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From the bestselling author of The Know-It-All comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible. A.J. Jacobs chronicles his hilarious and thoughtful year spent obeying―as literally as possible―the tenets of 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.

Topics: First Person Narration, New York City, Funny, Christianity, Spirituality , The Bible, Irreverent, Based on a True Story, Judaism, Philosophical, Jesus, Morality, Family, Adultery, Witty, Fathers, Ethics, Creative Nonfiction, Touching, Twins, Fundamentalism, Essays, Old Testament, and Cultural Heritage

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416553229
List price: $14.99
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I'm not sure why I decided to read this, but I quite enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' account of his year-long attempt to grasp religion. It is generous and fair-minded but also honest and critical. Worth reading just for Jacobs' investigations of literalism, Jewish and Christian. And, he's funny--not strange, humorous funny.more
I liked this book quite a lot, but did find towards the end that it started to drag slightly as the pace didn't vary much. Still, apart from the impressive madness / explanations of some of the weirder rules, and the fact that he did try a heck of a lot, what stuck with me was how in the end this feat did change him, to some extent. He ended up still agnostic, but as he refers to it a "reverent agnostic" - someone who pays care and attention to the world and the people around him, not just to his own thoughts and worries.more
I think I'd actually give this book 4.5 stars if that were possible. This memoir impressed me a lot, partly because A. J. Jacobs managed to write a book that seriously discusses the Bible, Biblical history, religion, and ethics that also manages to be honest and laugh-out-loud funny. I learned a lot about religion reading this book. Although there were times that I was a little annoyed because A. J.'s experiment seemed artificial to me, I do feel he genuinely took some life lessons and became a better and more spiritual person in spite of it.

Also worth noting -- I heard the author speak two days before finishing this book -- and he is funny in person as well.

Some quotes I really liked:

p. 172 "That's the paradox: I thought religion would make me live with my head in the clouds, but often as not, it grounds me in this world."

p. 220 "I'd always found the praising-God parts of the Bible and my prayer books awkward....It's so over the top....And why would God need to be praised in the first place? God shouldn't be insecure. He's the ultimate being. Now I can sort of see why. It's not for him. It's for us. It takes you out of yourself and your prideful little brain."

p. 316 "The Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas -- but that doesn't mean the Bible can't be beautiful and sacred."

p. 328 "This year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It's not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too."

p. 329 "I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It's possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn't take away from its power or importance.”more
This was a solid book - 3 1/2 stars, if possible. I love the book's premise, and was engaged throughout, but hoped to see more of the author's conversations with various religious "pros". But it left me feeling my brain had expanded and wanting to know more. I heartily recommend giving it a looksee.

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A. J. Jacobs writes for Esquire magazine, which should give you an idea of the tone of this book. He set out to spend a year trying to follow, literally, every commandment in the Bible -- giving eight months to the Hebrew Bible and four to the New Testament. The New Testament gets short shrift, not only because Jacobs's studies in the Hebrew Bible moved him closer to his Jewish faith, but also probably because his wife is expecting, and then has, twins during the time he's working on it. I learned some interesting facts from this book (for instance, that there are people whose work it is to test fabrics for the Biblically-prohibited linen/wool combination). What Jacobs, who was raised in a secular, agnostic home, learned was more important: through the practice of various aspects of faith (most especially prayer, but also such things as avoiding gossip and other negative talk)he felt himself becoming a better person. Recommended, though you may want to read it as I did, over a period of a few weeks.more
Though I appreciated what the author was trying to do, he came off as a smug prick and his attitude kind of ruined the book for me.more
I really thought I'd enjoy this book far more than I did. The premise is great but the actual results just didn't live up to my expectations.

A.J. Jacobs states, numerous times, that he is an atheist. As an atheist myself his attitude and actions throughout the book don't hold that up. He is actively trying to find God which means that to some extent he does believe God exists and I find it a little jarring.

Although there are some humourous parts of this book overall I didn't find it that funny. I felt it dragged on a lot longer then it needed to and tended to dwell on the more boring and pedantic aspects of the Bible(s).

