Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Favorite Reads: The Year of Living Biblically

My Favorite Reads

Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past. May is Jewish-American Heritage Month, so all books this month are related to Judaism.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible by A.J. Jacobs

Summary (from the publisher):
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.

Why I chose this book:
Mr. Jacobs is hilarious. I loved this book. It spoke to a lot of the problems I have with biblical cherry-pickers, who use the Bible as a rulebooks when it's convenient, but not when it isn't. I cracked up at the story when he and his wife were arguing, and she (who was menstruating) sat on every chair in the house which meant he couldn't sit anywhere. I also loved his quandary about stoning a loose woman and his creative and ridiculous solution. I now whip out the rule about not wearing mixed fibers in fabrics when I encounter the Cherry-Pickers. I appreciate having that weapon! As always he's sharp and eloquent and pokes holes in a lot of sacred cows (sorry if that mixed metaphor leaves you with a squeamish feeling but I like it.) I wish he'd write faster!


Alyce said...

Ha! Poking holes in cows. :) I've heard a lot of good things about this book. I've browsed through it in the library for fun on several occasions, but haven't taken the time to read it all the way through yet.

Kathy said...

My favorite part of your review: "Thou shalt not be able to put it down." That was classic.

Carin Siegfried said...

I can't take credit for Thou Shalt Not, but just goes to show not all flap copy is bad! Glad I made you both smile!

Alison said...

I've wanted to read this one for a while now. Thanks for the review!