The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible (Large Print Press)

 
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From the bestselling author of The Know-It-All comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes.

Jacobs's quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations - much to his wife's chagrin.

Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah's Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.

Jacobs's extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2007: Make no mistake: A.J. Jacobs is not a religious man. He describes himself as Jewish "in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." Yet his latest work, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, is an insightful and hilarious journey for readers of all faiths. Though no fatted calves were harmed in the making of this book, Jacobs chronicles 12 months living a remarkably strict Biblical life full of charity, chastity, and facial hair as impressive as anything found in The Lord of the Rings. Through it all, he manages to brilliantly keep things light, while avoiding the sinful eye of judgment. --Dave Callanan

Amazon.com
Subtitled: "One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible," Jacobs, or A.J., as his two-year-old son calls him, does just that. It is likely that no one but A.J. Jacobs could have accomplished such a feat. After all, his last book, The Know-It-All, chronicles his reading of the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica, from A to Z. No one but a smart, witty, self-deprecating, nitpicky kinda guy would undertake two such daunting tasks, and complete them with grace, no pun intended.

Jacobs, a New York Jewish agnostic, decides to follow the laws and rules of the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament, for one year. (He actually adds some bonus days and makes it a 381-day year.) He starts by growing a beard and we are with him through every itchy moment. Jacobs is borderline OCD, at least as he describes himself; obsessing over possible dangers to his son, germs, literal interpretation of Bible verses, etc. He enlists the aid of counselors along the way; Jewish rabbis, Christians of every stripe, friends and neighbors.

In an open-minded way he also visits with atheists, Evangelicals Concerned (a gay group), Jerry Falwell, snake handlers, Red Letter Christians--those who adhere to the red letters in the Bible, those words spoken by Jesus Himself, and even takes a trip to Israel and meets Samaritans. Through it all, he keeps a healthy skepticism, but continues to pray and is open to the flowering of real faith. Jacobs is a knowledge junky, to be sure. He enjoys the lore he picks up along the way as much as any other aspect of his experiment. One of the ongoing schticks is his meeting with the shatnez tester, Mr. Berkowitz. He is the one who determines whether or not your clothes are made of mixed fibers, in keeping with the Biblical injunction not to wear wool and linen together. The two become friends and prayer partners, in only one of the unexpected results of this year.

In the end, he says, "I'm now a reverent agnostic. Which isn't an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred." Not a bad outcome. --Valerie Ryan

Customer Reviews:

  • Hillarious and Insightful - I had a feeling about this book!
    I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. The concept of this book completely intrigued me but I was leery of the ability to execute. Jacobs did just that. It was insightful, well written, enjoyable and extremely funny - all at once. I love that this book kept me turning the pages wondering which of the 613 was going to stump him next and how he would deal with it. I loved how he made his wife and son characters in his story and brought all he had learned into his every day life. His wife reminds me a bit of my own husband who thinks that my 'self-imposed' restrictions (no pork, no rice on passover...) defy logic, considering my love of all things shellfish.
    The most satisfying part of the book, for me, was Jacobs' ultimate realization that not everything requires a logical explanation. Some things just are as they are, because they are...
    ...more info
  • The week I couldn't stop reading!
    Absolutley LOVED this book!! I am not 'churchy' more spritual and was intrigued by previous reviews of this book. Ever wonder how so many religions can interpret "The Word of God" in so many ways? This book will explore those questions.

    I couldn't put it down, it was informative, very funny and AJ's writing style is wonderful, more like he's having a friendly conversation with you. I have lent this book to 5 other people and they too have all enjoyed it. It doesn't matter if your Atheist, Catholic, Jewish or a Pagan, you'll enjoy this book. My Mom's church minister has also added it to the church's library shelf--a book to be enjoyed by all.

    PS: Also reading "The Know It All" and it's great as well!! can't wait until his next book comes out...more info
  • Slightly satirical, mostly reverent
    I won't lie, at first I thought this book was going to be a scathing satire on Christian fundamentalism. Being an at least pseudo-rationally minded Christian, I was nervous going into this book. However, it turned out that A.J. is intensely respectful, and did a great job poking fun while still being reverent for others beliefs.

    A.J. is also a very clever wordsmith, with a distinct voice. His writing style is easy to read, while deep and humorous at the same time. His witty sarcasm kept me interested, and his occasional awkwardness was pretty classic! I recommend this book to anyone! This was a great memoir! I ordered The Unlikely Disciple, and I hope to read Know-it-All after that!...more info
  • Informative and hilarious - a secular man's journey to find God
    "The Year of Living Biblically" is neither a tongue-in-cheek spoof of religion, nor a true believer's tract. It is the project of A. J. Jacobs, a self-described agnostic who decided to spend one year trying to live as the Bible literally commands. This decision brings him into strange territory. He tries to learn to pray; he avoids touching his wife at certain times of the month; he wears white raiment and tellefim; he lets his beard grow; he tries to speak completely honestly at all times. This is all well and good, but Jacobs is funniest when he is trying to fulfill commandments that are considered dangerous or in bad taste to moderns - like stoning adulterers or sacrificing animals.

    Though there is plenty of humor in the book, there is plenty of genuine spiritual searching as well. Jacobs tries hard to find the good in even the strangest commandments. He rubs shoulders with many with strong, even extreme Bible followers - Jehovah's Witnesses, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Ken Ham and the Creation Museum, Apocalyptic Christians and more. But Jacobs' also tells his own story. The command to "be fruit and multiply" is set in the context of Jacobs' frustrated attempts to have more children. The commandment to "honor thy father and mother" challenges the lackadaisical discipline style he uses with his two-year old. And his attempts to act modestly run headlong into his work for Esquire, that cheeky mens' magazine. But Jacob, like his biblical namesake, does a great job of genuinely wrestling with the God question.

