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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Publisher: Published October 1st 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2007)
ISBN: 9780743291477
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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From the bestselling author of "The Know-It-All" comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. From the bestselling author of "The Know-It-All" comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers. 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's quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire "Encyclopedia Britannica" for "The Know-It-All." His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations - much to his wife's chagrin. Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah's Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.Jacobs's extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, "The Year of Living Biblically" is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    Ask yourself: "Would it be fun to literally follow the bible for one year?" If, like most people I know, would answer no, then run away from this book as fast as you can. I got about 200 pages in when I realized, I can't fucking stand this guy, and his story is getting old quickly. Here's the problem: There are so many retarded things the bible says you should and shouldn't do. Take, for example, do not lie, thou shalt not lie, or however they fucking say it in there. You could write a long enter Ask yourself: "Would it be fun to literally follow the bible for one year?" If, like most people I know, would answer no, then run away from this book as fast as you can. I got about 200 pages in when I realized, I can't fucking stand this guy, and his story is getting old quickly. Here's the problem: There are so many retarded things the bible says you should and shouldn't do. Take, for example, do not lie, thou shalt not lie, or however they fucking say it in there. You could write a long entertaining article about what life would be like telling nothing but the absolute truth to those around you. And A.J. Jacobs actually did that(!) in an Esquire article that is easily one of the best magazine articles I've ever read. Here's the article But there are so many insignificant and unfunny rules that bible lovers have got to follow and he doesn't spend nearly enough time focusing on the big/potentially funny ones like all those rules about envy and thy neighbor's wife. He just spends time on recounting his experience attaching fringes to his clothes, making sure he's not wearing clothing made of mixed fibers, and countless other rules that serve only to remind us adhering to all the instruction that the bible has would be a fruitless experience. You and I already know that the bible has got a good deal of stupidity in there. That's neither revealing nor funny. Judging by the other reviews on goodreads, it seems I'm nearly alone in my distaste for this book. Maybe I don't give a good goddamn about god. I really enjoyed his last book about reading the encyclopedia. I could understand that type of quest for knowledge. And it was damn funny from the very first page. Where did the humor go in this book? I cracked the faintest of smiles at most twice. I just got so sick of this guy and the minutiae of his day to day life. I need to go cool down now before I start persecuting the pious.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Nelson

    (4 1/2 Stars) First, To: A.J. if you have Googled yourself thank you for such an interesting and wonderful read! I loved your honesty. To: A.J.'s Dad you can click that you liked this review. To everyone else: There were some highlights from this book that I would love to share. I love being able to have a record of what I've read and what I thought about a book, you probably hate getting so many e-mail updates on what I've read so delete if you must. I definitely shared too much on this one, now y (4 1/2 Stars) First, To: A.J. if you have Googled yourself thank you for such an interesting and wonderful read! I loved your honesty. To: A.J.'s Dad you can click that you liked this review. To everyone else: There were some highlights from this book that I would love to share. I love being able to have a record of what I've read and what I thought about a book, you probably hate getting so many e-mail updates on what I've read so delete if you must. I definitely shared too much on this one, now you don't even have to read the book, but you should, you'll like it. 1. I started out reading this thinking it would be a witty and humorous look at some of the wackier, zany rules that are found in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. I did find that there was plenty of craziness. I laughed out loud at many of the experiences the author had throughout his year quest. What surprised me was the depth of some of the experiences he went through. What surprised me even more was how much it had me examining my own religion, my own life, and my own interpretation of passages in the Bible. 2. Some of the crazy things the author tried such as not mixing fibers in clothing, or not shaking hands with women who may or may not have been menstruating were fairly extreme, but seemingly easy compared with not gossiping or not stealing including: neighbors wireless networks or straws that his two year old wanted to play with at Starbucks. I've found the same things to be true for myself. As an LDS (Mormon) woman I no longer have a difficult time with our ban on drinking and smoking, but again gossip (which I truly try to abstain from) or keeping my heart and thoughts pure is another story. These passages really made me dig deep about how I can be a better Christian and a better person to everyone I come in contact with, even that man who just cut me off in traffic. 3. I loved what this book had to say about observing the Sabbath. I feel like I do just okay with this one. I feel like sometimes my Sunday's dragging three small kids to Church alone while my husband is in Church meetings, then on to working and serving at Church racing around, only to come home and have my toddler miss a nap and make a big dinner does not feel like what God had in mind for a day of rest. I want to try harder on this one. Because even with all the Sunday scrambling that goes on here I love Sundays and really can feel a difference in this day set aside to worship and contemplate things of a spiritual nature. I want to make a goal to try not to be as task oriented on this day and make a deliberate effort to make it more of a day that I think God has intended it to be. 4. On Day 181 the author talks about how his new Biblical alter ego Jacob starts taking over and says, "Secular people are the freaks, not religious people. How can you not think about the Big Questions all the time? How can you put so much energy into caring about earthly matters,..." As long as I can remember I've been a Big Question person. I love having these types of conversations. This book in many parts felt like I was having a good long discussion about the Big Questions. The author writing style flowed so well that by the end I felt like A.J. and his wife and kids were family friends. 5. The author talked about a derisive term called, "Cafeteria Christianity," where moderate Christians are accused of picking and choosing the parts of the Bible they would like to follow. He talks of how we all do this to a certain extent. I guess I could be described as a "Cafeteria Mormon," some things I love so dearly that I'll have seconds please. Other dishes yes, I will leave on the counter. I really want to try to do all I can to try and have my own years of living Biblically by trying to take the best things from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and incorporate them into the person I would like to be. I want to love my neighbor, and have a more thankful heart, I want to have more sincere prayers, and have more compassion. 6. My favorite part of this book came close to the end where the author attends his niece's bat mitzvah and has what I would describe as a spiritual experience. He describes it in part by saying, "My son's hands locked around my neck, his head pressed against my shoulder, I chose to accept the feeling and ride it to the end. To surrender. If I had to label it, I'd say the feeling is part love, part gratefulness, part connectedness, part joy. And that joy was like joy concentrate..." I loved these couple of pages where he used such great metaphors for describing experiences that are hard to put into words for anyone. He goes on to say, "Without my year, I wouldn't have been open to that feeling I got on the dance floor. And for that alone, all the craziness and Handy Seats (used to insure not sitting anywhere unclean) and locusts and snakes might have been worth it." This touched me to the core! Sometimes I wonder why I do all I do with regards to being a member of the LDS Church. But I have had a few spiritual epiphanies so rich and so joy filled that it makes it all worth it. I have to say that unfortunately most of my religious life is filled with unremarkable moments. But the times where I have really felt Heavenly Father's love for me are so powerful that it helps me to keep going through the times when I'm feeling less connected. I really appreciated the author's journey as well as my own. Any book that can inspire me to evaluate my own life and can help me become more spiritually connected, while still making me laugh and cry is definitely a Good Read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    It seems very authentically Jewish to write smart and funny social commentary about exploring spirituality through following obscure rules. I don’t know if such a thing as being “authentically Jewish” exists (versus everyone who is inauthentically Jewish, right?), and I hope I don’t offend by that phrase, but what I’m saying is that I don’t think Moses and Isaiah and all the boys would kick A.J. Jacobs out of their club. In fact, I think Jacobs comes closer to meaningful Bible commentary than an It seems very authentically Jewish to write smart and funny social commentary about exploring spirituality through following obscure rules. I don’t know if such a thing as being “authentically Jewish” exists (versus everyone who is inauthentically Jewish, right?), and I hope I don’t offend by that phrase, but what I’m saying is that I don’t think Moses and Isaiah and all the boys would kick A.J. Jacobs out of their club. In fact, I think Jacobs comes closer to meaningful Bible commentary than any contemporary Christian writers I have read. I was worried when I started the book that it would be like my experience with the Will Farrell movie Blades of Glory: without much substance beyond the weirdness of the concept. Instead, The Year of Living Biblically was an adventure, and I feel it would be very thought provoking and entertaining for readers of any religion or spiritual persuasion. Jacobs’ purpose in following the Bible as literally as possible is to prove that each of us, regardless of our specific beliefs, makes choices as to what constitutes Scripture (or holiness, or what have you) and what doesn’t. Specifically, Jacobs looks at interpretations of the Bible (2/3 Old Testament, 1/3 New Testament) and tests how relevant, or even manageable, they are today. He goes about this with the earnestness of a little kid memorizing statistics on his favorite baseball team or learning how to take apart a car, and I think that enthusiasm is what makes this book charming rather than obnoxious. For example, when he finds two prevailing interpretations of how to live a biblical rule or principal, he does both. He gives thanks both before and after a meal, and when deciding who he should stone, he looks for someone working on both Saturday and Sunday (failing to observe both the Jewish and Christian Sabbaths). I mean, if you have to stone someone, it’s better to cover your bases, right? If it is not already obvious in what I have said thus far, A.J. Jacobs is unabashedly weird. I don’t get the impression that the weirdness is a show, either, but that the show is some kind of natural part of his weirdness. I think that makes this a compliment. Regardless, his weirdness brings out the weirdness in others enough to make the cast of characters in The Year of Living Biblically as hilarious and horrifying as a Dickens novel. The book is not a circus, though, and Jacobs treats all of his characters and their beliefs with respect, whether he agrees or disagrees with them. He is very honest about his own skepticism and willing to say when something seems hateful or unlikely, but he is also very open to the views of others. His blog is updated pretty frequently, and while scanning through it, I came across this selection, which gives a pretty good sample of his writing: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 The Other Moses I got a note from a reader saying that I shouldn’t ignore the ‘hanging curveball’ thrown by Gwyneth, who just begat a new son named Moses. It’s a rich topic, to be sure. Though as a guy whose real name is “Arnold,” I don’t think I can really make fun of other people’s names. But...I will say that if the Paltrow-Martins are trying to form some sort of Biblical theme (Apple from Genesis, Moses from Exodus), they should know that most Biblical scholars do not think that the unnamed forbidden fruit was an apple. The more likely candidates, they say, include pomegranate, fig, apricot, wheat and grape. One source said it was a banana tree, but that might just be crazy talk. I hope that people will not dismiss this book before they have read it. It is possible that people on the right and will expect it to be hateful mockery and people on the left will expect it to be irrelevant. I don’t think it is either of those things, but rather, as I said, thoughtful and smart. Often he discusses debates over Scripture similar to the passage above in that his ultimate conclusion is that the very nature of the debate is a little loony tunes. I found his reflections on the value of faith and family, however, very insightful. Hopefully, we can learn his more profound lessons without having to forsake mixed fibers and carry a Handyseat for a year, but it is a comfort to have A.J. Jacobs out there on the front lines of literalness, taking the bullet for the rest of us.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Oden

