The Year of Living Biblically Review

By | November 8, 2011

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
By: A.J. Jacobs

Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Humor and Spirituality

What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs. He didn’t just keep the Bible’s better-known moral laws, but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day.

I was exhausted. I had decided to not sleep the night before leaving North Dakota to head back to Istanbul and it was somewhere near 22 hours of being awake that I headed to one of the many bookstores in JFK to keep myself awake. And of course, marvel the luxury of so many English language books. After spending ten minutes browsing the books, reading back covers, and looking for nothing in particular, the store clerk approached me and asked if he could help me or recommend something to me. He handed me this book, and I dove right in.

This book is really entertaining. Jacobs does a great job at explaining the laws, commandments and suggestions in the Bible (some I have never even heard of) and the groups of Christianity or Judaism who still follow them. He then gets the groups’ interpretation of the law and justifications for following some of the more bizarre laws i.e.: not wearing mixed fabric clothing or sitting where a menstruating woman has. Jacobs follows these rules himself, and in turn, explains how he felt and what, if anything, he got from following the law. In addition, he comes across life situations that remind him of Biblical laws, and tries to apply ancient rules to today’s society. The result is generally hysterical and historical.

The book is sometimes very humorous and at other times serious and thought-provoking. I found that in this way, the book was very balanced and never too light-hearted or too serious.

The author never comes across as holy or someone who is bent on trying to convince others that God exists and we must follow His word to a tee. Rather, Jacobs is agnostic and is trying to sort through the rules in order to better understand religion and how it connects and benefits some people. As a man in search of understanding and knowledge, he never becomes preachy and that in and of itself is like a breath of fresh air.

I really recommend this book to anyone who is spiritual. The book itself is funny, and yet very enlightening. I learned some things that I had never known before and it was nice to look at the Bible objectively and see how vast and different religion is in America.

3 thoughts on “The Year of Living Biblically Review

  1. Franz

    AJ Jacobs’ book insults believing people everywhere with its dumb-show antics aping faith. If Jacobs had decided to spend a year as a cancer patient, if he’d written a cheery book describing how he’d hop into his hospital bed and act drained and uncomfortable, all done in front of people who are genuinely ill, the affront would not have been greater.
    We can only hope Jacobs gains some kind of perspective on all this renown before he dashes into his next book, because The Year of Living Green would be boring where this book is sacrilegious, and The Year of Living Fat would be cruel where this book is trite, and The Year of Living Muslim might get him blown up in his car. This reviewer’s advice to our author: invest some of those bestseller profits, take a few years off from writing these silly, stupid books, and actually study something. It’s an unsettling experience at first, but you’ll get used to it.

  2. Paige

    To compare his book with one where he is writing about cancer or being fat is ridiculous. People who have cancer or are medically and severely obese generally don’t have a choice in their situation. People who choose to practice religious rituals do, and all Jacobs is doing is looking at these rituals for what they are on the surface level.

    I understand where someone might think this book is insulting to religious people, just like a religious book about the moral sin of homosexuality might insult homosexuals. When people dare to question the life styles of others, they absolutely run the risk of insulting them. However, what is the aim of this book? To insult? I doubt that, rather to entertain and even educate which I think Jacobs did splendidly.


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