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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 Oct 9, 2007
ISBN: 9781416553229
List price: $14.99
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This was a fun and insightful book. I particularly enjoyed the sections regarding childrearing and menstruation. The author enters into this project with a mindset of demonstrating that biblical literalism is absurd and ludicrous (spoiler: he accomplishes this goal), but along the way he learns a lot of valuable insights into the Bible and into himself, and he comes away from this journey as a better person.read more
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Part gimmick, part sincere, humorous and serious. A. J. Jacobs culls 700+ rules from the Bible (RSV, though he collects alternatives for reference) and vows to follow them for a year, September through August. All of them, simultaneously, though he focuses on one at a time, and splits the year into eight months of Old Testament and four months of New Testament. ”How can these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees be found in the same book? And not just the same book. Sometimes the same page. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen comes right after the command to love your neighbor. It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for Some Crazy Laws’. They’re all jumbled up like a chopped salad.” How do Christians and Jews determine which rules matter? There’s a distinction between moral and ritual, with a murky gray area. There’s an exemption for only in the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem, or only in Israel. There will be no exemptions for him. Well, maybe one. ”Today marks the twenty-sixth time I’ve been asked whether I’m going to sacrifice Jasper during my biblical year. No, I say politely, only Abraham was commanded to do that." He follows the rules that have dropped from common practice. Surely nobody else in America cares about the ban on wearing clothes with mixed fibers? Turns out there’s an expert shatnez tester, who arrives with a microscope, and whose joy and “high” is saving people from breaking commandments. Surely ten string harps are obsolete? Turns out they’re available on eBay. ”When will it sink into my skull that there is no such thing as an obscure Bible verse?” His wife endures the voluminous beard. ”Julie wanted to go to Halloween with me as Tom Hanks from Cast Away and her as the volleyball, but I can’t do Halloween because it’s a pagan holiday.” But when he cannot sit on a chair that has been occupied by a menstruating woman, she sits on every chair in the house, and he has to carry a folding chair that remains pure. He follows the rules that endure. He makes an effort to speak Biblically, which ”requires requires a total switch in the content of my conversation: no lying, no complaining, no gossiping”, and becomes aware of how often and how easily he slips. He prays. ”A spiritual update: I’m still agnostic, but I do have some progress to report on the prayer front. I no longer dread prayer. And sometimes I’m even liking it. I’ve gone so far as to take the training wheels off and am testing out some of my own prayers instead of just repeating passages from the Bible.” Of the four types outlined by his friend the “pastor out to pasture” (Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication) he is most comfortable with thanksgiving. Later he extends to praying for others: ”I still can’t wrap my brain around the notion that God would change His mind because we ask Him to. And yet I still love these prayers. To me they’re moral weight training. Every night I pray for others for ten minutes. ... It’s ten minutes where it’s impossible to be self-centered.” His perspective changes. After 6 months: ”Here, at the halfway mark of my journey, I’ve had an unexpected mental shift. I feel closer to the ultrareligious New Yorkers than I do the secular. The guy with the fish on his bumper sticker. The black man with the kufi. The Hasidim with their swinging fringes. They are my compatriots. They think about God and faith and prayer all the time, just like I do.” After 12 months: “The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too. They can’t heap everything onto their plate. ... But the more important lesson was this: there’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. ... The key is in choosing the right dishes. You need to pick the nurturing ones (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones.”As an apatheistic agnostic, I’m a poor judge of irreverence, but this book was recommended by a conservative Christian acquaintance who considers it respectful. It is funny in a foibles of human nature sort of way, lightening a serious reminder that daily attention and habit can have profound effects. (read 6 Nov 2012)read more
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Very entertaining and very interesting. Jacobs describes his 8 months of trying to follow all OT laws and admonitions, and his 4 months of inquiry into NT lifestyle. Although he remains agnostic, it is interesting to observe the changes in him as a result of his experiment. Minus one star: one senses he truly tried the OT section on for size - and took a position on the outside peeking in the window in the NT section.read more
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Loved this book! So funny and what a patient wife- I don't think I would have made it a year!read more
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I am not religious in the slightest, but this book was very funny. It made me want to try some lifestyle changes of my own.read more
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A.J. Jacobs is an agnostic New Yorker from a mostly secular Jewish family. Casting about for a follow-up to his first book, in which he read the entire Encyclopǽdia Britannica, Jacobs decided to explore the best-selling book of all time, the bible.Jacobs suspected that most biblical literalists practice cafeteria religion, picking and choosing to follow only those rules that fit a specific agenda. He, however, would follow ALL of the rules in the bible, for a period of one year. When he announced this project to his wife Julie, she sighed and said "I was kind of hoping your next book would be a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt or something."In the initial research phase, Jacobs acquired a waist-high stack of bibles, and organized a spiritual advisory board consisting of experts from several biblical literalist groups. Jacobs decided to spend most of his time on the Hebrew bible (old testament), saving a few months at the end for the new testament. He would visit with various communities of biblical literalists: ultra-Orthodox Jews, Samaritans, Amish, polygamists, etc. He would pray daily (hoping under the theory of cognitive dissonance that doing so would eventually make him a believer) and would observe the Sabbath.With that, Jacobs was off and running. He started with a Biblical Rules list containing over 700 rules, including the Five Most Perplexing Rules, but realized within a week that he could not keep track of all of them. He decided to do his best, but to focus on one specific rule each day.Jacobs let his beard grow. He changed his diet and his wardrobe, consulting a shatnez expert to make sure his clothing did not contain mixed fibers. He gave up movies. He acquired a ram’s horn and blew it at the beginning of each month. He even subjected his long-suffering wife to the old testament’s impurity rules, which she described as “theological cooties”. While all of this was going on, Jacobs continued his job as a writer for Esquire magazine.The first field trip was a visit to an Amish-run bed & breakfast, where A.J. and Julie encountered an Amish woman in traditional costume using a gas-powered leaf blower. Their host played the harmonica and told Amish jokes. The next field trip was to the Creation Museum, which uses animatronic displays to “prove” that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. Jacobs called Jehovah’s Witness headquarters and asked them to send someone to his home. He attended bible study at Jerry Falwell's church, stoned an adulterer in Central Park, sacrificed a chicken in Crown Heights, visited his ex-uncle Guru Gil in Israel, and attended a service with serpent handlers in Tennessee.Jacobs lurched from adventure to adventure with charming earnestness. As an agnostic, he was able to treat everyone with respect, and open himself to all of these experiences in a way that would be impossible for a believer of a specific dogma. By the end, Jacobs got in touch with his Jewish heritage and declared himself a reverent agnostic.This book was hilarious, but as a nonbeliever I also found it oddly inspiring. The detailed index and bibliography provide a good starting point for anyone wishing to explore the bible and Judeo-Christian traditions on a more serious level.read more