    That sincerity of purpose is something that I think all readers will appreciate. Whether Jacobs validates the more controversial elements of any reader's faith - the legitimacy of homosexuality, creation versus evolution, or the divinity of Jesus - they should be impressed with his willingness to examine them thoughtfully and honestly. And they will learn a great deal of solid biblical history, theology and expert commentary along the way. I have already recommended "The Year of Living Biblically" to a half dozen acquaintances and friends. Higher praise than that a book does not get....more info
  • None of us is perfect
    Reading AJ Jacob's year long account of his quest to live according to the Bible made me feel better about my own attempts. His humor livens every page. Who would've thunk?
    Chris...more info
  • HILARIOUS
    This is quite possibly the funniest book I have ever read. As a Catholic with a degree in Theology it helped me review why I believe what I believe and helped me understand the struggles of those trying to find religion or those looking at realigion from an outside point of view. I can't wait for more books to come!...more info
  • Shake things up.
    If, as Christian, you desire to be better, get this book fast as possible. For all you literalsts or fundamentalists, this book will show, in the most humorous way possible, that we can't even mechanically get close to pleasing God just by following the rules. And if your church/worship life is stagnated, don't add new things, bring back the old things. Just see how hard it is to follow the old rules/practices. Fellas, just try to get through the first month without shaving that mange you call a beard off. This one rule will give you a little bit more respect before you can even try to follow the others. God bless the agnostic Jews, and God bless AJ Jacobs. ...more info
  • Excellent read
    This was a much better book than expected. The author brings a lot of humor and common sense that is often lacking in discussions of the bible. Definitely worth checking out!...more info
  • Following the Bible as Reality Show.....
    Jacobs is a competent author whose plain language skills make for easy reading. This book may be characterized as a "voyeuristic" offering, inviting us, Truman Show style, to follow his life as he undertakes to follow the Bible, as literally as he, personally, can understand what it says. The strengths and the weaknesses of the book flow directly from this last phrase.

    Jacobs is not in the same league as Steinbeck ("Travels With Charlie") nor as Pirsig ("Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance") though his theme and approach overlaps theirs. He is vulnerable and open about his and his family's life. The great strength of the book is his earnest attempt to contact and acquaint himself with a respectable range of opinions regarding Scriptural topics and how the text should be understood. He obviously did a bit of theological homework, at least to the point of adequately noting the "documentary hypothesis" that some use to understand Old Testament literary types.

    Further, Jacobs shows a degree of courage. He allows himself a fair amount of latitude in following some of the texts, the idea of "stoning" fornicators and adulterers, for instance. But he does enter at least part way into the Biblical idea that such a thing as "stoning" those who commit these moral failures is perhaps justified in some sense. He never breaks through to the fundamental idea of the purity of God, but he does make an effort.

    What holds Jacobs back is the old principle, first enunciated by Karl Barth I think, that when you approach the Bible it gives you back only what you are looking for in it. Jacobs comes to the Bible looking for rules to live by that somehow are going to have an effect on him and make him something of a better person. He never quite rises to the idea that what the Bible proclaims is a Person Who is now acting and has acted in history to reveal Himself and that this Person does not ask, but commands, us to enter into relationship with Him. Jacobs reads the book through "what's in it for me" eyes and that's what he gets out of it. He does not rise to see ancient or post-Jesus Israel as The Church, and thereby, by his radical individualistic stance, he is preoccupied with the trees and misses the forest entirely.

    Still, at the end he is changed, somewhat, and has a greater respect for life in some sense. He is confronted by the Scriptures with some of his inadequacies, as is inevitable, and is at least open to the idea that it points to a better way than he had previously known. I would be very interested to know how his year of "Biblical Living" has impressed itself on his life a few years down the pike. ...more info
  • AJ's Grandpa won't need to mark "not helpful" on this review!
    After many dull, obligatory, book club books, this was a breath of fresh air! I read it slow because the humor is so beautifully subtle and full of sarcasm. Loved it! Funny, yet also makes you think! Now I've got to read his encyclopedia book.........more info
  • A very good read
    My husband bought this book because he thought the premise sounded hilarious, and I was eager to read it once he was through.

    As someone who considers themselves a "spiritual agnostic" (I know that's kind of a clich®¶ but I don't know how else to put it), I had a lot of misconceptions about the secular world. This book taught me quite a bit about often misunderstood sects (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Snake handlers to name a couple) and I think that as a result I view them in a different, more open-minded, light.

    This book made me laugh-out-loud several times (the Hasidic 'Rave'...I don't want to spoil anything but that was honestly one of the funniest things I've ever read) and it also made me cry (again, I won't spoil but I was very cross at my husband for not warning me about something that happens in the last month).

    A.J. Jacobs has a great use of language, and is a very funny and honest writer (I'm buying Mr. Know-it-All this weekend).

    Oh, and I should mention that his wife is a riot too ('Helmet' is one of the funniest things ever) and a very patient woman as well! The book may focus on 'Jacob's' year but his wife should get kudos for going along with the experiment.

    All in all a fun and thoughtful read, in my opinion.

