Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically

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This review is a little delayed, but better late than never.

The Year of Living Biblically is A. J. Jacobs' story of his attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible. He is a secular Jew, describing himself as being "as Jewish as the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." He begins by reading the entire Bible and writing down every rule he can find. Seventy-two pages worth. He decides to be fair, he will devote a proportionally larger part of the year to the Old Testament rules and a smaller part to the New Testament, since they can be conflicting. I have recommended the book to many people (before I ever even finished) saying that I felt it was a multi-faceted book. First, Jacobs is a witty guy and he keeps you laughing throughout. Second, it was educational. He consults several experts frequently during the journey to explain strange laws. As the reader, you get the benefit of expert theological and historical context without having to read a long and boring book. Just snippets here and there within his humorous and identifiable story. I learned about different religious sects that I knew very little about before and have a new understanding of Old Testament laws. Lastly, I felt the book was helpful to me spiritually. Jacobs reflects often on his own developing spirituality which caused me to reflect on my own. Even though I didn't take the same journey, it was still beneficial to me.

I stumbled upon this book while just browsing the library. I don't think I was even looking for anything religious (how uncharacteristic of me). Originally, I planned to pick it up after finishing my forced reading of Little Women. But I decided to just see how it started--and I couldn't put it down. I guess I would credit the book with getting me back into reading and helping me discover what kinds of books I liked as an adult.

I would go so far as to recommend this book for a Bible study--if you have the kind of Bible study where people are open to things besides Max Lucado books and enjoy finding the spiritual benefit in the non-spiritually intended media of the world.

My only real criticism is this: A. J., you have some typos in there. And I mention this only because I know from your own admission that you Google yourself and perhaps you will find my review and decide to respond. :-) Typos in the published and supposedly edited work are one of my pet peeves. And, you took a few too many shortcuts. I wouldn't do it myself, but I expect a hard-core attitude. Just kidding.

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