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Holy Cow...loved this book!! Hilarious and sincere. I wish it was required reading. Would silence any preachy fundamentalists in a sound second! This is not a book about religion, it is a book about common sense and how people lose it when they blindly follow.read more
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This book affected me more than I thought it would. A born and bred agnostic (when I'm feeling the most devout) I figured it would be a humorous romp through the bible and the "crazy" laws it has. Instead I found a fascinating (still humorous though) tale of how the author attempts to follow the rules and adopt them into his agnostic life and the changes that occur in him during it.read more
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Last word first: Funny and earnest, not to be missed (5/5).Description: After writing a book about reading the entire Encyclopedia Britanica (in preparation for a turn on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?), AJ Jacobs wondered how he can manage to top his debut book. Then he had a brilliant idea... what if he tries to live an entire year in literal accordance with the Bible? This memoir chronicles his efforts, from growing out his beard to stoning adulterers in the New York City (not as gruesome as you might think!).My thoughts: I think there needs to be a new genre. Rather than just "non-fiction", we should have some type of designation for non-fiction that is not boring (NFNB?). This book is highly entertaining. There was a snicker on every page as I read about Jacobs' adventures in literalism. He travels to an Amish community, a creationist museum, and even to Israel in the course of his quest, and the people he encountered definitely opened my eyes.Jacobs has done an excellent job at drawing attention to all that is bewildering about biblical literalism. As he points out, many people claim they adhere literally to the Bible, but the Bible has multiple translations and contradicts itself at times. And yet he hasn't gone in to this project attempting to make fun of religion, but rather to try and make sense of it. I think this is a great book for everyone! It's funny, honest and it will make you think. And laugh. At the same time. What could be better?read more
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This is a really terrific book. Jacobs is a good writer, first of all, engaging, witty, and deep by turns.He is a Jew who grew up in a secular family that were rather embarrassed by this religion thing . He is a professional writer, and while looking for ideas for his next book, hit upon the idea of taking the Bible literally. It would allow him to get to know the best-selling book of all time, to open the door to spirituality and see if anything developed for him, and to explore the concept of biblical literalism. "But my suspicion was that almost everyone's literalism consisted of picking and choosing. People plucked out the parts that fit their agenda, whether that agenda was to the right or left. Not me. I thought, with some naivete, I would peel away the layers of interpretation and find the true Bible underneath. i would do this by being the ultimate fundamentalist. I'd be fearless. I would do exactly what the Bible said, and in so doing, I'd discover what's great and timeless in the Bible and what is outdated." (p. 6-7)So he bought a variety of versions of the Bible as well as other books about the Bible and read them all. He decided to devote 8 months to the Old Testament and 4 months to the New. He made a list of the rules in the Bible and carried it with him, sometimes binding a copy to his forehead and his arm. He came up with a list of what seemed to him the most bizarre rules in the Bible and investigated some of them early on. For instance, the prohibition against mixing cloth. He figured that no one was actually following this rule, but found that, on the contrary, there are people who are shatnez (mixed fiber) testers. He found one named Mr. Berkowitz who came and inspected his clothes for forbidden cloth... turns out the rule is about mixing linen and wool. Mr. Berkowitz found one suspicious garment which Jacobs put away for the rest of the year. Mr. Berkowitz becomes one of Jacob's mentors into Judaism. He is firmly of the belief that one doesn't need to understand all the rules in the Bible, but simply practice them, and by doing so draw nearer to God.Jacobs has several mentors in his year, both rabbis and ministers. He visits representatives of all sorts of religious groups, everywhere along the path from rigid literalists to those who see the Bible more in terms of metaphor. He visits the Creationist Museum, Jerry Falwell's church, snake handlers, gay evangelicals, and of course Israel. Many of those he expected to dislike he found he did like, even when he didn't agree with them. Some things he followed seem pretty silly. There's a funny scene where he decided he needed to stone someone, as it was the most common form in the Bible of capital punishment, and prescribed for numerous sins. So Jacobs gathered up some pebbles and went in search of sinners. He finds an angry old man who wants to know why he is dressed so queer, and he says he is stoning sinners. The old man says he is an adulterer, and Jacobs shows him the pebbles, the old man throws one at him, and he throws one back, and they part. Other things Jacobs tries have a profound effect on him. He begins praying every day at the beginning of the year, and at first it leaves him feeling empty. Yet by the end of the year he finds himself praying spontaneously, for his son's protection, for instance, or small frequent prayers of gratitude for the small sweet things in life for which he had not before thought to be grateful.His summary of the year on pages 327-329 worth the price of the book. He, who starts he year as an agnostic, ends the year as still an agnostic... but a reverent one: "I now believe that whether or not their'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."As for the Bible himself, he comes away with two ideas from two of his mentors. One is: "Try thinking of the Bible as a snapshot of something divine. It may not be a perfect picture. It may have flaws; a thumb on the lens, faded colors in the corners. But it still helps to visualize." The other idea is that if one sees the Bible as the ending point of our relationship with God, one is using the Bible as an idol, worshiping the words rather than the spirit.As a librarian, I tend to notice the bibliographic extras: the book has a great set of notes, an excellent bibliography that puts together books written from all viewpoints about Judaism and Christianity, and a detailed index.Highly recommended.read more
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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.read more
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I was very interested to see how closely Mr. Jacobs held to the teachings of the Bible for his year long project. I was also interested to see what kind of transformation this would have on him as a whole once the project was over.I was not dissapointed. It was slow reading, but worth it in the end. I enjoyed seeing how much research he did to ensure that he was following as closely to the old teachings as possible. I have to say, after reading this book, I am more interested in learing more about the Jewish culture than I was before. An interesting read.read more
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A secular New York suburbanite tries to lead a more pious life by following as many of the Bible's rules as possible for a year. More well-written than most of the 'Man on a Mission' type of lit, a dip into the holy book's multitudinous, and quite often contradictory, recommendations for life.read more