    ...more info
  • A good read
    This book was recommended to me by a friend and I really enjoyed it. I even gave out a few copies as Christmas gifts and have heard very positive things from the friends that received them....more info
  • Out With The Old...In With The New
    As others have said, the text is amusing and engaging...up until the author's ethnicity begins to clash with the project.

    Once the author begins the New Testament, he is unsure of how to proceed...he then radically changes the forumlae developed in the bulk of the text and decides to simply visit several established Christian denominations. The author focuses on fringe Christianity groups rather than exploring the New Testament with the same enthusiasm and desire to self-interpret that made the Old Testament coverage so fun to read.

    As such, I consider the Old Testament coverage a must-read...while the New Testament is effectively a no-show (worse, a bore and a waste). I would rate the text as a whole therefore 2.5/5 stars...since the text SHOULD be titled "The Year of Living Old Testament: One Jewish-American's Humble Question to Follow the Old Testament as somewhate-Literally as Possible". That text, shortened the appropriate length, would be a 5/5 star experience.

    Deliver half of the goods...receive half of the stars. Please note that any negative comments are directed at the text itself, not the author....more info
  • A fun, enlightening book. Even better on CD.
    I think this book is even more fun on CD than in print. The author has a funny, gentle way of delivering his message that keeps you engaged. It's hard to get out of the car because you want to keep listening. I laughed out loud quite a bit and said, "Huh! That's interesting!" white a few times....more info
  • What an amazing year.
    This is one of the best memoir concepts I have ever had the pleasure to read. How does an agnostic man deal with every rule he finds within the pages of the Old and New Testaments? And how does his wife deal with him?

    The answer, with humor, compassion, and a further appreciation of what he can't know in this world (and the wife does the same, as far as I am concerned). A.J. Jacobs follows his mission to some interesting places, sharing insight from those religious fanatics who tend to be given only superficial roles in people's examinations of belief. (Snake Handlers, especially... though the experiences with the Evangelicals Concerned - a group of homosexuals who are also evangelical Christians was a close second for me.)

    No, A.J. Jacobs does not accept Christ into his heart, nor does he determine that he is comfortable with Orthodox Judaism. But he does find himself more appreciative of life, more willing to give thanks for anything and everything, more accepting of all of the interpretations of the bible - especially those he can't reconcile in his own mind.

    The final pages of his memoir are poignant. Yes, every believer is a "Cafeteria Believer," picking and choosing the rules and guidelines he feels best fit with his idea of the good life. After over a year of not allowing himself to be such a believer (instead being forced to sample just about everything from the Judeo-Christian smorgasbord by his commitment to live the bible literally) he tends toward the "nurturing dishes (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones."

    While he doesn't come out ans specify what exactly he sees as the bitter dishes offered by the bible, my take is that the bible itself isn't bitter. You just need to be careful of who is salting the dish before serving you a plate....more info
  • A Sad Story....
    I really enjoyed the book but I didn't like the end of the story. I had hoped that after reading and living the Bible for a year, Mr. Jacobs' heart would have been softened and open to accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior....more info
  • Enlightening and Enjoyable
    An entertaining and educational read! I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with A.J. on his adventure and found that not only was I laughing frequently but was questioning and researching just as frequently along the way.
    Looking forward to reading more from him as well as Kevin the Slave's work....more info
  • Nicely-done sailing on difficult waters
    I got this book for a Christmas present. Ummm... in 2007... And then, out of feelings of guilt, pulled it out just after this past Christmas. It starts off kind of snarky and sensational, but, more and more as it goes on, gives a nicely engaging look at the Bible by someone exploring and actively trying to figure out the difficulties in it and its effects on society. The commentary gets truly engaging, pulling in informative and really interesting tidbits.

    By the end, I really had a tough time putting it down, wanting to see not just what happens next with the project, but really interested in the commentaries and reactions he brings up....more info
  • year of living as an orthodox jew
    this is a quick and enjoyable read, but it devotes almost no attention (a terse two chapters) to the new testament. this, for me, a was a disappointment. i was hoping he would spend more time "living like jesus," or "living like the first christians," as indicated in the book of acts.

    this is really about a guy getting in touch with his jewish heritage. he has little to no interest in christianity. it seems like his publisher forced him to include a chapter or two on the new testament to market this book to a wider audience.

    the book's biggest failure is the lack of explanation for why rational people chose a life of orthodoxy and biblical literalism. i kept asking myself why he took on this experiment (which, basically, is nothing but a diet and a sartorial change. he certainly isn't discovering some heretofore unknown biblical oddities - well, maybe a couple - and it certainly doesn't seem to make him any happier.

    so, to sum: "i grew a long beard, wore white, forced myself to be (sorta, occasionally) kind while remain entirely self involved, visited a few kooks who, shock, were actually decent people, and learned that honesty and gratitude, shock, have therapeutic value. oh, and my wife managed to have twins and my neighbor managed to die, coincidentally, in the final month of my experiment, thus providing me with a timely and seemingly expedient conclusion to what is basically a journal entry with a few quotes from exodus, genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, proberbs, pslams and ecclessiates." (there are, apparently, other book in the bible, but you wouldn't know it reading this)

    oh, and for some reason he needed to read over 100 books to write this.

    2 and half stars (rounded up to be nice)...more info
  • God Is In The Details
    This book gets five stars for being an entertaining, informative read with a nice subtext of tolerance and compassion. The author approaches religion in a light-hearted but not disrespectful way -- more Morgan Spurlock than Bill Maher. The reader painlessly learns a lot about the bible and the various interpretations of it.

    This is not to say that I don't have some quibbles with it though.