    G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." In this book, A.J. Jacobs not only tries Christianity, he tries out the whole Bible, both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. He does indeed find it difficult. But he doesn't find it wanting. In fact his year long quest to follow all of the commands of the Bible results in a most delightful and insightful read. It is delightful because Jacobs is such an engaging writer. G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." In this book, A.J. Jacobs not only tries Christianity, he tries out the whole Bible, both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. He does indeed find it difficult. But he doesn't find it wanting. In fact his year long quest to follow all of the commands of the Bible results in a most delightful and insightful read. It is delightful because Jacobs is such an engaging writer. His style and approach are quite refreshing in this age of vitriolic attack. Most books on religion these days are apologetic, trying to thrust an opinion onto the reader, often through dense prose or angry rhetoric that dismisses those who disagree. Such books are one-sided and narrow-minded. Jacobs, however, breaks free of the contemporary love for irony, sarcasm, and anger by being an open observer. He dives into the world of Biblical rules without a preconceived dogma and because of this provides a most interesting assessment of what the Bible is about. Even more he does it with a wit and conversational style that draws the reader into his increasingly obscure discoveries. It is, I think, because of this openness to learn that Jacobs provides so many insights. He's not burdened with the weight of having to support one cause or another. Instead he approaches religion as it is so very rarely approached, with a sense of newness and curiosity, making it seem like Jacobs is as much a tour guide as a year long zealot. The Bible has many weird and difficult parts, but in The Year of Living Biblically A.J. Jacobs looks beyond the weirdness to see what it means. And what he finds is inspirational, encouraging, and downright enjoyable from beginning to end. The Year of Living Biblically is one of the best books I've read this year.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    The concept of "The Year of Living Biblically" is this: the author would forgo his secular lifestyle for a year and embrace the Bible and its teachings as literally as possible. "The Year of Living Biblically" didn't have the same success as his other works. Jacobs, who is known for immersing himself in a project for a year and then writing about it, was warned by family that maybe this wasn't the best concept for a follow-up to his popular "Know-It-All" book, and they may have been right. Jacob The concept of "The Year of Living Biblically" is this: the author would forgo his secular lifestyle for a year and embrace the Bible and its teachings as literally as possible. "The Year of Living Biblically" didn't have the same success as his other works. Jacobs, who is known for immersing himself in a project for a year and then writing about it, was warned by family that maybe this wasn't the best concept for a follow-up to his popular "Know-It-All" book, and they may have been right. Jacobs writes in his introduction that one of the reasons he chose this particular project is because he is an agnostic and wanted to be more spiritual. This is where I believe this book suffers its biggest failure. While Jacobs writes in several places about the contradictions in the Bible, its his own contradictions in spirituality and approach to this project where I think it goes astray. I can accept it when he identifies himself as agnostic. Quite a few people in this country are, and even more practice what Jacobs calls "cafeteria religion". But Jacobs also makes a point of telling us that he is also technically a member of the Jewish faith, even tho he "attended no Hebrew school, ate no matzoh," and later tells us that he was never bar mitzvahed. So while he's never truly embraced his Jewish faith, he does identify himself enough with Judaism that it starts to get in the way. For example, Jacobs struggles with following rules set forth in the New Testament because Judaism does not accept Jesus as the savior as Christianity does, or even accept him being one with God in the Trinity, and acknowledging Jesus' teachings is incompatible with his Jewish faith. Later he struggles with the idea of circumcising his twin sons. While he knows from medical literature that routine infant circumcision is no longer recommended, he opts to do it because he is, after all, Jewish. I am glad that deep down inside he is admitting he has some faith, but it is also a de facto admission that the concept of this book doesn't work. For he cannot let himself, or his biblical alter ego "Jacob," fully embrace the whole enchilada. Instead, he wimps out on the New Testament by reconciling in his mind that while it wouldn't be acceptable to follow Jesus' lessons literally, it would be acceptable to observe and interview specific members of the Christian faith for their take. But the observations he makes are a cop-out. I'm certainly not rooting for him to be "saved" in an Ann Coulter "Christians are perfected Jews" kind of way. But as a reader, especially one that knows that there is religious conversion happening daily in this land from one religion to another, it seemed a half-hearted effort. Even his own "ex-uncle Gil" went through phases of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and back to Judaism. So we know that a spiritual journey is possible. Therefore, it is this underlying contradiction that takes away from the parts of the book that truly are entertaining. The "perplexing" laws Jacobs writes about, the tassels, the beard, the juxtaposition of literal interpretation of biblical laws in the 21st century, they are all amusing. Jacobs has an adept way of taking a "you had to be there" moment or sight gag, and turning them into wry smiles for the reader. But the fact that he starts this book as an agnostic, and finishes this book as a "reverent agnostic," with nothing but contradiction in between, makes me feel somewhat cheated. It's admirable that a cynical New Yorker has a new-found belief in sacredness, but it seemed like the project was ill-conceived and half-heartedly executed, for there was really no payoff. It by no means shakes my belief that Jacobs is a talented writer, with a flair for comedic observation and writing. But this is one case where maybe he should have honored his mother and father and taken their advice about not attempting this project.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    It's mean of me to say so, because it's clear that writing it was a rather significant spiritual experience for Jacobs, but this book is just silly. It's meant to be entertaining-yet-thought-provoking, but I only found it mildly entertaining, and not at all thought-provoking. I actually found his wife funnier than him. My favorite part by far was when she was temporarily "unclean" and it annoyed her to be thought of that way, so in revenge she sat on all the furniture so that A.J. would have no It's mean of me to say so, because it's clear that writing it was a rather significant spiritual experience for Jacobs, but this book is just silly. It's meant to be entertaining-yet-thought-provoking, but I only found it mildly entertaining, and not at all thought-provoking. I actually found his wife funnier than him. My favorite part by far was when she was temporarily "unclean" and it annoyed her to be thought of that way, so in revenge she sat on all the furniture so that A.J. would have no place to sit when he got home. Now that was funny.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    The Year of Living Biblically starts out pretty fine: I chuckled; I was interested to find out what would come of it all. Halfway through, however, I'd pretty much had enough. Jacobs is a little too smug (though he puts on the requisite veil of "Oh, God! I'm so bad at this religion thing!"), he doesn't portray his wife or son too nicely (she comes off as a humorless snot, though she's probably lovely in real life; son Jasper sounds like a brat), and it's annoying how little Jacobs thinks of my m The Year of Living Biblically starts out pretty fine: I chuckled; I was interested to find out what would come of it all. Halfway through, however, I'd pretty much had enough. Jacobs is a little too smug (though he puts on the requisite veil of "Oh, God! I'm so bad at this religion thing!"), he doesn't portray his wife or son too nicely (she comes off as a humorless snot, though she's probably lovely in real life; son Jasper sounds like a brat), and it's annoying how little Jacobs thinks of my memory (me the reader, that is). He introduces people over and over again, as if we couldn't possibly keep track of his marginal characters. He also tells us over and over and over again that he works for Esquire, as if we would all of a sudden think, "Whoa, get back, why is he in the Esquire offices?!?!?" I was probably most disappointed though, because I really expected the stuff he did to be way juicier. Is it just me, or is the idea of writing the Ten Commandments on your doorframe in pencil just not that interesting?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Petra X