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Based on the reviews, title, and cover, I expected this to be funny, somewhat satirical, and mocking. It was funny, but not to much the rest. I didn't end up laughing as much as I expected, but I was so impressed by this guy's apparent sincerity that I didn't mind at all.It seems that Mr. Jacobs is a big fan of tackling crazy assignments, that he sets for himself, and then writing books about the experience. He also wrote a book about reading the whole encyclopedia (The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World) and works as an editor of some kind at Esquire. So, the wacky premise of this book, that he will spend one year trying to adhere to the literal rules in the Bible as literally as possible, sounds pretty on par with his other work. He even announces in the beginning that his goals include getting a book contract (and thus making money), and poking fun at people who claim to take the Bible literally.Maybe it's a pose, maybe it's being a new father, or maybe it's just being sincere about his other goal (to give spirituality an honest try), but this book didn't come off as mocking to me at all. Sure, it includes chapters on him doing all kinds of crazy stuff, like trying to stone adulterers and sabbath-breakers, but he also spends some time thinking about what it means to honor his parents, and to say only that which will send good into the world. As someone who was raised in a fairly religious family, the verses that he refers to (and he does refer to the Bible often) were frequently familiar, and, in many cases, ones that I had once struggled with myself. Jacobs does a really nice job of trying to find the meaning underlying seemingly insane Bible verses, and of considering multiple possibilities.As a sincere look at Biblical literalism, with humor scattered throughout, this makes for a nice read. I would recommend it for anyone interested in trying to understand Biblical legalism, whether in favor of it or against. Some people might find parts of it offensive, but to me, his honesty and sincerity should overrule a lot of theological differences.read more
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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.read more
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So, I just finished The Year of Living Biblically, and I have to say...I hated it. Or, to be more precise: I really liked a lot of parts, individually...I just didn't like what it all added up to. And I didn't care much for him. He should have either stuck to the idea of it being basically a stunt memoir and tried to make it as funny as possible, or taken it really seriously---I just couldn't buy him trying to have it both ways.I think a big part of my problem was that I couldn't really relate to him, an issue I've been thinking a lot about lately in terms of identifying with fictional characters, but it applies in real life, too. I can see that maybe for someone who is also approaching religion sort of from the outside looking in, it might have had more emotional resonance. But I prefer something more along the lines of Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God, where she grew up with religion and went on a more genuine (it seemed to me) "spiritual quest," eventually ending up as a contented atheist---partly because I can identify more with that narrative, but also because she was much more sincere and a lot better philosophically.I had a lot of other problems with A. J. Jacobs. For one thing, I thought he sounded like about the worst parent I've ever heard of, alternating wildly between obsessive-compulsive overprotectiveness and almost criminal neglectfulness. His first attempt at discipline, by ignoring his son for hitting him with the bowling pin until he apologizes, seemed like a really bad idea to me. It might be effective occasionally, but using it as a standard disciplinary method I think could be even more psychologically damaging to the kid than physically beating him. (And of course, it would become increasingly ineffective the older the kid got, and by the time he was a teenager having his father ignore him would be a positive incentive!) And it seems like there was such an obvious way to discipline him in that situation that would actually fit the crime, namely, put him back in his crib for time out and take away the bowling pin! Of course, I know next to nothing about child-rearing and I could be way off, but on just a common sense level the guy is an idiot. If his kids somehow manage not to turn out to be meth addicts in prison, as he so deeply fears, it will be a miracle---or at least thanks only to their mother.And then there was the whole circumcision thing at the end, which pretty much ruined it for me. So he has actually done research on the subject professionally, knows very well that it's a barbaric practice (so much so that he can't even stay in the room and watch or even hear it done to his first son) based on primitive superstition akin to the animal sacrifices that he has denounced but even worse because it's a piece of his child's sexual organ that he's sacrificing, and that there's no compelling medical reason to have it done---and he does it anyway. Why? Because his father did it, and his father's father, and so on back to some mythical patriarch because he was commanded to by some invisible god (in whom Jacobs doesn't even believe!), according to some ancient religious text. Now, Nazi comparisons are generally totally hyperbolic if they're even slightly true, so I want to preface my next comment by stating very clearly that I am not comparing what he did to what they did---obviously, mutilating your child's genitals, as bad as it is, isn't even on the same scale as mass murder and ethnic cleansing. But his reason for doing it was exactly the same as the Nazi whose defense was, "I was only following orders," except maybe even one step worse because in his case the orders came from somebody who didn't even exist. He abandoned his own independent judgment in deference to the group (in this case, to the literal tribe), because, well, because he is a coward, plain and simple. Some people can be excused for that sort of thing because they really don't know any better, but he should have known better, and did, but went ahead and did it anyway. That really bothered me, as you can possibly tell.The whole red heifer thing also seriously disturbed me, but he was just reporting there. One thing I will say for the book, it did for some reason make me want to read the Bible again, which I haven't done all the way through since I was seriously religious myself, more than a decade ago. And one thing I could relate to him on was the beard thing, with which he started the introduction. I grew an Old Testament beard once in college for a while, and I got called the Unabomber a couple of times, too. Then someone called me Jesus, and it had to go.read more
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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.read more
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A.J. Jacobs is a journalist and editor of Esquire magazine, who has some really interesting ideas for memoirs. I first heard about Jacobs by a friend who read his book; The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. While I’m yet to read this book (but I will) I decided to read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

The book follows the journey of A.J’s alter ego; Jacob who read through the bible and then spent a year trying to live by it. Jacob tries to be honest, give up the Sabbath, pray daily, go forth and multiply, and any of the bazaar laws from the old testament, such as; trying to stone people, blowing a ram horn at the beginning of every month, tassels on his clothing, binding money to himself, even wearing white and never trimming his beard.

The Year of Living Biblically is a funny journey, A.J claims to be agnostic, so it makes the book interesting the way he tries to find the real intent behind every rule he follows. I’m a big fan of A.J’s wife, who while wasn’t pleased with him turning into a crazy man, accepted his choice to do this and even have some fun with it. If you are interested in reading an amusing memoir or just interested in seeing the effects reading the bible can have, I highly recommend this book.