    First the author downplays his own obsessive-compulsive disorder, barely mentions it in fact, when he seems to have a fairly severe case: he touches the shower head four times after showering, can't turn off a radio unless the last word he heard was a noun, he's extremely germophobic, he refuses to start a sentence with "you"... and these are just the symptoms he admits. His OCD would have been a huge factor in his acceptance and performance of religious rituals, and by downplaying it he minimizes the effect it had on him and by extension everybody else.

    Second, although the book deals extensively with Judaism and Christianity, there is hardly a mention of the third apocalyptic Abrahamic religion based on the Pentateuch. As the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam deserves at least equal treatment, especially in these times of widespread misinformation.

    Third, although Jacobs states that he intends to follow biblical law as much as possible, in truth he begins cherry-picking the easy ones right away and never delves too deeply into the tenets about plucking out eyes, cutting off limbs or stoning people to death. Apparently those are too barbaric to be discussed at length, much less put into practice for a book deal -- but it questions just how "biblically" he was living.

    Fourth, although the author is sincere and respectful in his quest, he seems a little too focused on the surface aspects (like his beard, his white clothing, the different translations of the bible, and taking the sabbath off) rather than his inner spirituality. At one point he describes being overcome with a feeling of peace while dancing with his son, but even here he seems to be confusing reverence for religiosity. He starts the book claiming to be an agnostic, and finishes by reiterating his agnosticism but what he describes is not agnosticism, it's atheism. His journey was more about putting on the vestments of religion than really trying on faith for size. Perhaps it's impossible for an unbeliever to will himself to believe.

    Whether or not the year changed A.J. Jacobs permanently, one conclusion is evident in the book although it was nowhere mentioned: he's married to a saint....more info
  • 5 stars
    This book is such a page turner, I could hardly put it down. I recommend this book to anyone who is secular or religious, it's both insightful and enlightening. ...more info
  • Good, Self Name Dropper
    I really enjoyed this book. I am no religion fanatic, but one I read the description on the cover it immediately caught my attention. I got right into the book and couldn't put it down. I do not think that Jacobs is a great writer but is still good. I am looking forward to reading his Know It All book when I have time. Jacobs did name drop the fact that he had a previous book many times. Every time he mentioned the previous book he mentioned the fact that he read all the encyclopedias with it every time like we jumped right into the middle of the book and didn't already know. Also he used the same James Frey joke twice, come on....more info
  • Loved it but not a page turner
    I thought I knew how to rate a book but after finishing this book I think I have absolutely no clue how to rate a book... Jacobs deserves 5*+ for the effort he has done to get through the year. Hats off to him -- this was a big commitment to dedicate his life to the bible for entire year. I found some of the entries funny, where I chuckled out loud -- however overall the book wasn't a page turner.

    At times I found it hard to continue with the book and it is not the writing style, just something that I can't finger point, but none the less it was worth sticking with it and finishing the book.

    Some books suppose to be just plain entertaining, some thought provoking and others we suppose to walk away from by wanting to do more research in regards to that topic... this book was just one of those books that made me realise how little I know about my own religion... I really loved the cafeteria synopses in the book, because after I finished the book I realised that I'm not only viewing religion through the cafeteria method Jacobs was talking about in his book, but also a very watered down cafeteria method... I pick and choose what suits me the most... but I truly have a hard time with main stream religion, don't know why,but literally it freaks me out... Thanks A.J. you book been a wealth of information and the ONLY reason I gave 4* was because it wasn't a page turner... like I hoped it would be... but now I owe you the courtesy to read your other book......more info
  • Here's one cheer for the rabbis
    I am having great difficulty getting through this book, as I like to read fully what I have spent my money on. Living biblically would be hard enough, given the barbaric restrictions of the Old Testament. But bringing in the nonsense of the Talmud which was designed to segregate and isolate Jews from other peoples and from rational thought makes the whole experience stultifying. The only value of this tedious book is to show how evil an influence the rabbis have had. They are the ones who have made the Jews hateful to every other people and religious group....more info
  • Surprising a page turner
    The auther discusses multiple complex and taboo topics in a clear and unbiased way. I loved it and I wish it was longer. I could have read another 300 pages ...more info
  • too one-sided
    Something about Esquire writers -- they're hilarious and thoughtful in the magazine, but they turn into little boys once they write a book. I'm thinking specifically of Chuck Klosterman, but now AJ Jacobs falls into this camp.

    Jacobs is funny, and much of this book gave me good food for thought. I learned a lot. However, I found his slant insulting. He devotes 9 months to living as an Orthodox Jew, then only 3 months to the Christian strain. I thought organized religion was bull before I read this book -- now I'm even more certain. The Old Testament "rules" Jacobs follows are amazingly sexist and ridiculous --and yet he always excuses them, justifies them, or points to some far-reaching, ridiculous explanation to make it all okay. Example: No touching women--because "it's really a *respect* for life." Ha! (the women, in orthodox circles, folks, are also not allowed to dance and celebrate. explain that one, aj.)

    Yet when AJ explores living as a Christian, he thinks it's okay to lie to the Christians he meets, and criticize them, such as calling the Creationist Museum "a waste of creativity and intelligence." Yeah, well, I think similarly of the Orthodox conventions, AJ.