    This is what I call a snork book. So funny in parts that if you are drinking coffee, its going to come spluttering out of your nose. AJ Jacobs is a secular Jew (me too) and spends two thirds of this book researching biblical law and trying to live it. The last third addresses the New Testament in the same way. Living biblically for AJ means dressing in white robes, growing a ZZ Top beard and trying to literally fulfil each commandment even if terribly embarrassing. Like buying the guy behind him This is what I call a snork book. So funny in parts that if you are drinking coffee, its going to come spluttering out of your nose. AJ Jacobs is a secular Jew (me too) and spends two thirds of this book researching biblical law and trying to live it. The last third addresses the New Testament in the same way. Living biblically for AJ means dressing in white robes, growing a ZZ Top beard and trying to literally fulfil each commandment even if terribly embarrassing. Like buying the guy behind him in Starbucks a coffee, a guy he doesn't know to be generous. To fulfil not lying, when his wife meets old school friends who say let's get together for a play date he tells them no, he's not interested in making new friends right now and so it goes. Along the way, practising the laws in ridiculous ways or trying to understand ridiculous laws he points out the side benefits - the peace and rest of the sabbath day, the inner thanksgiving prayer calls forth and perhaps most important, the utter gratitude to anyone or no-one just for having life and a family. Its a great fun book to read and this little bit of moralising is like the salt on your food, it would be nice without it but that extra savour makes it even more enjoyable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristopher Jansma

    My fiancee has been bugging me for months to read this book and I am oh-so-glad that I finally did. Her enthusiasm for it was unflagging - she brought home an advanced reader's copy from work as soon as she heard it was in the works. She then bought at least two more copies for friends during the holidays - bought them, even though she works for the publisher and could have probably finagled a pair of free ones. But I kept hesitating, despite her praise. For one thing, it's non-fiction, which I My fiancee has been bugging me for months to read this book and I am oh-so-glad that I finally did. Her enthusiasm for it was unflagging - she brought home an advanced reader's copy from work as soon as she heard it was in the works. She then bought at least two more copies for friends during the holidays - bought them, even though she works for the publisher and could have probably finagled a pair of free ones. But I kept hesitating, despite her praise. For one thing, it's non-fiction, which I sometimes take to sneering at, mostly because I know that most readers would rather read a non-fiction book about the history of Cod than a work of new fiction by some bright young author. My fiancee, incidentally, works for a fairly-strictly non-fiction imprint, so she reads a ton of it now - and so I feel it's my silent duty to even out the scales. Finally I made the mistake she was waiting for. I was set to embark upon a long flight, followed by a two-day car trip, followed by another long plane trip. She caught me staring at my shelf disappointedly, and I said, "I don't have anything I feel like reading." I'd fallen right into her evil trap, of course, because no sooner did I blink and her advanced reader's copy of The Year of Living Biblically was resting in my hands. Just to keep things balanced, I still read Vile Bodies first. Of course, she was right. The Year of Living Biblically was fantastic. The author, AJ Jacobs, Esquire writer and previous author of The Know-It-All (which is about him reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica from A to Z), decides that he is going to try and live the Bible as literally as possible for one year. This means not just the Ten Commandments, which would be difficult enough as it was, but as many of the hundreds of minor commandments that are scattered along the way between Genesis and Revelation. My reading the book was certainly enhanced because I was (coincidentally?) simultaneously concluding a sixteen-week evening Introduction to Judaism course. My fiancee, you won't be surprised to learn, was also the driving force behind the class. But I digress, the point is, that the book is written such that even if you've never set foot in a religious center or read a line of the Bible, you'll still be able to enjoy it immensely, aside from which you will also learn everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Bible. Jacobs begins his yearlong quest as an agnostic, non-practicing Jew living in New York City with his wife Julie and a two-year old son Jasper. He dives in with earnestness and naiveté, certain only that he is going to suffer immensely as he begins to work. He compiles a list of commandments and tries to follow as many as he can - as literally as possible. Soon he discovers, as did his more religious Jewish brethren long-ago, that dozens are actually impossible to follow at all because they involve things like sacrificing animals at a Temple that was destroyed two thousand years or so ago. But he grows his beard out, he wears all white, he builds a Sukkot in his living room. He stops shaking hands with women for fear they may be "impure" - which incidentally causes trouble with the aforementioned wife, Julie. He stones an adulterer, eats locusts, gets a slave (intern), writes out the Ten Commandments on his doorframe, and so on and so forth. Of course he also tries to pray diligently, cease lying, cease coveting, and figure out how to better raise his son. By the end he has certainly changed, although I won't ruin it by explaining exactly how. He puts it well in his introduction - if Present-AJ were to have coffee with Year-Ago-AJ, they would both leave wondering what the hell was wrong with the other. When I was about halfway through the book I confessed to my fiancee that I loved it, and she'd been right all along. She smiled and said that the way he thinks just made her feel like she was in my head, which I took as a high compliment, even though I know she means both the parts where he is being soulful and brilliant and the parts where he is struggling with his own flaws. She's got me pegged, though. I'd been having the exact same sensation - in some places I felt like I was reading a transcript of thoughts I'd been having over the past few months as I too debated God's existence as I delved into our Judaism class. In the beginning, Jacobs makes a list of things he covets, and his first item is Jonathan Safran Foer's reading fee (an alleged $15000). Now, I knew plenty of other writers in grad school who were insanely jealous of JSF's rise to fame... and I was even one who held out and always claimed he was a truly great writer when others were hating him (see earlier entry on JSF's 2nd book). I suppose there may not be a writer under the age of 40 in New York that isn't somewhat jealous of him. But it was wonderful to see it laid right out in print. Jacobs also admits to Googling himself and checking his Amazon sales ranking every day, also bad habits I'm surely forming. Later, he is making a list of lies he told in just one day. Numero Uno? "I lied to Julie about how much internet access at Starbucks costs. I told her $8 instead of $10 so she'd be 20 percent less annoyed." Yep. I'd do that. In the end the book may not make you want to go out and grab a Bible, but it might. It at least got me to resolve to at least keep reading the weekly portions, as I've been doing the past few months during my class. More than anything I liked that the book made me think more about what I'm going to be like someday with my son, and to appreciate the fact that I have a fiancee like Julie in the book, who knows I'll love the book and will harass me to read it for months without fail. And who reads books this insightful and honest and believes that's how I think.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Unless you are a member of the clergy or a fundamentalist Christian, you probably don't know much about the Bible. You might have heard the nice stories they tell in church, and how Jesus did many miracles, was killed, and then rose from the dead on the 3rd day. Any of the not-so-nice stuff though? Probably not. Before going any further, I need to say: If you are a clergy(wo)man without a sense of humor or you're a fundamentalist Christian, you might want to stop reading this review right here a Unless you are a member of the clergy or a fundamentalist Christian, you probably don't know much about the Bible. You might have heard the nice stories they tell in church, and how Jesus did many miracles, was killed, and then rose from the dead on the 3rd day. Any of the not-so-nice stuff though? Probably not. Before going any further, I need to say: If you are a clergy(wo)man without a sense of humor or you're a fundamentalist Christian, you might want to stop reading this review right here as there's a chance you'll be offended. Everyone else, let's continue..... First, have you ever been sitting around and thought, "I really wish I knew the Bible better. Maybe I should read it."? You probably belong to one of 2 groups. Group A: Why the hell would anyone want to do that? or, Group B: Well, yes, actually, I have. Now, if you belong to the second group, you might have then gone and picked up a Bible and, being a Goodreads member and thus obviously someone who likes to read, devoured all 66 books in 12.5 hours. Or, after reading some of the more interesting parts of Genesis and Exodus, found Leviticus a little too weird with all those laws, and even if you managed to wade through them..... Numbers? Well, you deserve a medal if you were disciplined enough to get through that book! (Yay, I get a medal!) "So-and-so, son of So-and-so, begat So-and-so and then lived 364 years." Repeat that sentence many times, changing the names and number of years. And then onto, "The Israelites left Ramses and camped at Succoth. They left Succoth and camped at Etham. They left Etham and camped at...." You get the picture. I know, boring, right? All those names of people and places is enough to drive all but the most religious into their own personal hell. Then again, this is Goodreads and some of us would rather read that than nothing at all. However, since most of us live near libraries or have other access to a plethura of books, both print and electronic, we need not force ourselves to read such tedious things. "But wait!", you say, "I still really wish I knew the Bible better. What can I do?" Well, you can pick up a copy of The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs for one thing. A.J. Jacobs, a secular Jew, became curious about religion and decided he would take a year to learn the Bible better and to obey all its commandments as much as possible. For some things, this is easy and makes other like you -- being kind and forgiving, sharing with others, helping them out, etc. For others... well, let's just say that following the Bible is going to make you look bat-shit crazy. Never shaving your beard, refusing to wear clothes made of two different fibers, tying money to your hand when you go out, handling venomous snakes, blowing from a horn on the first of the month, refusing to touch anything an "unclean" woman (meaning one who has started her period in the last 7 days) has touched, including sitting in the same seat she has. And on and on and on. Then what do you do about things that will get you thrown into prison in our modern times? How do you stone someone because they committed adultery? How do you kill your child because he hit you? Mr. Jacobs reads several versions of the Bible and speaks with leaders of many different types of Judaism and Christianity to get their interpretations. If you don't already know the Bible, you will probably be quite shocked at some of the things that are in it. There's a lot that Mr. Jacobs does not mention (like how wonderful it is to bash your enemies babies heads against the rocks, found in Psalms), but still, you'll be surprised and pleasantly amused. Mr Jacobs writes wittily and often in a self-depreciating way, as he takes us along on his Biblical year. His poor wife -- I don't know how she stayed with him! If you know the Bible, you might find some of this tedious, as I did, but it's still quite fun to read. Of course, he doesn't go through each and every command in the Bible, but picks and chooses what to do and to write about. However, isn't that what everyone does? Pick and choose? It's impossible to follow, or even attempt to follow, all the commands in the Bible. Not only will it get you thrown in prison or a psychiatric hospital, it is full of contradictions, starting with the simple "Thou shalt not kill". In other places of the Bible, we're told to kill our enemies, kill people for various infractions, etc. There's nothing easy in the Bible, and anyone who says they follow it is mistaken. They are following what they want to follow, and ignoring a whole lot of other stuff. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I'd have liked it even more if I wasn't already aware of all those commands he tried to follow.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Danna