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Jacob's memoir of obeying the Bible literally for one year.read more
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What a funny man Mr. Jacobs is (and what a pain to have to live with!). I read The Know-It-All a while back and really enjoyed not only the topic, but the writing style. Here, although the topic is not one of direct interest to me, the writing style still makes me laugh. I really love Jacobs' discoveries, or rather his poor wife's responses to them. All time favorite? When he gets to the point in the Bible where is says you can not sit on a chair where a menstruating woman has sat and his wife promptly sits on every chair in their apartment. Jacobs says he spent a lot of the year standing up. I appreciate that he goes out of his way not to make fun of even the weirdest of religious ceremonies, but just records his reactions to them - he even makes some pretty unrelenting fundamentalists sound almost normal. For me, more than anything, it's Jacobs, his (due-for-sainthood) wife, and his family that are really worth reading about.read more
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I have enjoyed this book so much! I appreciated that the author did his best to ferret out the "intent" of the laws. I also learned quite a bit; for instance, I didn't know that winking was something you should not do. I also enjoyed reading about his various mentors, from his Amish host to his "unorthodox" orthodox relative in Israel. I can see myself reading this again.read more
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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.read more
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I really enjoyed A. J. Jacobs' first book, The Know-It-All, so I was fairly certain I would enjoy this one as well. In fact, I think it was even better. Jacobs writes with a wry sense of humor that keeps things light, even when dealing with a very serious subject: religion. Jacobs is an agnostic Jew, living a very secular life, like many people in New York. He decides to explore the beliefs of his ancestors by trying to obey all the laws in the Bible. Like his previous quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, this leads to all sorts of embarassments, questions and funny looks from strangers and friends as he tries to explain his odd behavior. Not all of the rules make sense, but Jacobs pushes on, hoping that by obeying them he might come to know what life was like for his ancestors.Although he does gain some insights into his spiritual nature, Jacobs emerges still an agnostic, albeit a much more thoughtful and thankful one. Through his journey, the reader sees some of the conflicting and confusing aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Though he does not believe, Jacobs is respectful of the beliefs of others, which is nice to see in an area where arguements often descend into exchanges of rhetoric thrown willy nilly at the other side. I, myself couldn't have described the Creation Museum as even-handedly as he does -- I respect his objectivity even when faced with something he can't take seriously.This is an entertaining but thoughtful book, sure to raise questions about one's own personal philosophy, and bring understanding of the beliefs of others, as confusing and strange as they may seem to outsiders.read more
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Funny and philosophical. I can see how this could offend some religious people, but I didn't find it offensive in the slightest. (But then, I'm not a Biblical literalist.)read more
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The Year of Living Biblically was an entertaining book: AJ Jacobs has a light and humorous writing style, which makes the book zip along.I felt he managed to look at literalism & the Bible in a generous and surprisingly respectful way, despite the apparent irreverence of the project. He admits himself that he was far more comfortable with the Old Testament portion, being of Jewish descent (although agnostic himself) and it does show. The first 8 months or so spent on the OT are far stronger than the months devoted to the NT.Some of the time he plays with literalism, doing some rather obvious set-pieces or skits: for example, where he stones a sinner (by dropping a pebble on his foot surreptiously) was laugh-out-loud-funny. At other times, he looks at the more out-there rules of ancient living more seriously and delves into what they could mean, with help from various religious advisors and through reading voraciously. Generally he finds the explanations and the historical context more plausible than he expected.I felt there were issues and opportunities which he missed or treated more superficially than I'd have liked. His enjoyment of and absorption into the all-male Hasidic Jews' dance and the flicker of awareness when he consoles his wife with the knowledge that at least the women get to watch the dancing through viewing windows, a case in point. His wife seemed to have put up with an awful lot throughout the experience and I was delighted each time she got one over on him, such as while she was "unclean" sitting on every chair in their home so he could not. There were many other apparent inequities, issues and confusions which could have been examined or challenged in the book, but were not really touched upon.He accepted as a given such things as morality needing to be instilled through religion, (the raising of his son being one of the matters that raised his interest in the project in the first place), which to me is not a given... Of course, it would have been a much larger tome had he attempted all I wanted him to!In the end, it was a most engaging and amusing book, with some interesting insights. Not perhaps as profound as it could have been, but interesting.read more
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This book was very good and taught me many things about the bible that I didn't know before. It even made me really interested in religion, something I didn't think was possible. I liked that A.J Jacobs kept an open mind throughout the book.read more
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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!read more
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I just loved Jacobs's last book - the idea of spending an entire year reading the Encyclopedia Britannica just amazes me. Not only would I never have the time to accomplish such a feat - I don't have the memory that he does. I'd spend all that time trying to absorb that knowledge - and then draw a complete blank whenever asked for an obscure fact. The beauty of Jacobs's books is that he immerses himself in the task. Not only does he read, eat, live and sleep the project he's undertaken - he adds side trips. In this book he ventures out to Amish country, to Jerry Falwell's mega church and to Israel. He doesn't simply follow the outline of his project - he truly fleshes it out and allows the reader to experience these overwhelming years along with him. I laughed a lot more while reading "The Know-it-All" - but thought a lot more during "The Year of Living Biblically". I, too, am agnostic, and though I have no desire (or chance, really) to ever try and change that aspect of myself - I am always interested in people of faith and how they can maintain that faith in the face of so much violence, hatred, exclusiveness, corruption, etc. that seems part and parcel with religion. That being said, I have always had a great reverence towards the miracles of our world. I don't believe that a supreme being created the world - but I do believe that we are incredibly lucky to have a universe, a world, a country, an environment that contains such amazing awe-inspiring aspects. As far as I am concerned, there is only this life, this world - and I count myself incredibly lucky to be a part of it, if only for a short while. But enough about me. I enjoyed this book and learned many things from it. Not only were there many biblical laws/rules/stories that I'd never heard of - I appreciated Jacobs's musings on the reasoning behind them. (Also - I learned about the Thomas Jefferson bible - and I'm going to buy one!!!) On another note? Judging by the photos of his facial hair progression? Jacobs grows hair faster than any man I've ever seen! I can't wait to read his next book and take another year long journey with A.J. Jacobs.read more
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I enjoyed this book. It was quite educational. It made me think about the true power of prayer and obedience to Gods laws. It also made me laugh at some of the absurd laws in the Bible, and helped me look at some biblical passages in different ways. I wish he had spent a little more time in the New Testament, though.read more
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The title is pretty self-explanatory. A.J. Jacobs tries to follow the Biblical laws for a year. The first part of the book is dedicated to the Old Testament and Jacobs kind of half-heartedly follows all of the Biblical laws. He chooses a law to follow and then sort of attempts to follow it and then checks it off his list. The second part is supposed to be about Jacobs following the commandments in the New Testament. Instead, he interviews a few fundamentalist Christians and then his mind wanders and he begins talking about the Old Testament again. He interviews all sorts of people from varying brands of Christianity and Judaism during his experiment and even visits Israel.I really struggled to get through this book. I finally put it down and just read it in bits and pieces in between reading other books. I was really hoping he would get something out of the experiment at the end. Maybe he would convert to Christianity or embrace his Judaic roots. I figured there would have to be some kind of spiritual payoff after going through all this trouble. Instead, he had a very nice moment at a Willy Wonka bar mitzvah where he just felt happy and loved everyone. Then, he cut off his beard and returned the Bible he had been using. And that's that.read more
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This was a fun and insightful book. I particularly enjoyed the sections regarding childrearing and menstruation. The author enters into this project with a mindset of demonstrating that biblical literalism is absurd and ludicrous (spoiler: he accomplishes this goal), but along the way he learns a lot of valuable insights into the Bible and into himself, and he comes away from this journey as a better person.