    Also-he and his wife are such pushovers with their kid. Allowing your kid to hit you and laugh at you is not cool. I only hope his next book is "A Year of Parenting Lessons."...more info
  • Fascinating Look Into A Fascinating Year
    I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting, amusing and amazingly, done without a sense of mockery. I think that it must have been very difficult to take a controversial topic like religion and take on this project without being offensive. It was very impressive that that the author not only made so many changes in his own life, but that the spirit behind it all was one of curiosity and not purely ridicule. Obviously, there were branches/sects of Judeo-Christianity that were not even touched upon, let alone explored in depth, but those that were well done. I suppose the thing that I am most curious about is whether or not some of the life changes that he made for this project became something of a routine, or habit that will continue - volunteering at the soup kitchen, tithing, etc. I am also VERY curious as to what he will write about next. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed _The Know-It-All_ more, but it was a tough decision to make!...more info
  • It was a very good year .....
    Let's face it - the Bible doesn't exactly provide a laugh a minute. Holy Laughter is a serious topic - in fact with only 38 uses (42 according to some translations) of the word "laugh" in any form (laugh, laughed, laughing, laughter), many of those come at you only in the sense of laugh as in its Nehemiahan scornful use and its final three uses in the New Testament positively warn you off any cracking up ... ever. Anyhow, if you read its 788,280 words (the 1769 edition of the 1611 King James version) at 225 words per minute (most of us are positioned, at 200 to 250, allowing for regression of about 1 in 10 words read with full sub-vocalization) you'd only average one encounter of the laugh kind every 1 hour 22 minutes and 58.61053 seconds. And yet the Good Book forms the material of this, the second documented humble quest of AJ Jacobs - the funniest writer I've read since, well - since I last read anything by AJ Jacobs actually. In his year of living Biblically AJ decides to follow, as best as he can, the Bible's rules, laws ... and even some fairly obscure recommendations. Thankfully he never has cause to sever the hand of some pugilistic opponent's wife due to her having landed a successful grab at the Jacobs family jewels - as he finds recommended by Deuteronomy (the hand severance that is, not the grabbing bit which is left up to the wife's moral compass).
    Becoming Jacob ....
    With Shofar and staff in hand, the corners of his white raiment Biblically betasseled (as one does), the corners of his head increasingly hirsute (what's with the corners thing in these regulations?), and with the aid of a Handy Seat (available online in black and grey models with immediate delivery) to protect his physical being from any surfaces touched by the unclean or impure of our planet (according to the Bible it seems I'm one of those more often than I ever knew) our protagonist travels widely, testing Amish tenets to tasting Yemenite Jewish approved kosher chocolate coated crickets, all the while evolving into an alter ego whom he names Jacob. (Good grief, my grammar checker is happy with that sentence). I'm a little surprised he didn't complete his involvement with the alphabet of marginal religious congregations by getting embroiled in some worship with the Zionist Christian Church (it exists). But then he did do the A to Z thing in his last hilarious encyclop?dic humble quest (The Know It All) and there's scarcely any other alphabet letter not represented by a fringe or mainstream holy group.

    With no copping out by choosing a non-leap year, for a full 378 days he waits, prays, sings, dances and seeks enlightenment in his hitherto reasonably happy, agnostic, obsessive-compulsive, sort-of-Jewish world. And does he find light? Read the book and you decide.

    AJ populates his Bible year with enough oddball characters to satisfy the cast requirements of a major Hollywood movie - and (groups and their adherents apart) that's mostly just his family, his ex family and one willingly recruited slave. (Paramount Pictures has the rights option - and I suggest (on behalf of Mrs J) that Brad Pitt plays AJ, which would probably secure Angelina as his Julie (Mrs J) - though the twins' arrival scene may be one type casting too many.) He lengthens the suffering of the long-suffering Mrs J, triples the Jacobs male offspring (said twins), and loves his neighbours as well as himself (OK - he tries to). His unexpectedly moving tribute to one of those neighbours comes as something of a surprise, but hey - does Ecclesiastes not say there's "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." Even a time to learn? AJ does them all. So will you. ...more info
  • Credibility Strain
    Lots of work for little reward, it seems. Almost funny. Very egocentric. Reading about this guy's supposed one-year experiment was less interesting that watching clouds float by after a nice picnic and considering the beauty of it all.

    The good news for me is to not bother with this author again....more info
  • I kept waiting for him to get it
    What I liked: good review of the facts of the bible.

    What I didn't: He didn't know how to really dig in to believing.

    As a product of a mixed marriage (mom = mainline Christian, dad = Jew), I have great respect for both religions and the bible as a whole. Like other readers, I found the fact that Mr. Jacobs was able to suspend his lack of belief for the Old Testament but not for the New Testament to be a cop out. The parts of the bible that he mentioned appealed to him most (love your neighbor, helping the poor.) were big themes in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

    Also, it would have been to his advantage to join faith communities (ones that fit his political views)on both sides FOR A YEAR. He never gave any church or temple that would fit him and his family a chance. I think after not being raised in faith, Jacobs lost out on the importance of a religious "second" family. Did he go to any services? With his son? We forget that the best way to experience faith is often through the eyes of a child.