    I found the book to be less about an exploration of the Bible and biblical religions, more about: "I'm OCD and here's my latest obsession!" I did appreciate that the author mentioned this directly on page 148, and the book was quirky and interesting enough that I stuck with it until the end. The bit that stuck with me the most wasn't one of the oddities, like binding money to your hand or not sitting on a chair that was recently sat upon by a menstruating woman, but rather an omission. In their s I found the book to be less about an exploration of the Bible and biblical religions, more about: "I'm OCD and here's my latest obsession!" I did appreciate that the author mentioned this directly on page 148, and the book was quirky and interesting enough that I stuck with it until the end. The bit that stuck with me the most wasn't one of the oddities, like binding money to your hand or not sitting on a chair that was recently sat upon by a menstruating woman, but rather an omission. In their struggle to conceive again, and his wife's acute desire for a baby girl, he struggled with the biblical implications of in-vitro fertilization, but never once did they seem to consider adoption. Instead of invasive measures to attempt conception with no guarantee of success or gender, measures that are fraught with religious/ethical uncertainty to boot, why not just adopt a baby girl? What do biblical teachings have to say about adoption at all, if anything? Surely there's something in there about caring for orphans, or maybe orphans are included in the generic categories of "those in need". Admittedly I've never felt a burning desire to conceive, so I can't understand why some couples are willing to spend buckets of money on extreme medical procedures instead of adopting.