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Part gimmick, part sincere, humorous and serious. A. J. Jacobs culls 700+ rules from the Bible (RSV, though he collects alternatives for reference) and vows to follow them for a year, September through August. All of them, simultaneously, though he focuses on one at a time, and splits the year into eight months of Old Testament and four months of New Testament. ”How can these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees be found in the same book? And not just the same book. Sometimes the same page. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen comes right after the command to love your neighbor. It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for Some Crazy Laws’. They’re all jumbled up like a chopped salad.” How do Christians and Jews determine which rules matter? There’s a distinction between moral and ritual, with a murky gray area. There’s an exemption for only in the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem, or only in Israel. There will be no exemptions for him. Well, maybe one. ”Today marks the twenty-sixth time I’ve been asked whether I’m going to sacrifice Jasper during my biblical year. No, I say politely, only Abraham was commanded to do that." He follows the rules that have dropped from common practice. Surely nobody else in America cares about the ban on wearing clothes with mixed fibers? Turns out there’s an expert shatnez tester, who arrives with a microscope, and whose joy and “high” is saving people from breaking commandments. Surely ten string harps are obsolete? Turns out they’re available on eBay. ”When will it sink into my skull that there is no such thing as an obscure Bible verse?” His wife endures the voluminous beard. ”Julie wanted to go to Halloween with me as Tom Hanks from Cast Away and her as the volleyball, but I can’t do Halloween because it’s a pagan holiday.” But when he cannot sit on a chair that has been occupied by a menstruating woman, she sits on every chair in the house, and he has to carry a folding chair that remains pure. He follows the rules that endure. He makes an effort to speak Biblically, which ”requires requires a total switch in the content of my conversation: no lying, no complaining, no gossiping”, and becomes aware of how often and how easily he slips. He prays. ”A spiritual update: I’m still agnostic, but I do have some progress to report on the prayer front. I no longer dread prayer. And sometimes I’m even liking it. I’ve gone so far as to take the training wheels off and am testing out some of my own prayers instead of just repeating passages from the Bible.” Of the four types outlined by his friend the “pastor out to pasture” (Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication) he is most comfortable with thanksgiving. Later he extends to praying for others: ”I still can’t wrap my brain around the notion that God would change His mind because we ask Him to. And yet I still love these prayers. To me they’re moral weight training. Every night I pray for others for ten minutes. ... It’s ten minutes where it’s impossible to be self-centered.” His perspective changes. After 6 months: ”Here, at the halfway mark of my journey, I’ve had an unexpected mental shift. I feel closer to the ultrareligious New Yorkers than I do the secular. The guy with the fish on his bumper sticker. The black man with the kufi. The Hasidim with their swinging fringes. They are my compatriots. They think about God and faith and prayer all the time, just like I do.” After 12 months: “The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too. They can’t heap everything onto their plate. ... But the more important lesson was this: there’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. ... The key is in choosing the right dishes. You need to pick the nurturing ones (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones.”As an apatheistic agnostic, I’m a poor judge of irreverence, but this book was recommended by a conservative Christian acquaintance who considers it respectful. It is funny in a foibles of human nature sort of way, lightening a serious reminder that daily attention and habit can have profound effects. (read 6 Nov 2012)
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Very entertaining and very interesting. Jacobs describes his 8 months of trying to follow all OT laws and admonitions, and his 4 months of inquiry into NT lifestyle. Although he remains agnostic, it is interesting to observe the changes in him as a result of his experiment. Minus one star: one senses he truly tried the OT section on for size - and took a position on the outside peeking in the window in the NT section.
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Loved this book! So funny and what a patient wife- I don't think I would have made it a year!
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I am not religious in the slightest, but this book was very funny. It made me want to try some lifestyle changes of my own.
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A.J. Jacobs is an agnostic New Yorker from a mostly secular Jewish family. Casting about for a follow-up to his first book, in which he read the entire Encyclopǽdia Britannica, Jacobs decided to explore the best-selling book of all time, the bible.Jacobs suspected that most biblical literalists practice cafeteria religion, picking and choosing to follow only those rules that fit a specific agenda. He, however, would follow ALL of the rules in the bible, for a period of one year. When he announced this project to his wife Julie, she sighed and said "I was kind of hoping your next book would be a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt or something."In the initial research phase, Jacobs acquired a waist-high stack of bibles, and organized a spiritual advisory board consisting of experts from several biblical literalist groups. Jacobs decided to spend most of his time on the Hebrew bible (old testament), saving a few months at the end for the new testament. He would visit with various communities of biblical literalists: ultra-Orthodox Jews, Samaritans, Amish, polygamists, etc. He would pray daily (hoping under the theory of cognitive dissonance that doing so would eventually make him a believer) and would observe the Sabbath.With that, Jacobs was off and running. He started with a Biblical Rules list containing over 700 rules, including the Five Most Perplexing Rules, but realized within a week that he could not keep track of all of them. He decided to do his best, but to focus on one specific rule each day.Jacobs let his beard grow. He changed his diet and his wardrobe, consulting a shatnez expert to make sure his clothing did not contain mixed fibers. He gave up movies. He acquired a ram’s horn and blew it at the beginning of each month. He even subjected his long-suffering wife to the old testament’s impurity rules, which she described as “theological cooties”. While all of this was going on, Jacobs continued his job as a writer for Esquire magazine.The first field trip was a visit to an Amish-run bed & breakfast, where A.J. and Julie encountered an Amish woman in traditional costume using a gas-powered leaf blower. Their host played the harmonica and told Amish jokes. The next field trip was to the Creation Museum, which uses animatronic displays to “prove” that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. Jacobs called Jehovah’s Witness headquarters and asked them to send someone to his home. He attended bible study at Jerry Falwell's church, stoned an adulterer in Central Park, sacrificed a chicken in Crown Heights, visited his ex-uncle Guru Gil in Israel, and attended a service with serpent handlers in Tennessee.Jacobs lurched from adventure to adventure with charming earnestness. As an agnostic, he was able to treat everyone with respect, and open himself to all of these experiences in a way that would be impossible for a believer of a specific dogma. By the end, Jacobs got in touch with his Jewish heritage and declared himself a reverent agnostic.This book was hilarious, but as a nonbeliever I also found it oddly inspiring. The detailed index and bibliography provide a good starting point for anyone wishing to explore the bible and Judeo-Christian traditions on a more serious level.