    I waited for some epiphany. I thought we were building to something, but I guess it was just a clean shave. ...more info
  • i've never read a book so fast!
    my hubby bought me this book on a whim for Christmas last year. it looked interesting enough so i made it my first pick for this years "a-book-a-month" resolution. this was such a good and fast read, i loved it! a sincerely funny, honest and genuine look into both the generally accepted and the quirky Biblical commands. at first glance i thought this book was a Christians only book but once you read the subtitle & notice the Starbucks in his hand you realize this is something so much more. both agnostics & religious people (as i feel i am both... don't ask me how that works) will really enjoy this book. i learned a lot about the Bible, religion and myself. i do believe i will be adding his other book to my reading list for this year.
    ...more info
  • Hillarious and Insightful - I had a feeling about this book!
    I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. The concept of this book completely intrigued me but I was leery of the ability to execute. Jacobs did just that. It was insightful, well written, enjoyable and extremely funny - all at once. I love that this book kept me turning the pages wondering which of the 613 was going to stump him next and how he would deal with it. I loved how he made his wife and son characters in his story and brought all he had learned into his every day life. His wife reminds me a bit of my own husband who thinks that my 'self-imposed' restrictions (no pork, no rice on passover...) defy logic, considering my love of all things shellfish.
    The most satisfying part of the book, for me, was Jacobs' ultimate realization that not everything requires a logical explanation. Some things just are as they are, because they are...
    ...more info
  • Some can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story.
    What would happen to the man who really tried to put others before himself? Love his enemies? Turn the other cheek? Give to all who asked- no strings attached?

    I'd like to read that man's memoirs.

    But unfortunately, at the end of his hilariously pedantic year-long tour of the Bible, Jacobs' manages to have covered none of these. (Loving your neighbor as yourself is mentioned only in the last chapter- when he says it is in fact impossible.)

    One must wonder at the man who can spend a year in intense study of... well... most anything and emerge with unchanged values, priorities, and worldview. ...more info
  • A wonderful rainy weekend read! I loved it!
    Brava! Five star read! If his other books are as well written as this one I can see why his books are best sellers! At times I was rolling on the edge of my seat and others it kept me interested the whole way because I couldn't wait to see how it ended. I read the whole book in a weekend because it kept me so interested. I would read it again!...more info
  • Good for book club
    A.J. Jacobs has written a fun book to read. Our religious based book club was provided with good fodder for conversation. It's easy to read and as light-hearted as you can get when discussing the bible. Even through the humor, moral tidbits are present as food for thought....more info
  • Laugh out loud funny.
    I've been interested in reading this book since I heard about it. I was not disapointed. Really funny. Great for everyone. It doesnt mock religion it really does do its best to be simply informative and humorus at the same time. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is facinated about religion. Theres always more to learn out there then you already know....more info
  • Unbalanced?
    Several others have pointed out the disparity between the amount of time Jacobs spend on the Old Testament and the New. I can understand his reasons for that, but there's no question that the writing style suddenly become more rushed and trite once we enter NT territory. Maybe he just didn't have enough time to really get into it. Maybe (as he indicates himself), as a Jew, he can identify more personally with the OT teachings. Maybe it's because his wife was in the late stages of her pregnancy and gave birth to twins during the NT portion of the book. Whatever the reasons, the sections become shorter and the introspection tapes WAY off. He also seems to rationalize and dismiss more easily - such as his claim that Jerry Falwell's crowd is actually more reasonable than their "liberal detractors" would claim. He expects fire and brimstone from them, and when he hears none in the course of a single morning, decides they're not fire-and-brimstone after all? Hardly good research. He manages to whitewash quite a bit from the OT as well, though in those cases, he suspects himself of doing so and duly reports it.

    Jacobs also frequently wanders off into heavyhanded moralizing about his neighbor and his (frankly bratty-sounding) son. He comes off as a funny and clever writer, an occasionally introspective and humble guy, an occasionally self-seeking and arrogant guy, an indifferent husband, a dilettante scholar, and a crappy father.

    I'm glad I read it - I learned quite a bit and usually enjoyed being in Jacobs's company. I felt like the book should have been either 100 pages shorter or 250 pages longer. ...more info
  • Good but not
    I bought this book already anticipating the laughs of trying to live some of the old testamant laws and reading it was fun. I never felt though that he was ever really trying to see the real point of the bible which is to have a relationship with God. Almost like going through the motions with no heart beyond checking off a list of things to do. He really never did anything as far as living the new testament and genuinely trying out the reccomending faith actions in there. It was obvios he was alot more comfortable with the old testament. Either way it was funny but had no real deep emotion of trying to live it with his heart which is actually the whole point of the bible especially the new testament. It's almost like he is buying flowers and wooing and doing whatever anyone who has a romantic list of things to do to get a woman to marry him would do, but the whole time he admits that he is actually not attracted to women at all and he is just seeing if it's possible to make some lady marry him even though he isn't attracted to her and has no intent of marrying her after his year long experiment is over. After he has tried many odd and funny romantic attempts he admits that he is still not attracted to women but he now has a greater appreciation for people who take romance so seriosly. Funny yes, but heartfelt genuine. No....more info
  • Touching and Funny
    Although not as funny as the author's previous book the Know-It-All, it has largely more to do with the subject matter than the author's efforts. Some parts of religion are just not that funny. This is a terrific survey of the author's experience with judaism and christianity from a previous (mostly) secular viewpoint. He discovers both positives and negatives, smart people and dumb people, sane and crazy. Although he doesn't hit a lot of topics too deeply, he makes a thorough survey. Less a religion textbook, more about one guy's experience with God and a lot of facial hair!...more info
  • Hi A.J.
    This book was very enjoyable. As someone who had a very conservative religious upbringing, it was interesting to see someone come at the ideas as an outsider. (Yes the author is Jewish but barely since he wasn't brought up with the traditions). I did wish that the ending was expanded as the chapters, especially the ones on the New Testiment are shorter but it was still interesting and very funny. It makes you think about your own views and practaces of religion even if the ones explored in the book are not your own. I highly recomend this book. Hi A.J. and A.J.'s dad....more info
  • A pretty good follow-up
    Its a funny book, but its just got a pretty hard act to follow. "The Know-it-all" is a fantastic, quick read. this one is good, but is the hamburger to the Know-it-all's cheeseburger.... This one is definitely worth the time, but pick up AJ's first book if you haven't already....more info
  • Gentle insight into a complex topic
    I thought this book was fun and thought-provoking. Mr. Jacobs approaches religion from a neophyte background, and brings a humility that gives the story a very human touch. His progression and experience is insightful for students of scripture, religion, enlightenment and life. My suggestion is "Read this book", but you don't have to take it too literally. ...more info
  • ------A Thought Provoking and Enjoyable True Story------
    THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY is worth reading.