  12. 4 out of 5

    La Petite Américaine

    This book would have been a lot better had it been written by someone more capable and less smug. The premise itself is fascinating -- living the bible literally -- as are the religious groups that the author decided to interview, including snake handlers, the Amish, right-wing Christians, and Samaritans, to name a few. However, his "whoooa, I'm so secular, wow, look at all these religious people, whooooa" attitude made it nothing more than a half-baked project written under a deadline, sloppily This book would have been a lot better had it been written by someone more capable and less smug. The premise itself is fascinating -- living the bible literally -- as are the religious groups that the author decided to interview, including snake handlers, the Amish, right-wing Christians, and Samaritans, to name a few. However, his "whoooa, I'm so secular, wow, look at all these religious people, whooooa" attitude made it nothing more than a half-baked project written under a deadline, sloppily contrasted with the author's own life, and a superficial read. Now you know what happens when you send your kid to a university with a pass/fail system instead of grades: you get passable mediocrity that for some unknown reason, gets celebrated by American audiences. The thing about with these New York memoirists like this author, along with others like Julie Powell or Elizabeth Gilbert, is that they've been so consumed by New York that they forget that the rest of us, in fact, the majority of the entire fucking planet, are not New Yorkers. They look down on us, think we're less intelligent, and can't even communicate on our non-Gotham level because they're plugged into the matrix that is Manhattan. (And I can say this because when I lived in New York, I smiled down at and patted the heads of all those other silly, non-New Yorkers.) What you end up with are these talentless hacks spinning out shallow books that talk down to the rest of us. If Jacobs had taken his project even half-seriously and remembered that the majority of his readers are at the very least semi-religious, then dropped his condescending I'm-so-great-and-secular-and-work-at-Esquire-in-Manhattan attitude, his book might have been halfway decent. Sucked.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    I really, really liked this book! A.J. Jacobs is now one of my favorite guys. He writes for Esquire magazine. I don't even know for sure what that magazine is about (I think it's a men's magazine), but it makes me want to read it anyways. So, when he's not writing for Esquire, he writes books. This is one of them. It's about his quest to live all the laws of the bible the best he can, for a full year. Not just things like "Love thy neighbor", but also the stranger laws- blow a horn at the start o I really, really liked this book! A.J. Jacobs is now one of my favorite guys. He writes for Esquire magazine. I don't even know for sure what that magazine is about (I think it's a men's magazine), but it makes me want to read it anyways. So, when he's not writing for Esquire, he writes books. This is one of them. It's about his quest to live all the laws of the bible the best he can, for a full year. Not just things like "Love thy neighbor", but also the stranger laws- blow a horn at the start of each month, get a slave, or learn to play a 10 stringed harp. It was super funny, but also very sincere. He really was trying to examine religion, as he had generations of Jewish blood in his veins. But he didn't pick and choose stuff. He did everything. He even threw little pebbles at people he saw breaking the Sabbath, because the bible says they have to be stoned. When I started this book, I thought a lot of the things he had decided to do for the sake of religion sounded ridiculous. Like, not touch his wife when she menstruates. Or, make sure that none of his clothes have mixed fibers in them. But then I got to the part where he decided to tithe ten percent of his income that year, like the bible directs. I thought, "Whoa! That's crazy talk. He's going to just give away a tenth of his income?!" Then I went, "Wait. Rewind. I'm Mormon! I pay 10% tithing. GASP." I totally had forgotten I did the same thing. Then I was thinking about other things that are normal to me, that would seem very strange to an outsider: 1. Garments. I wear garments instead of normal underwear. When I was a kid, I thought garments were just to keep people modest, so that they wouldn't go around wearing skimpy shorts and belly shirts. As I looked around at all the old wrinkly people in my ward, it seemed like a pretty darn good idea. It was strange to learn as I got older that there was more to it than that. Praise the Lord anyways for keeping my parents from wearing tube tops. 2. Full time missionaries. Two years away from home, paying your own way, not getting paid, just walking around proselytizing about your particular brand of religion? In the book, the author invites a Jehovah's Witness over to discuss the bible. He's way into it, but after 3 1/2 hours the Jehovah's Witness is like, "Uh, sir... I probably should let you get to bed." The author insists he's really enjoying the conversation. "No, really. You need to go to bed" he's told. I thought, "Poor guy, because proselyting is part of his religion, he got stuck away from his family for a whole evening with some guy not even interested in joining his church. Then it hit me - three hours? We go for TWO YEARS. And I wanted to go as a missionary too, real bad. I am so odd. 3. Temple marriages. Nobody can come see you get married unless they have a temple recommend. You don't get to walk down the aisle with a bouquet in hand. While the temple is pretty, you have to share the front of it with 20 other brides getting married the same day for pictures. Can you even imagine any other bride being fine with having to share her dressing room with 5 other brides at the same time, as well as lots of old ladies there doing temple work that day? Funny how odd and even mean it sounds to do to a girl when you look at it that way. 4. Our lay ministry. Oh my heck! I have too many callings. Plus visiting teaching on top of that. And ward choir, where I play the part of the soprano who (occasionally) sings in key. I have no idea what non-Mormons do with all their time. Probably get drunk. 5. No drinking! Lots of people drink, I've been noticing as a grown up. I fail to see the appeal. Okay, that's not totally true, sometimes it sounds fun. Good thing I have an iron will, except when it come to brownies. If the church ever outlawed brownies, I would be excommunicated in a snap. 6. Ha, ha. The author decided to try the whole celibacy thing for a few weeks. (Coincidentally, it was while his wife was 8 months pregnant with twins and said he couldn't touch her anyways, so I'm not sure it really counts.) He talked about the idea of celibacy being the best way to live, and marriage the second best (according to one interpretation of Paul's teachings) as a way to funnel your passions. I actually thought, "Well, good thing he didn't try to do the year of living biblically when he was single, or that would have meant NO SEX whatsover, for the whole year! That would have sucked." Then I thought for another second and realized, "Wait a minute! I DID that, and for YEARS. And yeah, it did suck!" (Oh, also - my husband was deployed for a year and a half. So how come I wasn't all spiritually enlightened the whole time? I think I deserved a vision or something.) The only bummer was that he didn't talk about Mormons much, or ever meet with one. I wanted to hear what he would say! He did say once that he was starting to think structure is good, like Mormon missionaries, and another time I was scanning a page and saw the word "oxymoron" and thought the "moron" part of the word said "mormon" and got excited over nothing. Not only did he do all the strange biblical laws, he also tried to go a year without gossiping, swearing, backbiting, having lustful thoughts, lying, etc, etc... I decided to try for one day while reading this book. I failed by 9 AM, when I went on a walk with my neighbor and spend an hour venting about a teenage girl in the ward who was driving me crazy. Then I had lustful thoughts while watching some olympic athletes. Then I lied to a someone who called that I just didn't want to talk to for very long. I told her I was going visiting teaching and had to hang up. And that night, my sweet neighbor girl came over and asked for a donation for her marching band fundraiser. At first, I was all greedy and thought about how I didn't want to give her anything. Then I looked at the sign up list and saw that the other neighbor's had been giving her between $15 and $25 each. So I gave $20, because I was too prideful to be the cheapest one, not because I really cared about the marching band. Crap! I suck at living biblically. This was one of the funnest books I have read in forever. I highly recommend it. I hope A.J. sends me some royalties. PS. Now that I just finished my biblical book, I am going to go and do something un-biblical. I think I'm going to go steal. Technically, it will be borrowing without permission, because I plan to give back what I take. I'm going to sneak a book out of the library. Let me tell you why. I returned a book over a month ago, and they called me last Friday to tell me they were charging me $24.99 (the price of the book), because there was a crayon mark on ONE page of the book. I was the first to ever check it out, so the policy is, any damage whatsoever is punished by purchasing the book. I was real mad. I wrote an angry letter to the editor of our local paper blasting the Lehi library for ripping me off. But that night, I went in person to view the "damage" on the book and talked to a real nice lady who promised to take it to the library board for me, and ask them to reduce or remove the fine from my account. The problem now is that my library card is locked until that board meeting, or until I pay the $25 fine. The board meeting isn't for another month. So, I think I'm going to borrow a book, although I can't technically check it out. (Like I can go a month without a new book!) I know for a fact that the fancy security things at the front door that are supposed to scare you from stealing books are fake. I have had un-checked out books in my hand dozens of times when Benjamin has made a run for an open door. I guess he thinks he'll wait for me in the parking lot while I check out my books. I always run after him, right through those security things, with my un-checked out books in hand. It's not like they ever sound an alarm or anything. So, unless they are scanning my retinas to attain my identity, they will have no idea I borrowed a book. I think it's the library's fault for their stupid rule. Oh, yeah. The local paper called me today to verify it was me that wrote my letter to the editor, because they were going to publish it. Such good news/bad news. Yeah! that they wanted to publish my letter, and bleh! that I had to tell them to forget it, because I don't want an angry letter from me in the paper to taint my chances with the library board getting the fine waived. PPS. Since my sister read this book, and she is under the impression that every good book I find was recommended to me by her, I'll tell the true story of how I stumbled across this book: One the radio one day, Glenn Beck was talking about a book called "Just Do It". In it, a wife gives her husband the best birthday present she can think of: she says she will have sex with him 100 days straight. It's a book about their humorous journey. Apparently he gets sick or flies out of town on business, but she insists that they find a way to do it anyways. He's ready to throw in the towel, but she is competitive and unrelenting. I went and looked online to see when they book was going to be released. There were some pre-release reviews about it. In one review, the author said something like, "It has a funny premise, but it's no A.J. Jacob's book." So I looked up A.J. Jacobs. And I found this book. See, totally not related to my sister at all. It was a book about sex that lead me to this biblical book, actually.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    What would happen to the man who really tried to put others before himself? Love his enemies? Turn the other cheek? Give to all who asked- no strings attached? I'd like to read that man's memoirs. But unfortunately, at the end of his hilariously pedantic year-long tour of the Bible, Jacobs manages to have covered none of these. (Loving your neighbor as yourself is mentioned only in the last chapter- when he says it is in fact impossible.) One must wonder at the man who can spend a year in intense s What would happen to the man who really tried to put others before himself? Love his enemies? Turn the other cheek? Give to all who asked- no strings attached? I'd like to read that man's memoirs. But unfortunately, at the end of his hilariously pedantic year-long tour of the Bible, Jacobs manages to have covered none of these. (Loving your neighbor as yourself is mentioned only in the last chapter- when he says it is in fact impossible.) One must wonder at the man who can spend a year in intense study of... well... most anything and emerge with unchanged values, priorities, and worldview.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maria Roxana