I feel that so much more could have been done with this book. I was disappointed after enjoying his first book so much. I couldn't really recommend this book to anyone and it'll be with much trepidation that I approach his next book.more
This is the second of A.J. Jacobs' books that has made me enthusiastic about offering recommendations to folks who aren't sure what they want to read. The first, The Know-It-All, was his outrageously funny memoir of a year he devoted to reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. As it chronicled his alphabetical descent into most-avoided-person-at-cocktail-parties, it also touched on the struggle he and his wife were having conceiving.


Well, they finally did, and after his son was born, Mr. Jacobs felt he needed to brush up a bit on his heritage. He is Jewish, but in a very secular and dispassionately interested sort of way.


This journey led him to wonder at all the rather bizarre rules laid down in the Jewish scripture -- things like not mixing fabrics, and not eating most bugs, and hundreds (literally) of other things that don't make any sense to us today -- and the challenge to himself to see how many of these things he could incorporate into modern living.


His wife was not amused. It is hard to live with a man who ceases to shave, and who wanders about the city dressed like he is on the cover of the book -- let alone a man who takes so seriously the directive to refrain from flattering speech that in a casual "let's do lunch" moment he announces to the old friend of his wife that no, he just doesn't want to do that. They have quite enough people in their lives, thank you.


By far, the funniest moments in the book are those tied to his need to participate in the most common form of punishment in the Jewish scripture -- stoning. He doesn't want to be stoned, of course, but he is pretty sure that he needs to participate as a stoner in order to grasp the idea. He sets off to find an adulterer, pebbles in his pocket, and winds up on a park bench with an elderly man who not only confesses to adultery, but with whom he winds up having a spirited pebble tossin' session. To Jacobs' credit, he did ask the man if it was okay if he tossed a couple of them at him.


Underneath the humor runs a deeper current -- Jacobs, who did not set out to become a more religious man by pursuing this quest -- begins to discover that somewhere in all these ridiculous proscriptions is a beauty and order and much evidence of God's mercy.


In his search he meets and spends time with people from all across the religious spectrum -- highly observant and Orthodox Jews, very conservative Christians -- and it is a testament to his spirit of learning that he never makes fun of any of them. He actually comes away from some of the most potentially volatile meetings with a respectful view of each of their convictions.


This is not a book meant to convert anybody, its intent is not to bring anybody into any fold at all, but it is scathingly funny, unusually thoughtful, and one of the best things I read in 2007.
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Though I found the idea interesting, and the narrative amusing - halfway into the book I found myself losing interest and hoping for it to finish. Probably because by that time the newness of the concept had worn off, and too little of substance remained.more
I really enjoyed reading this book. As someone who knows very little about the Judeo-Christian beliefs, this was a book that allowed me to learn in a comfortable and entertaining way. Another excellent read by A.J. Jacobs!more
The Year of Living Biblically. A.J. Jacobs. 2007. Jacobs, who also wrote Drop Dead Healthy, decides to try to follow all the laws he finds in the Bible for a year in an attempt to find out what faith is. He was raised in a secular Jewish family, but becomes interested in religion when his son is born and he wonders what to teach him about Judaism in particular and religion in general. Jacobs combs through the Bible and comes up with over 700 rules or guidelines and decides to do his best to follow them for a year. Jacobs is a funny writer and he makes this quest as enjoyable as his quest for a healthy body. Along the way he experiences some moving moments and surprising insights and meets some very interesting people. A most enjoyable book for all.more
I love how A.J. Jacobs delves into subjects. He decides to spend the year "living biblically". He grows his hair and beard, wears clothes according to the bible, lives with his wife according to the bible and talks to various experts along the way.It was fascinating. I've never read much of the bible (even though I went to 8 years of catholic school!) and it really opened my eyes to the literal interpretations of it.more
An enjoyable and easy to read book that also taught me a few things about Jewish biblical law.He spends about nine months of his year on the Old Testament, leaving only three months for the New. This seems reasonable though, given that the OT comprises about 75% of the Bible.I found the coverage of the OT more interesting and informative than the NT. Perhaps Jacobs' Jewish background gives him a better understanding of the OT, maybe my Christian faith means I already understand a lot of the NT, or perhaps the book was starting to run out of steam by the time it got to the NT.more
I have become a fan of the genre they're calling "participatory journalism." I enjoy reading about authors' adventures with various challenges. I particularly like Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman and their "stupid boy projects," but A. J. Jacobs is becoming a favorite as well. In The Know-It-All, he took on the challenge of reading the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica, with interesting and often humorous results.

