Thursday, May 06, 2010

Year of Living Biblically

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

AJ Jacobs is "Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. Which is to say: not very." He sets out to explore the Bible in the only way he can-- by trying to live it as literally as possible for a year. He has a stack of different translations and versions, and several spiritual advisers from all faiths to call on with questions. He looks at the rules, how they're followed or not, and tries to follow them as literally as possible. He finds an adulterer in Central Park and tosses a pebble at him. He grows his beard. He takes a piece of string and ties a print out of the 10 Commandments to his forehead every morning. (He does at one point have someone over to show him how to wrap Tefflin, the traditional way that orthodox Jews follow Deuteromony 6:8 "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.") He carries around a handi-seat so he won't accidentally sit anywhere a menstruating woman has sat (which ties in well with his germophobia.) His wife, in revenge, sits on every flat surface in their apartment one month. He wonders about how much trouble he'll be in with his landlord for painting his doorposts with lamb's blood (and does it when his son, who has developed a liking for drawing on walls, can't see him.)He visits different houses of worship, and goes to Israel to visit with the Samaritans and herds some sheep.

It's a fascinating look at the role religion plays in people's lives, especially those who are Orthodox in their faith. It's a hilarious tale of trying to live an old school life in modern New York. He struggles with lustful thoughts and tries to censor everything, including the Land O'Lakes girl in his apartment to make things easier. Then his bosses at Esquire assign him all the interviews with starlets, just to mess with him. He starts wearing all white in a city that dresses in black.

But, through the humor it's striking in how much the experience changes him. It doesn't necessarily make him a believer, but does make him more thoughtful about how he lives his life and how he interacts with other people. His insights as he tries to wrap his head around these rules, people who live their life by these rules, and how many religions spring out of various interpretations of them, are honest and sometimes profound.

Extremely readable and enjoyable, but will also change the way you look at religion and the role it plays in your life, and lives of others.

Book Provided by... my friend Kathleen, who loaned it to me.

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Amanda said...

Loved this one! Laugh-out-loud, yet educational.

Shelley said...

You have to check out a video of Jacobs on youtube if you haven't already. He is not at all how I pictured him while reading the book!
I enjoyed this one so much I also read Know-It-All, and it was pretty humorous as well.

[mr. nelsonm] said...

Back when I was a teacher, I tried to make this book an example of a "life experiment" like Thoreau in Walden. I showed Jacob's TED Talk. It sort of worked, but his voice is so irritating that the kids stopped listening and mostly just made fun of his voice.

Melissa said...

So, have you read Know-it-All? I keep meaning to pick that one up because I've heard it's just as funny.

Jennie said...

I haven't read Know-it-All yet, but it's been on my list for awhile. I liked this one so much, that it's moved up the list pretty far.

I will definitely check him out on youtube to see what Shelley and [mr. nelsonm] (love that user name!) are talking about!