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Holy Cow...loved this book!! Hilarious and sincere. I wish it was required reading. Would silence any preachy fundamentalists in a sound second! This is not a book about religion, it is a book about common sense and how people lose it when they blindly follow.
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This book affected me more than I thought it would. A born and bred agnostic (when I'm feeling the most devout) I figured it would be a humorous romp through the bible and the "crazy" laws it has. Instead I found a fascinating (still humorous though) tale of how the author attempts to follow the rules and adopt them into his agnostic life and the changes that occur in him during it.
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Last word first: Funny and earnest, not to be missed (5/5).Description: After writing a book about reading the entire Encyclopedia Britanica (in preparation for a turn on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?), AJ Jacobs wondered how he can manage to top his debut book. Then he had a brilliant idea... what if he tries to live an entire year in literal accordance with the Bible? This memoir chronicles his efforts, from growing out his beard to stoning adulterers in the New York City (not as gruesome as you might think!).My thoughts: I think there needs to be a new genre. Rather than just "non-fiction", we should have some type of designation for non-fiction that is not boring (NFNB?). This book is highly entertaining. There was a snicker on every page as I read about Jacobs' adventures in literalism. He travels to an Amish community, a creationist museum, and even to Israel in the course of his quest, and the people he encountered definitely opened my eyes.Jacobs has done an excellent job at drawing attention to all that is bewildering about biblical literalism. As he points out, many people claim they adhere literally to the Bible, but the Bible has multiple translations and contradicts itself at times. And yet he hasn't gone in to this project attempting to make fun of religion, but rather to try and make sense of it. I think this is a great book for everyone! It's funny, honest and it will make you think. And laugh. At the same time. What could be better?
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This is a really terrific book. Jacobs is a good writer, first of all, engaging, witty, and deep by turns.He is a Jew who grew up in a secular family that were rather embarrassed by this religion thing . He is a professional writer, and while looking for ideas for his next book, hit upon the idea of taking the Bible literally. It would allow him to get to know the best-selling book of all time, to open the door to spirituality and see if anything developed for him, and to explore the concept of biblical literalism. "But my suspicion was that almost everyone's literalism consisted of picking and choosing. People plucked out the parts that fit their agenda, whether that agenda was to the right or left. Not me. I thought, with some naivete, I would peel away the layers of interpretation and find the true Bible underneath. i would do this by being the ultimate fundamentalist. I'd be fearless. I would do exactly what the Bible said, and in so doing, I'd discover what's great and timeless in the Bible and what is outdated." (p. 6-7)So he bought a variety of versions of the Bible as well as other books about the Bible and read them all. He decided to devote 8 months to the Old Testament and 4 months to the New. He made a list of the rules in the Bible and carried it with him, sometimes binding a copy to his forehead and his arm. He came up with a list of what seemed to him the most bizarre rules in the Bible and investigated some of them early on. For instance, the prohibition against mixing cloth. He figured that no one was actually following this rule, but found that, on the contrary, there are people who are shatnez (mixed fiber) testers. He found one named Mr. Berkowitz who came and inspected his clothes for forbidden cloth... turns out the rule is about mixing linen and wool. Mr. Berkowitz found one suspicious garment which Jacobs put away for the rest of the year. Mr. Berkowitz becomes one of Jacob's mentors into Judaism. He is firmly of the belief that one doesn't need to understand all the rules in the Bible, but simply practice them, and by doing so draw nearer to God.Jacobs has several mentors in his year, both rabbis and ministers. He visits representatives of all sorts of religious groups, everywhere along the path from rigid literalists to those who see the Bible more in terms of metaphor. He visits the Creationist Museum, Jerry Falwell's church, snake handlers, gay evangelicals, and of course Israel. Many of those he expected to dislike he found he did like, even when he didn't agree with them. Some things he followed seem pretty silly. There's a funny scene where he decided he needed to stone someone, as it was the most common form in the Bible of capital punishment, and prescribed for numerous sins. So Jacobs gathered up some pebbles and went in search of sinners. He finds an angry old man who wants to know why he is dressed so queer, and he says he is stoning sinners. The old man says he is an adulterer, and Jacobs shows him the pebbles, the old man throws one at him, and he throws one back, and they part. Other things Jacobs tries have a profound effect on him. He begins praying every day at the beginning of the year, and at first it leaves him feeling empty. Yet by the end of the year he finds himself praying spontaneously, for his son's protection, for instance, or small frequent prayers of gratitude for the small sweet things in life for which he had not before thought to be grateful.His summary of the year on pages 327-329 worth the price of the book. He, who starts he year as an agnostic, ends the year as still an agnostic... but a reverent one: "I now believe that whether or not their'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."As for the Bible himself, he comes away with two ideas from two of his mentors. One is: "Try thinking of the Bible as a snapshot of something divine. It may not be a perfect picture. It may have flaws; a thumb on the lens, faded colors in the corners. But it still helps to visualize." The other idea is that if one sees the Bible as the ending point of our relationship with God, one is using the Bible as an idol, worshiping the words rather than the spirit.As a librarian, I tend to notice the bibliographic extras: the book has a great set of notes, an excellent bibliography that puts together books written from all viewpoints about Judaism and Christianity, and a detailed index.Highly recommended.
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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.
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I was very interested to see how closely Mr. Jacobs held to the teachings of the Bible for his year long project. I was also interested to see what kind of transformation this would have on him as a whole once the project was over.I was not dissapointed. It was slow reading, but worth it in the end. I enjoyed seeing how much research he did to ensure that he was following as closely to the old teachings as possible. I have to say, after reading this book, I am more interested in learing more about the Jewish culture than I was before. An interesting read.
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A secular New York suburbanite tries to lead a more pious life by following as many of the Bible's rules as possible for a year. More well-written than most of the 'Man on a Mission' type of lit, a dip into the holy book's multitudinous, and quite often contradictory, recommendations for life.