In this book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs tackles the question of how to live a religious life. He decides to live by the laws of the Bible as literally as possible, again with interesting and often humorous results. Jacobs skillfully handles topics that could easily be explosive, by using his own self-effacing wit and admissions of his own questions and doubts, as well as his wonderfully open mind, to explore religion. He learns the value of ritual and law, and has some of his preconceptions turned upside down.

This is a wonderful story of exploring one's faith and being willing to keep learning throughout life. Because Jacobs is of Jewish descent, he concentrates far more on Old Testament scriptures, concentrating on the New Testament for only one month in the year. I would have liked him to have spent more time with this area but understand why he didn't. What I liked most about this book was Jacobs's wonderfully open mind. He resisted scoffing at many things that seemed bizarre or unexplainable, and came away with new perspectives. I loaned this book to a coworker, who did not enjoy it as much as I did; I believe he felt some of Jacobs's lightheartedness was offensive or sacriligeous. If, however, you are willing to be open-minded along with the author and not allow your own faith to be threatened, you are in for a treat with this book! I highly recommend it.more
For anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible, this is THE go-to book. And so funny!!! I learned so much...I now have a new respect, and a new disdain, for the Bible. It cements even more my opinion that God is too big for a puny human mind to wrap around. Most interpretations and attempts at explanation just cheapen God for me. Leave it a mystery to be solved if and when we are meant to learn.more
I have mixed feelings about this quirky, sometimes humorous, and well-intentioned book. Its cover suggests it is a send up of biblical literalism, but this turns out to be only partially true. Jacobs commits himself to obeying all biblical laws and statutes--moral and ritualistic. He admits he is a secular Jew (he didn't even have a bar mitzvah), but as he steeps himself in the Bible, he becomes more tolerant, even of those on the zany lunatic fringes, and finds himself, to his own surprise, improved by biblical teachings on charity, humility, truthfulness, and avoidance of gossip, among others. He has no words of praise for three categories of biblical literalists (a) creationists; (b) evangelical homophobes; and (c) theocratic Christians who, scarily enough, want to impose the Bible's version of Sharia law on United States society. Along the way on this zany adventure, which combines everything from going to a bodega to buy some myrrh, writing the commandments on his doorpost, and visiting snake handlers, we learn a not inconsiderable amount about the Bible and its varied followers. The sections on the Samaritans, the Amish, and the gay evangelicals I found especially interesting, in addition to the Orthodox Jews he consults as spiritual advisers. These folks are often surprisingly complex, funny, and insightful. The author's thesis is that no one follows all the Bible's regulations (and belief systems) literally--everyone picks and chooses. A corollary thesis is that the Bible is contradictory, which forces choices, and, moreover, so compendious that it is impossible to follow all the statutes at the same time--or even in the same lifetime. At the end, he honors his ancestors by watching the circumcision of his two new infant sons, and clearly has become a less angry, gossipy, and deceitful (white lie) individual as the result of attempting to follow biblical law.more
Loved this book. The author goes on a spirital quest for a year and decides to live his live according to the letter of the bible. Funny, compelling, tender, full of questions but not all of the answers. He is the editor-at-large for Esquire magazine.more
Read any A. J. Jacobs before? This is more of the same serious humor he’s known for, this time on a topic dear to me: my Bible.Jacobs was raised in a secular family, but decided one day to dive into the world of the Bible. What better spiritual journey could one imagine? Determined to obey every dictate of the Bible for an entire year, he vowed to follow not only the Ten Commandments, but even the less publicized rules. Love your neighbor. Be fruitful and multiply. But not both at the same time.Some rules are easier than others. The Law says to tithe ten percent of your fruit, but nobody on the street wanted to take two slices of his orange. Nor was it easy to stone adulterers as the law commanded. Jacobs carried pebbles in his pocket for this very purpose, and one day the unthinkable happened: he met an adulterer. Problem was, the guy didn’t take kindly to being beaned with a pebble. It was a stoning that Jacobs nearly didn’t survive.What do you wear when clothes made of mixed fibers are disallowed? What do you eat when only unleavened bread is kosher? How do you read the newspaper without bringing graven images into your home?This was a year Jacobs was happy to see come to an end. Both funny and enlightening, you’ll learn more about your Bible from this book than in a year of Sunday school classes.more