    O lectură cu adevărat diferită față de tot ceea ce am citit până acum. Am aflat o grămadă de lucruri interesante, m-am amuzat dar m-am și intrigat! Este foarte interesant faptul că experiența relatată în carte este una reală, foarte bine documentată și...asumată! :)

  16. 5 out of 5

    M

    Ok, I did NOT think I would like this book, and I certainly didn't think it would get five stars - and I grappled with that, as usual, but felt like I can't not give five stars to a book I loved this much just because I'm a snob (I try to apply the same to my students' papers, sadly I am not as effective there). First, I gotta say, what a painless way to read nonfiction! This is basically Dave Barry does Bible - Jacobs is sharp witted, funny and has fantastic lines - and his breadth of biblical Ok, I did NOT think I would like this book, and I certainly didn't think it would get five stars - and I grappled with that, as usual, but felt like I can't not give five stars to a book I loved this much just because I'm a snob (I try to apply the same to my students' papers, sadly I am not as effective there). First, I gotta say, what a painless way to read nonfiction! This is basically Dave Barry does Bible - Jacobs is sharp witted, funny and has fantastic lines - and his breadth of biblical knowledge is quite vast. The concept itself is hysterical (as are the pictures of Jacobs bedecked in white, beard flowing as he walks along Amsterdam Avenue) but what really got to me in a 'I want to use this in class sort of way' is that Mr. Agnostic comes to espouse a real appreciation and love for the meaning behind the admittedly freakish things we do. I found that so refreshing (especially reading it on the same day as a rather embarrassing NY Times article about chareidim having kosher cell phones) and actually quite thought provoking. He had no agenda here, and while he's a total weirdo, he's an endearing one, so I still found his insight to be worthwhile. Granted, there's quite a bit of TMI in this book, as befitting a weirdo, and I don't really get how his wife was ok with that, unless, of course, she, too, is a weirdo, which doesn't bode well for his equaly TMI toddler, though sometimes children of weirdos end up being alarmingly normal. Anyway, a fabulous read - so funny and so interesting. Nice to read about shatnez in a NY Times bestseller - and especially when it's written in such a positive light! Btw, khay, I met a classmate of auslander's over shab - we must talk!

  17. 5 out of 5

    fortuna.spinning

    “I've rarely said the word ‘Lord,’ unless It’s followed by ‘of the Rings.’” I first read this about ten years ago and fell in love with Jacobs’s witty approach. I’ve since read many of his unusual journalistic ventures and I must say his wife is a very patient woman! This time I listened to the audio and loved it all over again. He goes in with an open mind and presents a funny, yet thoughtful and balanced report on his year.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Fun and interesting. A little too self-effacing and mild, but I liked where he went with this. The author kept important threads going throughout the book, with a lot of interesting side excursions. Destined to fulfill The Seasonal Reading Challenge Winter 2017 Task 30.1: Schatzie's Animal Crackers, because the letters "A-B-I- C-O can be found in the title, and "N-A-B-I-S- O" in the subtitle, to make "N-A-B-I-S-C-O" in the title and/or sub-title. Also, for 2017 closure on the SFNFBC TBR Shelf Chall Fun and interesting. A little too self-effacing and mild, but I liked where he went with this. The author kept important threads going throughout the book, with a lot of interesting side excursions. Destined to fulfill The Seasonal Reading Challenge Winter 2017 Task 30.1: Schatzie's Animal Crackers, because the letters "A-B-I- C-O can be found in the title, and "N-A-B-I-S- O" in the subtitle, to make "N-A-B-I-S-C-O" in the title and/or sub-title. Also, for 2017 closure on the SFNFBC TBR Shelf Challenge, this award winning book completes item 5.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}

    I keep going back and forth on keeping this book to donating it, so I'm going to hold onto it until I make up my mind. This book was honest and funny. There were times that I felt the book drag a little, but I was also sick while reading this book at some points. Keep this in mind. lol It is making me re-examine my own spiritual views, and that is a good thing. What can I learn from others without appropriating? I was raised (Roman) Catholic, so I currently re-examining how being raised as such ha I keep going back and forth on keeping this book to donating it, so I'm going to hold onto it until I make up my mind. This book was honest and funny. There were times that I felt the book drag a little, but I was also sick while reading this book at some points. Keep this in mind. lol It is making me re-examine my own spiritual views, and that is a good thing. What can I learn from others without appropriating? I was raised (Roman) Catholic, so I currently re-examining how being raised as such has affected my own perceptions in a conscious and subconscious way. (view spoiler)[Along with the brief brushes of fundamentalist Christianity I was exposed to as a teenager, which really did change me and cause some temporary damage that I'm still bitter about. I'm not bitter as a whole to Christianity, just the fundamentalist sides. (hide spoiler)] I should keep this book simply because it made me think and reflect on myself. I might even do heavy research into other religions and spirituality and see what I learn. It's fascinating me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    JJVid

