wing at Greensboro, North Carolina USA on Saturday, February 11, 2012

This book has not been rated.

Released 5 yrs ago (2/10/2012 UTC) at Greensboro, North Carolina USA

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Sent to tobysrus as an RABCK. Sent via media mail. Enjoy! 


Journal Entry 3 by wingtobysruswing at Cambridge, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This book has not been rated.

Thank you glade1! The book looks great and I look forward to reading it! Thanks again!  


Journal Entry 4 by wingtobysruswing at Panera Bread, Porter Square, 5 White Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, September 23, 2017

This book has not been rated.

Released 3 wks ago (9/23/2017 UTC) at Panera Bread, Porter Square, 5 White Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

Mt. TBR is taking over my house, so I have decided to get some books that have been stalled with me moving. Thanks everyone for your patience! Will be released at a Boston Bookcrossers meeting this afternoon.
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Journal Entry 5 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, September 24, 2017

7 out of 10

Had a lovely meetup in Porter Square, Cambridge, on this very warm afternoon. Since my town has installed eight new Little Free Libraries, I offered to claim any books that went un-chosen at the end of the meetup - and since most of us seem to be in the "please, take the books!" mindset, there were quite a few {wry grin}.

This is one I read and enjoyed a while back, so I was glad to claim it for release in the new LFLs.

I've enjoyed several of Jacobs' books, including My Life as an Experiment. This book deals with the author's attempt to spend a year living, as much as possible, according to the literal rules in the Bible - Old Testament first, with four months reserved for the New Testament later on. Since the author's of Jewish heritage but hasn't had spiritual leanings, it's all rather academic to him, with prayer being especially awkward at first. And, of course, quite a few of the Old Testament rules and regulations are odd if not outright terrifying, ranging from nit-picking in the extreme (not mixing linen and wool) to seriously over-the-top (stoning adulterers). His researches into the original meanings of these various things are quite fascinating, though they're also often frustrating - by the end of the book he concludes that every translation of the Bible and every religious sect features its own set of interpretations and re-imaginings and even exclusions. But he also gains an appreciation of the power of belief, and of the different ways in which spirituality can affect people's lives.

I do think his wife deserves a medal, as she has had to put up with his (all too literal) OCD regarding his project-of-the-day. In this case she managed to fight back against some of the more silly-sounding rules: when he told her that he couldn't touch her when she was "unclean" after her period, nor could he sit on any chair she'd sat on while so unclean, she promptly sat on every chair in the apartment, including his own comfy-chair. I wanted to give her a high five at that point! [He admitted that her actions were both funny and justified - but in order to keep to his project, went out and bought a small, uncomfortable folding-stool gizmo so he could be sure he had *something* safe to sit on.]

I don't want to give the impression that the whole book's about the most trivial rules. The greatest difficulties he reported had to do with some of the "Big 10" commandments, from avoiding lies (white lies, mostly, but until he tried to avoid them he didn't realize how often he spoke untruths) to observing the Sabbath (as someone who's both OCD and a workaholic he had a horrible time trying to be quiet and contemplative for more than ten minutes at a time).

He seeks out people in a variety of sects, from strict Judaism to Mormon to Amish to evangelical Christian. Oh, and at one point he calls up the Jehovah's Witnesses to ask to have one of them come over and explain their beliefs to him; apparently they don't get requests like that very often. Even funnier, when the representative did show up, Jacobs described enjoying the discussion very much - to the point that the hapless visitor gave up and insisted on having to leave before Jacobs was finished. "I have out-Bible-talked a Jehovah's Witness," he says with some amazement (and no little pride).

During this year, Jacobs and his wife undertake fertility treatments to try and have another baby, now that their first child is toddling. This adds stress to an already-stressful situation, as do the occasional childhood traumas undergone by their first son. (The Biblical injunction about not sparing the rod gets touched on, though Jacobs does not opt to start spanking his children; he does, however, have a stab at being more consistent as a discplinarian when the kid acts up.)

There's a lot of humor here, and a lot of interesting information on various viewpoints as to the importance of adhering to Biblical injunctions. In some cases Jacobs ducks the issue entirely - he mentions the bit about not suffering a witch to live, but does not seek out any witches - and in others he... rather plays with them: re the stoning of miscreants, for example, he gives some thought to it - and starts trying to casually drop small pebbles onto the shoes of unsuspecting litterers and such. (The scene where he actually meets a self-proclaimed adulterer must be read to be believed.) He also learns that some believe that the penalties didn't mean "throw rocks at until dead", but rather "throw off a cliff so they'll die on the stones at the bottom" - I'm not quite sure I buy that, but it's one of many alternative interpretations.

While Jacobs' experiment ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, he learned a lot, and so did I. An enjoyable and thought-provoking book.  


Journal Entry 6 by wingGoryDetailswing at Little Free Library, 214 Main St. in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, September 24, 2017

This book has not been rated.

Released 3 wks ago (9/24/2017 UTC) at Little Free Library, 214 Main St. in Nashua, New Hampshire USA

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

I left this book in the Little Free Library on this VERY warm afternoon; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2017 Keep Them Moving release challenge. ***  


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