I am an AJ Jocob's fan and I really enjoyed this book. Much of what he experienced resonated with me, and I found his story totally credible. I felt somewhat envious of him and his experiences,being a non believer myself, and I started to understand the allure of ritual and faith for its own sake, and the benefits it brings.more
I loved this book! I was sure I'd find it funny in many places but didn't bargain for it to be quite so thought provoking. Just as revealing about yourself the reader and ourselves in modern society as it is for what you may or may not know of the Bible. My criticism is that all ended so suddenly due to the large section of notes at the back. (I'd started checking them as I read the early pages, but as they're not referenced at all in the main body of text, I'd forgotten all about them when the book abruptly ended...). My favourite obscure commandment was the [unexplained] ban on passing wind when praying with tefilin on! Well worth reading.more
A great idea, but mediocre delivery overall. With such an endeavor, one would expect plenty of opportunities for hilarity - and there are. The book is categorized as "Humor" but what it amounts to is . . . well, "Cute." It's a safe, cute narrative. I expected something more . . . a bit more edge, some risk, some teeth.more
Great fun! Irreverent without being disrespectful, Jacobs' journey into what it would mean to a modern man in modern times to try to follow the guidance of the Bible very literally is a call not only to laughter, but to seriously consider what it s you value and why you value it in your own life. I have lent this book not only to peers and colleagues, but to a young lady at the school where I taught, a student who was a leader in our Muslim Student Association, and she found it to be informative as well as entertaining.more
The Year of Living Biblically didn't quite do it for me. I'd read Jacobs' books written prior to and after this and enjoyed them more. I think because the other two did a better job of showcasing Jacobs' various neurosis hilariously. In this, there were too many sight gags and frankly, his neurosis caused by religious questions doesn't seem very out of the ordinary. There were some funny moments and some tender ones, but maybe I'm Jacobed out at the moment, I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other two even though I'd been told this was his best.more
What a thought provoking read! I’ve never read a book that approaches the touchy subject of religion with such openness and honesty. As a Christian, it was extremely interesting to get the point of view of an agnostic Jew. It’s quite humorous, but it also touches on some pretty deep issues. Actually, it was a more serious book than I expected, but not in a bad way. I learned quite a bit about different sects of the Judeo-Christian tradition, not to mention some very bizarre religious practices. It inspired me to think harder about my own rituals, spiritual life, and views on religious tolerance. Overall, this was a funny, provocative read that I would recommend to anyone interested in religion or theology, regardless of their beliefs.more
I enjoyed The Year of Living Biblically more than I expected. Jacobs is quite funny, and he is honest about his skepticism of all things religious. He tries to be open-minded about religion and religious people, and over the course of the year, he finds to his apparently great surprise that many religious people are intelligent, interesting, creative and sane. He describes his exploration of the Bible with humor and just enough humility to be likable.more
Loved this book! So funny and what a patient wife- I don't think I would have made it a year!more
I checked this book out, expecting some light reading, a bit of humor. And it was that. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I got. The author was not afraid to share how his year's immersion in the Bible provided spiritual insights and growth, and gave him real experiences of God -- to his surprise. This is a very easy book to read, and I would recommend it highly. My only warning is that you can't equate today's Orthodox Jewish practices with the Old Testament - a fallacy the author occasionally seems to fall into.more
While browsing through Rivendell (a great second-hand bookstore in Barrie), my friend Brian plucked this volume off the shelf and told me I had to buy it. Since he knows my sense of humour better than pretty much anyone, I brought it home.This book is hilarious. I don’t use that superlative often, but it’s apt—apt, I tell you! The Year of Living Biblically is Jacobs’ attempt to follow every rule he could discover in the Bible, especially the odd ones. He devoted two thirds of his time to the Hebrew Bible, and the last third to the New Testament.His sense of humour makes this book worth buying, but it’s his honesty that empowered the experiment. As a self-admitted agnostic, it was interesting to see how habits like daily prayer modified his outlook on life. As a pastor, I could only wish that the believers I know would approach their spiritual journey with such candor.He wrote a book before this one (The Know-It-All), and another one after (The Guinea Pig Diaries). I’ll be launching into them soon.more
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Reviews