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Based on the reviews, title, and cover, I expected this to be funny, somewhat satirical, and mocking. It was funny, but not to much the rest. I didn't end up laughing as much as I expected, but I was so impressed by this guy's apparent sincerity that I didn't mind at all.It seems that Mr. Jacobs is a big fan of tackling crazy assignments, that he sets for himself, and then writing books about the experience. He also wrote a book about reading the whole encyclopedia (The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World) and works as an editor of some kind at Esquire. So, the wacky premise of this book, that he will spend one year trying to adhere to the literal rules in the Bible as literally as possible, sounds pretty on par with his other work. He even announces in the beginning that his goals include getting a book contract (and thus making money), and poking fun at people who claim to take the Bible literally.Maybe it's a pose, maybe it's being a new father, or maybe it's just being sincere about his other goal (to give spirituality an honest try), but this book didn't come off as mocking to me at all. Sure, it includes chapters on him doing all kinds of crazy stuff, like trying to stone adulterers and sabbath-breakers, but he also spends some time thinking about what it means to honor his parents, and to say only that which will send good into the world. As someone who was raised in a fairly religious family, the verses that he refers to (and he does refer to the Bible often) were frequently familiar, and, in many cases, ones that I had once struggled with myself. Jacobs does a really nice job of trying to find the meaning underlying seemingly insane Bible verses, and of considering multiple possibilities.As a sincere look at Biblical literalism, with humor scattered throughout, this makes for a nice read. I would recommend it for anyone interested in trying to understand Biblical legalism, whether in favor of it or against. Some people might find parts of it offensive, but to me, his honesty and sincerity should overrule a lot of theological differences.
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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.
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So, I just finished The Year of Living Biblically, and I have to say...I hated it. Or, to be more precise: I really liked a lot of parts, individually...I just didn't like what it all added up to. And I didn't care much for him. He should have either stuck to the idea of it being basically a stunt memoir and tried to make it as funny as possible, or taken it really seriously---I just couldn't buy him trying to have it both ways.I think a big part of my problem was that I couldn't really relate to him, an issue I've been thinking a lot about lately in terms of identifying with fictional characters, but it applies in real life, too. I can see that maybe for someone who is also approaching religion sort of from the outside looking in, it might have had more emotional resonance. But I prefer something more along the lines of Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God, where she grew up with religion and went on a more genuine (it seemed to me) "spiritual quest," eventually ending up as a contented atheist---partly because I can identify more with that narrative, but also because she was much more sincere and a lot better philosophically.I had a lot of other problems with A. J. Jacobs. For one thing, I thought he sounded like about the worst parent I've ever heard of, alternating wildly between obsessive-compulsive overprotectiveness and almost criminal neglectfulness. His first attempt at discipline, by ignoring his son for hitting him with the bowling pin until he apologizes, seemed like a really bad idea to me. It might be effective occasionally, but using it as a standard disciplinary method I think could be even more psychologically damaging to the kid than physically beating him. (And of course, it would become increasingly ineffective the older the kid got, and by the time he was a teenager having his father ignore him would be a positive incentive!) And it seems like there was such an obvious way to discipline him in that situation that would actually fit the crime, namely, put him back in his crib for time out and take away the bowling pin! Of course, I know next to nothing about child-rearing and I could be way off, but on just a common sense level the guy is an idiot. If his kids somehow manage not to turn out to be meth addicts in prison, as he so deeply fears, it will be a miracle---or at least thanks only to their mother.And then there was the whole circumcision thing at the end, which pretty much ruined it for me. So he has actually done research on the subject professionally, knows very well that it's a barbaric practice (so much so that he can't even stay in the room and watch or even hear it done to his first son) based on primitive superstition akin to the animal sacrifices that he has denounced but even worse because it's a piece of his child's sexual organ that he's sacrificing, and that there's no compelling medical reason to have it done---and he does it anyway. Why? Because his father did it, and his father's father, and so on back to some mythical patriarch because he was commanded to by some invisible god (in whom Jacobs doesn't even believe!), according to some ancient religious text. Now, Nazi comparisons are generally totally hyperbolic if they're even slightly true, so I want to preface my next comment by stating very clearly that I am not comparing what he did to what they did---obviously, mutilating your child's genitals, as bad as it is, isn't even on the same scale as mass murder and ethnic cleansing. But his reason for doing it was exactly the same as the Nazi whose defense was, "I was only following orders," except maybe even one step worse because in his case the orders came from somebody who didn't even exist. He abandoned his own independent judgment in deference to the group (in this case, to the literal tribe), because, well, because he is a coward, plain and simple. Some people can be excused for that sort of thing because they really don't know any better, but he should have known better, and did, but went ahead and did it anyway. That really bothered me, as you can possibly tell.The whole red heifer thing also seriously disturbed me, but he was just reporting there. One thing I will say for the book, it did for some reason make me want to read the Bible again, which I haven't done all the way through since I was seriously religious myself, more than a decade ago. And one thing I could relate to him on was the beard thing, with which he started the introduction. I grew an Old Testament beard once in college for a while, and I got called the Unabomber a couple of times, too. Then someone called me Jesus, and it had to go.
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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.
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A.J. Jacobs is a journalist and editor of Esquire magazine, who has some really interesting ideas for memoirs. I first heard about Jacobs by a friend who read his book; The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. While I’m yet to read this book (but I will) I decided to read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

The book follows the journey of A.J’s alter ego; Jacob who read through the bible and then spent a year trying to live by it. Jacob tries to be honest, give up the Sabbath, pray daily, go forth and multiply, and any of the bazaar laws from the old testament, such as; trying to stone people, blowing a ram horn at the beginning of every month, tassels on his clothing, binding money to himself, even wearing white and never trimming his beard.

The Year of Living Biblically is a funny journey, A.J claims to be agnostic, so it makes the book interesting the way he tries to find the real intent behind every rule he follows. I’m a big fan of A.J’s wife, who while wasn’t pleased with him turning into a crazy man, accepted his choice to do this and even have some fun with it. If you are interested in reading an amusing memoir or just interested in seeing the effects reading the bible can have, I highly recommend this book.
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Jacob's memoir of obeying the Bible literally for one year.
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What a funny man Mr. Jacobs is (and what a pain to have to live with!). I read The Know-It-All a while back and really enjoyed not only the topic, but the writing style. Here, although the topic is not one of direct interest to me, the writing style still makes me laugh. I really love Jacobs' discoveries, or rather his poor wife's responses to them. All time favorite? When he gets to the point in the Bible where is says you can not sit on a chair where a menstruating woman has sat and his wife promptly sits on every chair in their apartment. Jacobs says he spent a lot of the year standing up. I appreciate that he goes out of his way not to make fun of even the weirdest of religious ceremonies, but just records his reactions to them - he even makes some pretty unrelenting fundamentalists sound almost normal. For me, more than anything, it's Jacobs, his (due-for-sainthood) wife, and his family that are really worth reading about.
