Friday, July 18, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically

As a personal challenge in the past few years I’ve wanted to read more non-fiction books. So far, I haven't been doing all that great, so when I saw that my local library purchased The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible byA. J. Jacobs . I placed a hold on it, in January. I finally picked it up last week.

Here’s the blurb:
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.

One of the reasons this book appealed to me was that he was rediscovering his religious roots. Like him, I'm slowly rediscovering mine. But unlike him, I'm Catholic and had an early education in it, but in my teenage years I left it behind. I'm not sure what the cause was, but it just wasn't what I wanted. Now, as I parent, I want my children to have the experience, the faith and wonder of religion. I want them to learn, I want to love it as I love it as a child. But I also want them to make their own decisions. I just want to give them the choice. I'm back in the church, I'm enjoying, it's bringing back memories, good and bad. But I feel more welcome this time around. I feel that my questions can be answered and not be considered an annoyance, and for that I'm grateful for the priests that our congregation has.

Going back to the book. I enjoyed reading it, I found things that I didn't know, and others that I was completely baffled with, but I what I enjoyed the most was the way the author took his responsibility in experiencing the life of the Bible. And of course the humor in it. My only complaint, and it's a minor one was that I would have like to hear more of his New Testament experiences.

I'm definitely going to buy a copy of this book to keep.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible byA. J. Jacobs (4.5/5) Non-Fiction; Memoir; Published: Simon & Schuster (10/2007); 100 + Reading Challenge (36); July Book Blowout (12); Library book; Added to shopping list;

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this review. I've really been interested in it. If you're planning on buying a copy after you've read it, there can be no better recommendation.