I'm not sure why I decided to read this, but I quite enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' account of his year-long attempt to grasp religion. It is generous and fair-minded but also honest and critical. Worth reading just for Jacobs' investigations of literalism, Jewish and Christian. And, he's funny--not strange, humorous funny.more
I liked this book quite a lot, but did find towards the end that it started to drag slightly as the pace didn't vary much. Still, apart from the impressive madness / explanations of some of the weirder rules, and the fact that he did try a heck of a lot, what stuck with me was how in the end this feat did change him, to some extent. He ended up still agnostic, but as he refers to it a "reverent agnostic" - someone who pays care and attention to the world and the people around him, not just to his own thoughts and worries.more
I think I'd actually give this book 4.5 stars if that were possible. This memoir impressed me a lot, partly because A. J. Jacobs managed to write a book that seriously discusses the Bible, Biblical history, religion, and ethics that also manages to be honest and laugh-out-loud funny. I learned a lot about religion reading this book. Although there were times that I was a little annoyed because A. J.'s experiment seemed artificial to me, I do feel he genuinely took some life lessons and became a better and more spiritual person in spite of it.

Also worth noting -- I heard the author speak two days before finishing this book -- and he is funny in person as well.

Some quotes I really liked:

p. 172 "That's the paradox: I thought religion would make me live with my head in the clouds, but often as not, it grounds me in this world."

p. 220 "I'd always found the praising-God parts of the Bible and my prayer books awkward....It's so over the top....And why would God need to be praised in the first place? God shouldn't be insecure. He's the ultimate being. Now I can sort of see why. It's not for him. It's for us. It takes you out of yourself and your prideful little brain."

p. 316 "The Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas -- but that doesn't mean the Bible can't be beautiful and sacred."

p. 328 "This year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It's not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too."

p. 329 "I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It's possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn't take away from its power or importance.”more
This was a solid book - 3 1/2 stars, if possible. I love the book's premise, and was engaged throughout, but hoped to see more of the author's conversations with various religious "pros". But it left me feeling my brain had expanded and wanting to know more. I heartily recommend giving it a looksee.

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A. J. Jacobs writes for Esquire magazine, which should give you an idea of the tone of this book. He set out to spend a year trying to follow, literally, every commandment in the Bible -- giving eight months to the Hebrew Bible and four to the New Testament. The New Testament gets short shrift, not only because Jacobs's studies in the Hebrew Bible moved him closer to his Jewish faith, but also probably because his wife is expecting, and then has, twins during the time he's working on it. I learned some interesting facts from this book (for instance, that there are people whose work it is to test fabrics for the Biblically-prohibited linen/wool combination). What Jacobs, who was raised in a secular, agnostic home, learned was more important: through the practice of various aspects of faith (most especially prayer, but also such things as avoiding gossip and other negative talk)he felt himself becoming a better person. Recommended, though you may want to read it as I did, over a period of a few weeks.more
Though I appreciated what the author was trying to do, he came off as a smug prick and his attitude kind of ruined the book for me.more
I really thought I'd enjoy this book far more than I did. The premise is great but the actual results just didn't live up to my expectations.

A.J. Jacobs states, numerous times, that he is an atheist. As an atheist myself his attitude and actions throughout the book don't hold that up. He is actively trying to find God which means that to some extent he does believe God exists and I find it a little jarring.

Although there are some humourous parts of this book overall I didn't find it that funny. I felt it dragged on a lot longer then it needed to and tended to dwell on the more boring and pedantic aspects of the Bible(s).

I feel that so much more could have been done with this book. I was disappointed after enjoying his first book so much. I couldn't really recommend this book to anyone and it'll be with much trepidation that I approach his next book.more
This is the second of A.J. Jacobs' books that has made me enthusiastic about offering recommendations to folks who aren't sure what they want to read. The first, The Know-It-All, was his outrageously funny memoir of a year he devoted to reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. As it chronicled his alphabetical descent into most-avoided-person-at-cocktail-parties, it also touched on the struggle he and his wife were having conceiving.