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I have enjoyed this book so much! I appreciated that the author did his best to ferret out the "intent" of the laws. I also learned quite a bit; for instance, I didn't know that winking was something you should not do. I also enjoyed reading about his various mentors, from his Amish host to his "unorthodox" orthodox relative in Israel. I can see myself reading this again.
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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.
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I really enjoyed A. J. Jacobs' first book, The Know-It-All, so I was fairly certain I would enjoy this one as well. In fact, I think it was even better. Jacobs writes with a wry sense of humor that keeps things light, even when dealing with a very serious subject: religion. Jacobs is an agnostic Jew, living a very secular life, like many people in New York. He decides to explore the beliefs of his ancestors by trying to obey all the laws in the Bible. Like his previous quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, this leads to all sorts of embarassments, questions and funny looks from strangers and friends as he tries to explain his odd behavior. Not all of the rules make sense, but Jacobs pushes on, hoping that by obeying them he might come to know what life was like for his ancestors.Although he does gain some insights into his spiritual nature, Jacobs emerges still an agnostic, albeit a much more thoughtful and thankful one. Through his journey, the reader sees some of the conflicting and confusing aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Though he does not believe, Jacobs is respectful of the beliefs of others, which is nice to see in an area where arguements often descend into exchanges of rhetoric thrown willy nilly at the other side. I, myself couldn't have described the Creation Museum as even-handedly as he does -- I respect his objectivity even when faced with something he can't take seriously.This is an entertaining but thoughtful book, sure to raise questions about one's own personal philosophy, and bring understanding of the beliefs of others, as confusing and strange as they may seem to outsiders.
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Funny and philosophical. I can see how this could offend some religious people, but I didn't find it offensive in the slightest. (But then, I'm not a Biblical literalist.)
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The Year of Living Biblically was an entertaining book: AJ Jacobs has a light and humorous writing style, which makes the book zip along.I felt he managed to look at literalism & the Bible in a generous and surprisingly respectful way, despite the apparent irreverence of the project. He admits himself that he was far more comfortable with the Old Testament portion, being of Jewish descent (although agnostic himself) and it does show. The first 8 months or so spent on the OT are far stronger than the months devoted to the NT.Some of the time he plays with literalism, doing some rather obvious set-pieces or skits: for example, where he stones a sinner (by dropping a pebble on his foot surreptiously) was laugh-out-loud-funny. At other times, he looks at the more out-there rules of ancient living more seriously and delves into what they could mean, with help from various religious advisors and through reading voraciously. Generally he finds the explanations and the historical context more plausible than he expected.I felt there were issues and opportunities which he missed or treated more superficially than I'd have liked. His enjoyment of and absorption into the all-male Hasidic Jews' dance and the flicker of awareness when he consoles his wife with the knowledge that at least the women get to watch the dancing through viewing windows, a case in point. His wife seemed to have put up with an awful lot throughout the experience and I was delighted each time she got one over on him, such as while she was "unclean" sitting on every chair in their home so he could not. There were many other apparent inequities, issues and confusions which could have been examined or challenged in the book, but were not really touched upon.He accepted as a given such things as morality needing to be instilled through religion, (the raising of his son being one of the matters that raised his interest in the project in the first place), which to me is not a given... Of course, it would have been a much larger tome had he attempted all I wanted him to!In the end, it was a most engaging and amusing book, with some interesting insights. Not perhaps as profound as it could have been, but interesting.
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This book was very good and taught me many things about the bible that I didn't know before. It even made me really interested in religion, something I didn't think was possible. I liked that A.J Jacobs kept an open mind throughout the book.
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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!
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I just loved Jacobs's last book - the idea of spending an entire year reading the Encyclopedia Britannica just amazes me. Not only would I never have the time to accomplish such a feat - I don't have the memory that he does. I'd spend all that time trying to absorb that knowledge - and then draw a complete blank whenever asked for an obscure fact. The beauty of Jacobs's books is that he immerses himself in the task. Not only does he read, eat, live and sleep the project he's undertaken - he adds side trips. In this book he ventures out to Amish country, to Jerry Falwell's mega church and to Israel. He doesn't simply follow the outline of his project - he truly fleshes it out and allows the reader to experience these overwhelming years along with him. I laughed a lot more while reading "The Know-it-All" - but thought a lot more during "The Year of Living Biblically". I, too, am agnostic, and though I have no desire (or chance, really) to ever try and change that aspect of myself - I am always interested in people of faith and how they can maintain that faith in the face of so much violence, hatred, exclusiveness, corruption, etc. that seems part and parcel with religion. That being said, I have always had a great reverence towards the miracles of our world. I don't believe that a supreme being created the world - but I do believe that we are incredibly lucky to have a universe, a world, a country, an environment that contains such amazing awe-inspiring aspects. As far as I am concerned, there is only this life, this world - and I count myself incredibly lucky to be a part of it, if only for a short while. But enough about me. I enjoyed this book and learned many things from it. Not only were there many biblical laws/rules/stories that I'd never heard of - I appreciated Jacobs's musings on the reasoning behind them. (Also - I learned about the Thomas Jefferson bible - and I'm going to buy one!!!) On another note? Judging by the photos of his facial hair progression? Jacobs grows hair faster than any man I've ever seen! I can't wait to read his next book and take another year long journey with A.J. Jacobs.
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I enjoyed this book. It was quite educational. It made me think about the true power of prayer and obedience to Gods laws. It also made me laugh at some of the absurd laws in the Bible, and helped me look at some biblical passages in different ways. I wish he had spent a little more time in the New Testament, though.
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The title is pretty self-explanatory. A.J. Jacobs tries to follow the Biblical laws for a year. The first part of the book is dedicated to the Old Testament and Jacobs kind of half-heartedly follows all of the Biblical laws. He chooses a law to follow and then sort of attempts to follow it and then checks it off his list. The second part is supposed to be about Jacobs following the commandments in the New Testament. Instead, he interviews a few fundamentalist Christians and then his mind wanders and he begins talking about the Old Testament again. He interviews all sorts of people from varying brands of Christianity and Judaism during his experiment and even visits Israel.I really struggled to get through this book. I finally put it down and just read it in bits and pieces in between reading other books. I was really hoping he would get something out of the experiment at the end. Maybe he would convert to Christianity or embrace his Judaic roots. I figured there would have to be some kind of spiritual payoff after going through all this trouble. Instead, he had a very nice moment at a Willy Wonka bar mitzvah where he just felt happy and loved everyone. Then, he cut off his beard and returned the Bible he had been using. And that's that.
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