    A.J. Jacobs, an agnostic Jewish man, made a huge decision when he decided to read and live the teachings found in the Bible. He handled his task with gentleness, sincerity and lots of wit.

    Jacobs began his year long journey by reading the Bible. He also met with Hebrew rabbis and ministers from different Christian denominations and used their advice on how to interpret the various passages. His home life became difficult for his wife because of the various rules he brought home! His clothing could not have a mixture of wool and linen. His food choices, that are mentioned in the Bible (including locust), are not readily found and his long beard and white clothing made him appear eccentric! Also, always telling the complete truth may be more difficult and painful than you think!

    He even traveled to Israel which added the perfect ending for his journey.



    ...more info
  • A pretty good follow-up
    Its a funny book, but its just got a pretty hard act to follow. "The Know-it-all" is a fantastic, quick read. this one is good, but is the hamburger to the Know-it-all's cheeseburger.... This one is definitely worth the time, but pick up AJ's first book if you haven't already....more info
  • Hilarious & Insightful
    A.J. Jacobs set out to follow the Bible's words, as literally as possible, for an entire year. As ambitious of a task as this seems, it is not entirely uncharacteristic of Jacobs, given his previous book, "The Know-It-All", which documents his reading of the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. With the guidance of Rabbis, Priests, professors and friends, Jacobs sets out on his quest and ends up learning a lot about himself along the way. He explores a number of religious sects and groups, including Chassidic Jews, Red Letter Christians, the Amish and even a trip to Israel to visit the Samaritans.

    When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect but I was intrigued by the concept and I had to find out more. From the start, I found this book incredibly interesting and really easy to read, despite it being a work of non-fiction. Jacobs has a witty and fun way with words which kept me amused and informed at the same time. His anecdotes are always humorous and in keeping with important themes that he discusses in the book.

    Jacobs does a great job of addressing misconceptions found in the Bible and lending explanations to the seemingly bizarre commandments that are seldom understood or even contemplated. While it is difficult to remain completely objective when exploring topics like religion, Jacobs approaches each experience with an open mind and an open heart with just the right amount of inevitable skepticism.

    "The Year of Living Biblically" is very funny and yet simultaneously insightful. Because Jacobs gained a great deal from this quest, readers will too. I really appreciated the respectful way he addressed the laws of the Bible and tried to show their greater purpose and meaning.

    This book is required reading for anyone, no matter what your beliefs, there is something each and every person can learn from this thought-provoking book.

    [...]...more info
  • A man on a spiritual quest
    What to say, I have been on a bit of a spiritual quest myself because my brother and his family are "Born again's" or in truth, brainwashed. My brother was one of the most loving and accepting people I knew... until he got religious! now everyone is going to hell. I couldn't understand the whole transformation which led me onto my own spiritual quest to find a god if there really is one. Though I can't say that quest has been as performance orientated (dressing and acting religious) but it has been enlightening all the same.

    anyway, I think this is a great book and it inspires me to stay way clear of judaism and christianity altogether :) He really brings out both the good and bad.. I agree with him that many of the bible pushers pick and choose what they want to follow, and unfortunately people have a tendency of using the bible as a justification for their hate and judgements of others. It's sad. We say only god can judge yet spit on the gay man.. bizarre.

    I'm glad a found and read the book.. my first book on kindle for Iphone and well worth the money.

    ...more info
  • Not Funny
    Maybe I was thrown by some of the blurbs stating that this was "laugh out loud" funny. While there was some interesting Bible trivia, laughs were few and far between....more info
  • i've recommended it to everyone i know
    it's such an entertaining read whether or not you share any type of judeo-christian faith. i've recommended it to everyone i know and will likely buy copies for friends.

    mr. jacobs (aj's father) - i hope you found this review helpful....more info
  • A fun, interesting read - even if I wish he'd chosen a different goal
    A.J.'s writing is always enjoyable. However, I agree, particularly about this book, with some of the few lesser reviews - that his writing often emulates blog-writing. Though, I don't find that necessarily a negative. If it is blog-type writing - it's the well-edited version that you'd look forward to reading every day.

    He's a fun, clever writer that goes to exceptional lengths in pursuit of his goal (in this case, living the bible literally). And, his candor about his own insights and his family and friends reaction to his experiments are refreshing (and is a pretty good testament to the quality of folks that surround him).

    As much as I enjoy his writing style and truly loved his The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, this time I did feel he bit off a lot more than he could chew - or that readers will necessarily want to chew.

    Even the initial research he describes in pursuit of the development of this odd goal (e.g. the number of available bibles, the disparity in how they are translated by various segments, etc.) tells you it's not the best choice.