Well, they finally did, and after his son was born, Mr. Jacobs felt he needed to brush up a bit on his heritage. He is Jewish, but in a very secular and dispassionately interested sort of way.


This journey led him to wonder at all the rather bizarre rules laid down in the Jewish scripture -- things like not mixing fabrics, and not eating most bugs, and hundreds (literally) of other things that don't make any sense to us today -- and the challenge to himself to see how many of these things he could incorporate into modern living.


His wife was not amused. It is hard to live with a man who ceases to shave, and who wanders about the city dressed like he is on the cover of the book -- let alone a man who takes so seriously the directive to refrain from flattering speech that in a casual "let's do lunch" moment he announces to the old friend of his wife that no, he just doesn't want to do that. They have quite enough people in their lives, thank you.


By far, the funniest moments in the book are those tied to his need to participate in the most common form of punishment in the Jewish scripture -- stoning. He doesn't want to be stoned, of course, but he is pretty sure that he needs to participate as a stoner in order to grasp the idea. He sets off to find an adulterer, pebbles in his pocket, and winds up on a park bench with an elderly man who not only confesses to adultery, but with whom he winds up having a spirited pebble tossin' session. To Jacobs' credit, he did ask the man if it was okay if he tossed a couple of them at him.


Underneath the humor runs a deeper current -- Jacobs, who did not set out to become a more religious man by pursuing this quest -- begins to discover that somewhere in all these ridiculous proscriptions is a beauty and order and much evidence of God's mercy.


In his search he meets and spends time with people from all across the religious spectrum -- highly observant and Orthodox Jews, very conservative Christians -- and it is a testament to his spirit of learning that he never makes fun of any of them. He actually comes away from some of the most potentially volatile meetings with a respectful view of each of their convictions.


This is not a book meant to convert anybody, its intent is not to bring anybody into any fold at all, but it is scathingly funny, unusually thoughtful, and one of the best things I read in 2007.
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Though I found the idea interesting, and the narrative amusing - halfway into the book I found myself losing interest and hoping for it to finish. Probably because by that time the newness of the concept had worn off, and too little of substance remained.more
I really enjoyed reading this book. As someone who knows very little about the Judeo-Christian beliefs, this was a book that allowed me to learn in a comfortable and entertaining way. Another excellent read by A.J. Jacobs!more
The Year of Living Biblically. A.J. Jacobs. 2007. Jacobs, who also wrote Drop Dead Healthy, decides to try to follow all the laws he finds in the Bible for a year in an attempt to find out what faith is. He was raised in a secular Jewish family, but becomes interested in religion when his son is born and he wonders what to teach him about Judaism in particular and religion in general. Jacobs combs through the Bible and comes up with over 700 rules or guidelines and decides to do his best to follow them for a year. Jacobs is a funny writer and he makes this quest as enjoyable as his quest for a healthy body. Along the way he experiences some moving moments and surprising insights and meets some very interesting people. A most enjoyable book for all.more
I love how A.J. Jacobs delves into subjects. He decides to spend the year "living biblically". He grows his hair and beard, wears clothes according to the bible, lives with his wife according to the bible and talks to various experts along the way.It was fascinating. I've never read much of the bible (even though I went to 8 years of catholic school!) and it really opened my eyes to the literal interpretations of it.more
An enjoyable and easy to read book that also taught me a few things about Jewish biblical law.He spends about nine months of his year on the Old Testament, leaving only three months for the New. This seems reasonable though, given that the OT comprises about 75% of the Bible.I found the coverage of the OT more interesting and informative than the NT. Perhaps Jacobs' Jewish background gives him a better understanding of the OT, maybe my Christian faith means I already understand a lot of the NT, or perhaps the book was starting to run out of steam by the time it got to the NT.more
I have become a fan of the genre they're calling "participatory journalism." I enjoy reading about authors' adventures with various challenges. I particularly like Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman and their "stupid boy projects," but A. J. Jacobs is becoming a favorite as well. In The Know-It-All, he took on the challenge of reading the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica, with interesting and often humorous results.