    "It is through being in Christ and following Him that we become transformed. Unless one takes this step, one cannot be truly transformed. So, after your year is over, you will go back to being a man who find purpose in weird projects and writing assignments. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is much more rewarding." This is an e-mail sent to A. J. Jacobs by 'a conservative evangelical Christian' which I think aptly sums up this book. Unless he accepts the Biblical stories as valid and honest a "It is through being in Christ and following Him that we become transformed. Unless one takes this step, one cannot be truly transformed. So, after your year is over, you will go back to being a man who find purpose in weird projects and writing assignments. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is much more rewarding." This is an e-mail sent to A. J. Jacobs by 'a conservative evangelical Christian' which I think aptly sums up this book. Unless he accepts the Biblical stories as valid and honest accounts of true happenings, unless he cedes the Bible to be spiritually inspired and the work of a deity, unless he actually believes in God (with a capital G) then, and only then, could A. J. Jacobs derive something significantly meaningful from this experiment. Upsettingly, this was not the case. Jacobs entered this book as an agnostic and left merely as a reverential agnostic; not much of a change. I cannot fault him for this lack of radical change, you can't force religion upon yourself no matter how hard you try, but I can fault the book for leading me on 300+ pages and ending in anticlimax. Jacobs' commitment to religious life is superficial or - if I take a less generous depiction - mocking. The Bible says to stone adulterers and homosexuals, and the common interpretation is to use large fist sized rocks to cause serious damage or death. But Jacobs attempts to fulfill this commandment by filling his pocket with small white pebbles and, once choosing his sinner-to-be-condemned, pretends to trip and gently plops a pebble against the man's body. Jacobs apologizes, the man apologizes, and an awkward interaction ensues from which both men depart feeling like no serious stoning actually occurred. I'm sure this is not what God had in mind (nor was the subsequent "stoning" where Jacobs intentionally pelted a bitter old curmudgeon who proclaimed himself to be an adulterer... Jacobs still used a pebble, and the condemned still walked away physically unscathed). To be fair, not all the commandments can be fulfilled to either the letter or intent, otherwise Jacobs would be writing from a cell block or a concrete isolation. "One man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible" was a failed endeavor from the start, for it was hardly a humble quest and he certainly didn't make a valiant attempt to adhere to the Bible as literally as possible. I should have known that Jacobs, being a writer for the magazine Esquire, would treat his book in an identical way to his concise article format. The sections are labeled like journal entries ("Day 231") and are short recaps of his daily struggles with adhering to scriptural regulation. This is to be expected, however I was hoping for more in-depth discussion, maybe a little philosophical pontification or moral diatribes... but no. Tepid seems the most concise description of this book; no hard commitment either way, and no profound change throughout. I'm left with regret at having spent a significant amount of time on this shallow quest of Jacobs', but he'll be happy to read that although I really didn't like this book on living biblically, I AM intrigued by his terse and witty style of writing. I DO want to read his previous book The Know-It-All about him reading the entirety of The Encyclopedia Britannica since his writing style would conform ideally to the format of short and independent clauses on varied subjects. As for a sustained and probing discussion of deeply convoluted subjects such as religion, I have no desire at all to read similar works from him.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    A secular writer (for Esquire, he'll tell you at least 100+ times!) decides to live by the bible literally for a year, and write about the challenges of doing so. Hits: - In his effort to try to get a fair representation of the bible, he tries several different interpretations/variations of the bible. This in itself is challenging, as there are thousands of variations available - KJV, NIV, NAB, GNB, GWT, and so on. He is sent a copy of a "hip hop" version. (!!!) "The Lord is all that." vs. "The L A secular writer (for Esquire, he'll tell you at least 100+ times!) decides to live by the bible literally for a year, and write about the challenges of doing so. Hits: - In his effort to try to get a fair representation of the bible, he tries several different interpretations/variations of the bible. This in itself is challenging, as there are thousands of variations available - KJV, NIV, NAB, GNB, GWT, and so on. He is sent a copy of a "hip hop" version. (!!!) "The Lord is all that." vs. "The Lord is my shepherd." The thought of a hip hop bible sends me into hysterics. (I MUST HAVE A COPY OF THIS!!!) - He goes and checks out the serpent handling faithful. Ballsier than I. - In keeping with Leviticus 19:10, you leave the fallen grapes for the poor... Gleaning. Feeding the poor. I can totally get behind that. Misses: - WE KNOW YOU WRITE FOR ESQUIRE AFTER YOU MENTION IT THE FIRST TIME, AND THE SECOND TIME AND SO ON. Good for you! SHUT UP! - Wow. Thanks for the helpful tips against lust for men: think of her as your mother. Recite bible verses. okay. - The HAIR! Holy crap the hair and beard! In keeping with a rule in Leviticus, he does not "round the corners of his head" and ends up looking like a terrorist. Really. - Chicken sacrifice. BOOOO! (though he does give the meat to the poor... soooo..) Stuff in-between hit and miss: (somewhat interesting and entertaining.) - He goes to great lengths to not wear garments of mixed fibers. (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11) Turns out poly/cotton blends are okay, but wool and linen are a no-no! He adds fringes as appropriate. - I was curious how he'd handle the whole biblical thing (lots of rules in Exodus) about having slaves. Check this, some guy offers to be his unpaid intern. Viola! Instant slave! He does not admit to beating the slave within inches of his life (which is okay by Exodus provided the slave survives a few days post beating) so we can assume he just did research and stuff in relative safety. - I was also very curious how he'd handle the idea that you can kill your kid if he gives you crap. Exodus 21:15 "whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death." After being struck by his toddler son, he decides instead of killing the kid, to turn the other cheek. (good call) - Psalms 33:2 "praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with 10 strings." The author finds a couple that makes 10 string lyres by hand and sells them for $800. He gets one online for $40. It amuses the hell out of me that there's a market for $800 lyres. I was left with the fact that there are indeed so many translations/interpretations/perversions between denominations, that, well... it just solidifies my stance on the bible as the "how to manual" not being the "how to manual" for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A.J. Jacobs is a journalist and editor of Esquire magazine, who has some really interesting ideas for memoirs. I first heard about Jacobs by a friend who read his book; The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. While I’m yet to read this book (but I will) I decided to read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. The b A.J. Jacobs is a journalist and editor of Esquire magazine, who has some really interesting ideas for memoirs. I first heard about Jacobs by a friend who read his book; The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. While I’m yet to read this book (but I will) I decided to read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. The book follows the journey of A.J’s alter ego; Jacob who read through the bible and then spent a year trying to live by it. Jacob tries to be honest, give up the Sabbath, pray daily, go forth and multiply, and any of the bazaar laws from the old testament, such as; trying to stone people, blowing a ram horn at the beginning of every month, tassels on his clothing, binding money to himself, even wearing white and never trimming his beard. The Year of Living Biblically is a funny journey, A.J claims to be agnostic, so it makes the book interesting the way he tries to find the real intent behind every rule he follows. I’m a big fan of A.J’s wife, who while wasn’t pleased with him turning into a crazy man, accepted his choice to do this and even have some fun with it. If you are interested in reading an amusing memoir or just interested in seeing the effects reading the bible can have, I highly recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ❀Aimee❀ Just one more page...

    For a guy who doesn't consider himself religious, he has quite a journey trying to live Biblically. I was worried it would be really sacrilegious, but it wasn't. AJ himself gets more out of the experience than he anticipated. He has a lot of deep musings as well as hilarity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric Smith