    But, it's still an enjoyable and an insightful read. And honestly, I'd give it more than 3 stars (just because he managed to pull the whole thing together in a coherent, enjoyable fashion), but less than 4 (because I wished he'd chosen a concept better suited to his skills)

    I hope in his next round (and I do hope he has one - and I'll definitely buy it) - he shoots for something more managable and less stunt driven. I'd love to see him do something like trying to see how much he can reduce his carbon footprint, how much good he can do in the world with just $100 (trust me, he's creative enough to really do this well), figure out his family tree or just watch the top 100 movies of all time (w/ his wife who loves them - she deserves the break) and give his unique and clever insights from the pursuit.

    BOTTOM LINE: If you like odd social experiments combined with a good dry-wit writer who will go to great lengths to pursue his goal- you'll like this one. Though, I do suggest reading his first book before this one....more info
  • note to author
    loved your first book. loved this book. put down the kids pick up the pen i am waiting for the third.....more info
  • So Funny and yet I learned a lot
    I'm almost done reading this great book and have to say between side splitting laughter I walked away with a lot of biblical trivia that may come in handy at some time. I think I will catch more references as I go through life such as gleanings and many more. Pick this book up because it will be a light side splitter that you will want to pick up again and again. ...more info
  • An Honest account of a search for "answers".
    I've read both "The Know-It-All" and YLB and enjoy AJ Jacobs writing style. I find his total immersion into his subjects a fascinating experience to read about. His humor and ability to share an intimate part of who he is, how he's feeling, and what he is thinking is probably what endears him to me. In this story of a year of literal interpretation of the laws and "rules" of the bible AJ offers a insight into what I would imagine is the mindset of many Americans who have been raised in a faith based family that did not practice. His description of his upbringing probably fits the statistics you read about that state about 80+% of people believe in a higher power or describe themselves as one faith or another. As a Christian I greatly appreciated the complete journey he takes and though Judaism and Christianity of the Holy Bible. He has made every attempt to consult vast array of view points and writings about many subjects and boils them down in his unique way. Starting as a self avowed agnostic, secularist, and pro-science/anti-creationism person who's set out, in my opinion, to prove how ridiculous some of the things people of faith believe and do, he realizes there may be more to it than blind faith. As a Funeral Director I've dealt with almost every "brand" of faith and have had a similar experiences. I have questioned many of the things I've always held to be absolute about faith. I recommend Christians, especially those who proselytize, to read this book. It will give you perspective.

    Mr. Jacobs (I know you will read this): God Bless you for taking on this subject with such vigor and integrity. I hope you continue to embrace the things you learned and loved from this journey and assure you I learned something from your experience.

    1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New International Version)
    24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
    25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

    Don't forget to enjoy the trip as much as you enjoy the destination!

    God Bless you and your family.
    ...more info
  • A fun, interesting read - even if I wish he'd chosen a different goal
    A.J.'s writing is always enjoyable. However, I agree, particularly about this book, with some of the few lesser reviews - that his writing often emulates blog-writing. Though, I don't find that necessarily a negative. If it is blog-type writing - it's the well-edited version that you'd look forward to reading every day.

    He's a fun, clever writer that goes to exceptional lengths in pursuit of his goal (in this case, living the bible literally). And, his candor about his own insights and his family and friends reaction to his experiments are refreshing (and is a pretty good testament to the quality of folks that surround him).

    As much as I enjoy his writing style and truly loved his The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, this time I did feel he bit off a lot more than he could chew - or that readers will necessarily want to chew.

    Even the initial research he describes in pursuit of the development of this odd goal (e.g. the number of available bibles, the disparity in how they are translated by various segments, etc.) tells you it's not the best choice.

    But, it's still an enjoyable and an insightful read. And honestly, I'd give it more than 3 stars (just because he managed to pull the whole thing together in a coherent, enjoyable fashion), but less than 4 (because I wished he'd chosen a concept better suited to his skills)

    I hope in his next round (and I do hope he has one - and I'll definitely buy it) - he shoots for something more managable and less stunt driven. I'd love to see him do something like trying to see how much he can reduce his carbon footprint, how much good he can do in the world with just $100 (trust me, he's creative enough to really do this well), figure out his family tree or just watch the top 100 movies of all time (w/ his wife who loves them - she deserves the break) and give his unique and clever insights from the pursuit.

    BOTTOM LINE: If you like odd social experiments combined with a good dry-wit writer who will go to great lengths to pursue his goal- you'll like this one. Though, I do suggest reading his first book before this one....more info
  • Thou revel in the masterpiece
    Jacobs writes with complete humility and insight. He manages to describe his experience, be it a complete unique and incomparable one, in a way that is completely relatable and understandable. The book seems to transcend 'memoir' into a category all its own. Jacobs writes of humorous, eerie, and humbling experiences which keep you entertained, while slowly breaking down your own walls of religious disbelief. I was also raised as a Jew (in the same way Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant), and lived as a whole-hearted agnostic. After reading this, I didn't become more religious or convert to a particular faith... but I did re-evaluate my spirituality and that of my ancestors. It is an easy read, one for the whole family. It's a classic in the way "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a classic, you must first read it for the sake of knowing it, and once again after having kids. This way, we can all truly grasp his quirky and lovable behavior. I would highly recommend this book to conservatives and liberals, Christians and Jews, Atheists and the apathetic. It makes us understand the mainstream country we live in, as well as the hidden alleys we were previously unaware of. Five stars....more info
  • an entertaining and thought provoking read!
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved it because it was written with an open mind. It is humorous and serious- the author is not afraid to poke fun at himself too! I am currently using this book for Sunday School. We are enjoying great discussion and examination of beliefs. Thanks to AJ for his year of sacrifice!...more info

 

 
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