In this book, The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs tackles the question of how to live a religious life. He decides to live by the laws of the Bible as literally as possible, again with interesting and often humorous results. Jacobs skillfully handles topics that could easily be explosive, by using his own self-effacing wit and admissions of his own questions and doubts, as well as his wonderfully open mind, to explore religion. He learns the value of ritual and law, and has some of his preconceptions turned upside down.

This is a wonderful story of exploring one's faith and being willing to keep learning throughout life. Because Jacobs is of Jewish descent, he concentrates far more on Old Testament scriptures, concentrating on the New Testament for only one month in the year. I would have liked him to have spent more time with this area but understand why he didn't. What I liked most about this book was Jacobs's wonderfully open mind. He resisted scoffing at many things that seemed bizarre or unexplainable, and came away with new perspectives. I loaned this book to a coworker, who did not enjoy it as much as I did; I believe he felt some of Jacobs's lightheartedness was offensive or sacriligeous. If, however, you are willing to be open-minded along with the author and not allow your own faith to be threatened, you are in for a treat with this book! I highly recommend it.more
For anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible, this is THE go-to book. And so funny!!! I learned so much...I now have a new respect, and a new disdain, for the Bible. It cements even more my opinion that God is too big for a puny human mind to wrap around. Most interpretations and attempts at explanation just cheapen God for me. Leave it a mystery to be solved if and when we are meant to learn.more
I have mixed feelings about this quirky, sometimes humorous, and well-intentioned book. Its cover suggests it is a send up of biblical literalism, but this turns out to be only partially true. Jacobs commits himself to obeying all biblical laws and statutes--moral and ritualistic. He admits he is a secular Jew (he didn't even have a bar mitzvah), but as he steeps himself in the Bible, he becomes more tolerant, even of those on the zany lunatic fringes, and finds himself, to his own surprise, improved by biblical teachings on charity, humility, truthfulness, and avoidance of gossip, among others. He has no words of praise for three categories of biblical literalists (a) creationists; (b) evangelical homophobes; and (c) theocratic Christians who, scarily enough, want to impose the Bible's version of Sharia law on United States society. Along the way on this zany adventure, which combines everything from going to a bodega to buy some myrrh, writing the commandments on his doorpost, and visiting snake handlers, we learn a not inconsiderable amount about the Bible and its varied followers. The sections on the Samaritans, the Amish, and the gay evangelicals I found especially interesting, in addition to the Orthodox Jews he consults as spiritual advisers. These folks are often surprisingly complex, funny, and insightful. The author's thesis is that no one follows all the Bible's regulations (and belief systems) literally--everyone picks and chooses. A corollary thesis is that the Bible is contradictory, which forces choices, and, moreover, so compendious that it is impossible to follow all the statutes at the same time--or even in the same lifetime. At the end, he honors his ancestors by watching the circumcision of his two new infant sons, and clearly has become a less angry, gossipy, and deceitful (white lie) individual as the result of attempting to follow biblical law.more
Loved this book. The author goes on a spirital quest for a year and decides to live his live according to the letter of the bible. Funny, compelling, tender, full of questions but not all of the answers. He is the editor-at-large for Esquire magazine.more
Read any A. J. Jacobs before? This is more of the same serious humor he’s known for, this time on a topic dear to me: my Bible.Jacobs was raised in a secular family, but decided one day to dive into the world of the Bible. What better spiritual journey could one imagine? Determined to obey every dictate of the Bible for an entire year, he vowed to follow not only the Ten Commandments, but even the less publicized rules. Love your neighbor. Be fruitful and multiply. But not both at the same time.Some rules are easier than others. The Law says to tithe ten percent of your fruit, but nobody on the street wanted to take two slices of his orange. Nor was it easy to stone adulterers as the law commanded. Jacobs carried pebbles in his pocket for this very purpose, and one day the unthinkable happened: he met an adulterer. Problem was, the guy didn’t take kindly to being beaned with a pebble. It was a stoning that Jacobs nearly didn’t survive.What do you wear when clothes made of mixed fibers are disallowed? What do you eat when only unleavened bread is kosher? How do you read the newspaper without bringing graven images into your home?This was a year Jacobs was happy to see come to an end. Both funny and enlightening, you’ll learn more about your Bible from this book than in a year of Sunday school classes.more
