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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically (book review)

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible by A.J. Jacobs


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was our April book club pick. I had previously read Jacobs' book The Know-It-All, about his experience reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. I thought that book was funny, but I often found the author overthought everything. I guess I expected the same thing from Living Biblically, but it was a surprise to me.



I was really caught up in Jacobs' evolving view of religion and was really intrigued to see where his beliefs would fall at the end of the experience. His emphasis on following the entire Bible, particularly the more obscure laws led to a lot of funny things (and the revelation that his wife is a paragon of spousal tolerance!), but he never made fun of his subject(s) and occasionally came up with something profound (or quoted someone else's profound observation).



Rather than "go it alone", he had a team of Biblical experts from different traditions to help with understanding the context of the Bible passages he was exploring. I learned a lot about the Bible--or, at least, I learned a lot about different views and interpretations regarding the Bible.



The bulk of the book relates to Jacobs' exploration of the Old Testament. Towards the end he also delved into the New Testament. I thought this segment of the book was weaker, which is maybe not so surprising seeing the author's background as an agnostic Jew. It gave an interesting look at some fundamentalist Christian organizations...some of which were pretty surprising...but this section didn't have near the depth of the rest of the book.



Rereading the review, it doesn't look as positive as I feel about The Year of Living Biblically. I really enjoyed reading the book and following the author's progress, adventures, and just seeing the way that the idea played out. I definitely think it's worth reading.


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