    It's been awhile but this popped up on my feed and I do remember reading this. Great concept but I remember being sorely disappointed. All the verses the left uses against us Christians were tried to be lived out. Sanitary laws, dietary laws etc. I do remember a funny bit in there about his wife menstruating and sitting on every seat in the living room. But as new testament Christians we get criticized by some folks that say why do you oppose same sex marriage and yet wear blended garments, eat It's been awhile but this popped up on my feed and I do remember reading this. Great concept but I remember being sorely disappointed. All the verses the left uses against us Christians were tried to be lived out. Sanitary laws, dietary laws etc. I do remember a funny bit in there about his wife menstruating and sitting on every seat in the living room. But as new testament Christians we get criticized by some folks that say why do you oppose same sex marriage and yet wear blended garments, eat pork etc. Well what is repeated in the new is always supposed to be adhered to. And sadly this gets left in the wayside. The sad thing( if I remember correctly ) is that it brought no lasting change to the author, which in all fairness it wouldn't. Only a personal encounter with the LORD JESUS CHRIST is the only thing that will bring about lasting change in a human being. Not no adherence to any religion only through the shed blood of CHRIST. I hope and pray Mr. Jacobs finds that if he hasn't already. I'm sure the tv adaptation will be interesting and I will probably check it out provided it doesn't get blasphemous.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Don't let the subject of this book scare you into thinking it's preachy or self-righteous or filled with sermonizing. It is actually a very funny and open-minded book about the Bible and how following it to a literal extreme is well, just plain silly. A.J. Jacobs has a wonderful sense of humor throughout his year-long project, but I felt bad for his wife, Julie, who had to put up with all kinds of ridiculous rules and projects. (At one point, he built a yurt in his living room to get a feel for w Don't let the subject of this book scare you into thinking it's preachy or self-righteous or filled with sermonizing. It is actually a very funny and open-minded book about the Bible and how following it to a literal extreme is well, just plain silly. A.J. Jacobs has a wonderful sense of humor throughout his year-long project, but I felt bad for his wife, Julie, who had to put up with all kinds of ridiculous rules and projects. (At one point, he built a yurt in his living room to get a feel for what it was like to live in a tent in the desert, or something. And he blew a horn at the start of every month. And he wouldn't touch his wife during certain times of the month, which did not go over well. Also, she didn't like his crazy-long beard that he grew. Poor woman.) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who has an open mind about religion.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Given to me by my wife on Christmas (and, incidentally, eaten by my dog exactly one month later), The Year Of Living Biblically was written by A.J. Jacobs, an editor of Esquire magazine. Jacobs’ previous book (The Know-It-All) entailed reading the encyclopedia in its entirety. To find a gimmick for his next project, Jacobs turned to an even more popular volume: The Bible. Jacobs spends a year attempting to follow all the Old Testament’s instructions as literally as possible, in ways both expected Given to me by my wife on Christmas (and, incidentally, eaten by my dog exactly one month later), The Year Of Living Biblically was written by A.J. Jacobs, an editor of Esquire magazine. Jacobs’ previous book (The Know-It-All) entailed reading the encyclopedia in its entirety. To find a gimmick for his next project, Jacobs turned to an even more popular volume: The Bible. Jacobs spends a year attempting to follow all the Old Testament’s instructions as literally as possible, in ways both expected (forgiving debts; praying regularly; avoiding pridefulness) and less expected (purging his wardrobe of mixed-fiber clothing; making melodies with a harp of ten strings; cooking unleavened bread by letting the sun harden it on his back). Over his year of “living Biblically,” Jacobs assembles a group of spiritual advisors, and takes field trips to destinations ranging from Pennsylvania Amish Country; to The Creation Museum; to a sort of all-male Hasidic mosh pit on the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah; to Jerusalem itself. In general, this book is more entertaining than it is exploratory, and reads like an expanded magazine feature (not that that's a bad thing). Jacobs is a genuinely funny writer, but he can be sincere as well. And to his credit, he restrains himself from taking cheap shots at others’ beliefs. Jacobs acknowledges that this is a change of behavior for him, and attributes his diminishing capacity for cynicism to his new-found habits—in other words, he wonders whether physically acting like a better person might be spiritually transforming him into a better person. Beginning his journey as an agnostic, Jacobs ends it as a “reverent agnostic”—which, he insists, is not the oxymoron it might first appear to be. “Whether or not there’s a God,” Jacobs writes, “there is such a thing as sacredness.” In Jacobs’ experience, sacredness is a quality that transcends everyday life, and one which will motivate him to continue his habit of everyday prayer—even if he’s still not completely sure to whom, or to what, he is praying. * * * Ultimately, I’m not sure what Jacobs will retain from his experience. But I know what I’m going to retain. It’s the following joke, told to Jacobs and his wife by one of the Pennsylvania Amish: Q. What happened when the Amish man married the Mennonite woman? A. He drove her buggy!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A.J. Jacobs sets out to poke fun at Biblical literalists by devoting a year to obeying every rule set forth in the Bible, thereby showing the world how impossible and ludicrous Biblical literalism is. I feel rather ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, it is quite funny, and it is not without its genuine and insightful moments. On the other hand it is, in the words of another goodreads reviewer, a "stunt memoir," and I have a hard time forgiving it that. And I'm having a really hard time f A.J. Jacobs sets out to poke fun at Biblical literalists by devoting a year to obeying every rule set forth in the Bible, thereby showing the world how impossible and ludicrous Biblical literalism is. I feel rather ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, it is quite funny, and it is not without its genuine and insightful moments. On the other hand it is, in the words of another goodreads reviewer, a "stunt memoir," and I have a hard time forgiving it that. And I'm having a really hard time forgiving him doing two stunt memoirs (he reads the Encyclopedia Brittanica in his first book). This is despite of my weakness for this sort of thing: the idea of setting out to change your life for a significant but limited amount of time and recording your reactions and insights is really appealing to me. My real problem is that I can't help but feel that Jacobs is dishonest here- he's not setting out on a genuine spiritual quest, he's not trying to change his life. He's setting out to prove a point with a straw man argument, and make his living doing it. Following a set of precepts that you find ludicrous, for the point of proving them ludicrous, and then pretending that it has anything to do with actual religion is both a straw man argument and a waste of time. I mean, I could set out to read China's answer to Emily Post and practice all the rules set forth in order to prove the inanity of Chinese culture, but who in their right mind would accept that I knew anything about being Chinese? I also don't find it all that interesting that Jacobs debunks literalism. People purporting to be biblical literalists aren't likely to be his audience. His audience is going to be, for the most part, politically liberal secular folk, with some "believing" liberals thrown in for good measure. So projects with foregone conclusions that involve preaching to the choir...eh. That said, I wouldn't call the book a waste of time. Jacobs manages, in spite of himself, to be transformed from an agnostic to a reverent agnostic, and it's worth reading the book to discover what that means.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    A.J. Jacobs delivers another fun bathroom book. After Know-It-All, where Jacobs tried to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year, here he spends a year studying The Bible and trying to live it as literally as possible. His clipped, self-deprecating style persists, and so do the extremely short chapters, inviting you into deep topics for very brief periods of time. The best part of the book is Jacobs's balance of his latest life-gimmick and his wife's conception of twins, because all th A.J. Jacobs delivers another fun bathroom book. After Know-It-All, where Jacobs tried to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year, here he spends a year studying The Bible and trying to live it as literally as possible. His clipped, self-deprecating style persists, and so do the extremely short chapters, inviting you into deep topics for very brief periods of time. The best part of the book is Jacobs's balance of his latest life-gimmick and his wife's conception of twins, because all the sleeplessness and stress leads to some very ungodly thoughts. The book ranges from goofy interpretations (uncertain about its orders around slavery, Jacobs accepts an intern from Brown) to the profound (agnostic, Jacobs falls into cognitive dissonance around how to treat a creator that he isn't certain is there at all). He accepts magazine assignments to follow Jerry Falwell (a man he didn't much like), as well as the Red Letter Christians, a movement trying to focus on social justice. The best parts are when Jacobs uncomfortably realizes a rule is making him a better person, like rules of honesty that his wife abuses to make him constantly speak his mind. Over time, Jacobs and his wife find he's actually thinking happier thoughts, experiences less envy of other authors, and more gratitude for his family's health. In moments like his failed attempt to "stone" adulterers with pebbles, and a tremendous Jewish dance-off, it puts modern life into humorous repose.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    I REALLY enjoyed this book. For starters, I love people who do ridiculous, over-the-top things, so I figured I was pretty much destined to adore the author. (I now really need to read his first book, involving him reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica.) In this book (as the title indicates), Jacobs attempts to follow the Bible as literally as possible for a full year. One of my friends told me he found this book a little contrived - but I disagree. At the very beginning, Jacobs admits that I REALLY enjoyed this book. For starters, I love people who do ridiculous, over-the-top things, so I figured I was pretty much destined to adore the author. (I now really need to read his first book, involving him reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica.) In this book (as the title indicates), Jacobs attempts to follow the Bible as literally as possible for a full year. One of my friends told me he found this book a little contrived - but I disagree. At the very beginning, Jacobs admits that a part of him is doing this for the book deal. He calls a spade a spade and then explains his other reasons for undertaking this project, and I love that. I found the whole thing extremely entertaining, and also informative. As someone who isn't particularly religious myself, I can truly appreciate reading about someone else's sincere quest to understand religion, faith, etc etc. I thought the whole thing was well-researched, well-written, and respectful when it easily could have been less so. Two thumbs up! PS, I also give major kudos to Jacobs's wife for living through her husband's quest - from the Sukkah in the living room to the refusing contact during certain times of the month to the giant beard to every other quirky thing. She deserves some sort of award.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This book follows the author, A.J. Jacobs, on a year-long quest to follow every single rule in the Bible, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament. I read this book in the large-print version from my library. It was a big hit with my friends, who saw it sitting on my dining room table and wanted to know everything about it. For some reason, the concept really seems to fascinate people (or maybe just the weird people I hang out with). Luckily, A.J. Jacobs gave me enough funny stories to ente This book follows the author, A.J. Jacobs, on a year-long quest to follow every single rule in the Bible, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament. I read this book in the large-print version from my library. It was a big hit with my friends, who saw it sitting on my dining room table and wanted to know everything about it. For some reason, the concept really seems to fascinate people (or maybe just the weird people I hang out with). Luckily, A.J. Jacobs gave me enough funny stories to entertain everyone who didn't want to read this book cover to cover. The funny stories in this book include Jacobs attempting to stone people and discipline his son. There were just enough funny stories like this to make the slow parts (and there were, unfortunately, slow parts) easy to get through. I haven't read Jacobs' previous book, about reading the encyclopedia cover-to-cover, but I may pick it up in awhile. I think that one may be more interesting - there are just so many ways to interpret the Bible that you end up with too much explanation and reasoning. Anyways, I do recommend this book as a fun read, with some interesting spiritual dilemmas and humor thrown in as well.

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