I am an AJ Jocob's fan and I really enjoyed this book. Much of what he experienced resonated with me, and I found his story totally credible. I felt somewhat envious of him and his experiences,being a non believer myself, and I started to understand the allure of ritual and faith for its own sake, and the benefits it brings.more
I loved this book! I was sure I'd find it funny in many places but didn't bargain for it to be quite so thought provoking. Just as revealing about yourself the reader and ourselves in modern society as it is for what you may or may not know of the Bible. My criticism is that all ended so suddenly due to the large section of notes at the back. (I'd started checking them as I read the early pages, but as they're not referenced at all in the main body of text, I'd forgotten all about them when the book abruptly ended...). My favourite obscure commandment was the [unexplained] ban on passing wind when praying with tefilin on! Well worth reading.more
A great idea, but mediocre delivery overall. With such an endeavor, one would expect plenty of opportunities for hilarity - and there are. The book is categorized as "Humor" but what it amounts to is . . . well, "Cute." It's a safe, cute narrative. I expected something more . . . a bit more edge, some risk, some teeth.more
Great fun! Irreverent without being disrespectful, Jacobs' journey into what it would mean to a modern man in modern times to try to follow the guidance of the Bible very literally is a call not only to laughter, but to seriously consider what it s you value and why you value it in your own life. I have lent this book not only to peers and colleagues, but to a young lady at the school where I taught, a student who was a leader in our Muslim Student Association, and she found it to be informative as well as entertaining.more
The Year of Living Biblically didn't quite do it for me. I'd read Jacobs' books written prior to and after this and enjoyed them more. I think because the other two did a better job of showcasing Jacobs' various neurosis hilariously. In this, there were too many sight gags and frankly, his neurosis caused by religious questions doesn't seem very out of the ordinary. There were some funny moments and some tender ones, but maybe I'm Jacobed out at the moment, I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other two even though I'd been told this was his best.more
What a thought provoking read! I’ve never read a book that approaches the touchy subject of religion with such openness and honesty. As a Christian, it was extremely interesting to get the point of view of an agnostic Jew. It’s quite humorous, but it also touches on some pretty deep issues. Actually, it was a more serious book than I expected, but not in a bad way. I learned quite a bit about different sects of the Judeo-Christian tradition, not to mention some very bizarre religious practices. It inspired me to think harder about my own rituals, spiritual life, and views on religious tolerance. Overall, this was a funny, provocative read that I would recommend to anyone interested in religion or theology, regardless of their beliefs.more
I enjoyed The Year of Living Biblically more than I expected. Jacobs is quite funny, and he is honest about his skepticism of all things religious. He tries to be open-minded about religion and religious people, and over the course of the year, he finds to his apparently great surprise that many religious people are intelligent, interesting, creative and sane. He describes his exploration of the Bible with humor and just enough humility to be likable.more
Loved this book! So funny and what a patient wife- I don't think I would have made it a year!more
I checked this book out, expecting some light reading, a bit of humor. And it was that. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I got. The author was not afraid to share how his year's immersion in the Bible provided spiritual insights and growth, and gave him real experiences of God -- to his surprise. This is a very easy book to read, and I would recommend it highly. My only warning is that you can't equate today's Orthodox Jewish practices with the Old Testament - a fallacy the author occasionally seems to fall into.more
While browsing through Rivendell (a great second-hand bookstore in Barrie), my friend Brian plucked this volume off the shelf and told me I had to buy it. Since he knows my sense of humour better than pretty much anyone, I brought it home.This book is hilarious. I don’t use that superlative often, but it’s apt—apt, I tell you! The Year of Living Biblically is Jacobs’ attempt to follow every rule he could discover in the Bible, especially the odd ones. He devoted two thirds of his time to the Hebrew Bible, and the last third to the New Testament.His sense of humour makes this book worth buying, but it’s his honesty that empowered the experiment. As a self-admitted agnostic, it was interesting to see how habits like daily prayer modified his outlook on life. As a pastor, I could only wish that the believers I know would approach their spiritual journey with such candor.He wrote a book before this one (The Know-It-All), and another one after (The Guinea Pig Diaries). I’ll be launching into them soon.more
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