Woot! another book read, onto the next one soon. First I thought I'd give you my take on this one.
The Year of Living Biblically. One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.
A.J. Jacobs is hilarious, this medium sized hardbound will keep you reading if not for its insights, at least for its light tone and comical nature; its hard to put down. It is a funny memoir that takes Jacobs, and sometimes his family through a year of radical changes in lifestyle. You are quickly exposed to the determination that AJ musters to bring you the results of this crazy experiment.
I must admit that the wide range of topics in this book touch on a lot of recurring themes in my life. The search for truth, the notion of spirituality, the reason behind ancient customs, to name a few all surface constantly in my life. Until I was 12 or so, I was raised Catholic, the whole shebang; kneel, sit, stand, pray, sing, eat crackers, rinse and repeat. Then after several years of freedom from religion, I chose to become a Christian. For over four years I was a firm believer in Christ. I participated in a non-denominational Christian church extensively, to the point that you could find me with some friends on the corner of Main street preaching to anyone that would listen and some that wouldn't about Jesus. That's all in the past now and perhaps topic for another discussion later on, but I wanted to point out that I'm not unfamiliar with religion, especially Christianity and Judaism. It is perhaps this familiarity with religion, faith and all that comes rolled up in that pacakge that sparked the desire to read this book.
The book has a strong contrast to Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith which advises us (and I agree) to stop believing everything you are told without demanding real evidence from a source other than that which demands your faith. A.J. on the other hand must follow almost everything he is told by the Bible and his wise guy circle as I call it --a large group of experts that help him clear up some cryptic biblical stuff. Lots of times he is told to just go along with it. A.J. opens up by explaining how he's going to do exactly what the title implies; live biblically for a year. Each chapter is a month and the whole book is narrated in journal style highlighting the most important days. Jacobs constantly is at odds with things that the Bible tells him to do and how he feels about it.
He takes us through his visit to the Holy Land, to visit his crazy uncle Gil, all the way to a meeting with Jimmy, a snake handling preacher in Knoxville, Tenessee. I love the way he enthusiastically tells a story and I lost count of how many times his narration of the ordeals made me laugh out loud. Having lived under rules from the Bible for years at one point, I can only admire Jacobs for actually completing a full year and then some of this grueling project. Julie, his wife also deserves credit if only for putting up with the lunacy of this undertaking, most of it while pregnant with twins! That's love right there.
I don't want to tell you much more about the book, it truly is worth reading, it all goes by quickly because of the way it is written. He begins with 72 pages and 700+ rules collected after reading the Bible from beginning to end. Towards the end of the journey, he collects over 100 books on biblical law, tradition, cooking and other relevant topics that help him discern these nutty laws. I think this is a great insight into what your life might be like if you truly tried to live in accordance to the Bible.
Here's one of my favorite days. Simply because of the way it starts:
Day 181, afternoon. I was on the subway today, sitting a few seats down from a Buddhist monk. He looked at me, with my white raiment and bushy beard, I looked at him, with his orange robes, and we exchanged a knowing nod and smile.
It was a great moment. I felt like I'd been let through the velvet rope at a holy nightclub.
On another one of my favorite passages he actually stones --if you can call it that, an old guy in NY. It cracked me up.
I think the great sense of humor the A.J. displays is a big part of what gets him through this endeavor. Coincidentally as I found out just today when I finished this book, he is also the author of another book that has been in my sights, The Know-It-All, and the now famous article My Outsourced life. If you haven't read that article, I recommend you take a peek, I read it a long time ago on Steve's website, and it is definitely funny and informative. On a side note, lately have been actually testing the whole concept of outsourcing your life; mainly thanks to that article.
Two thumbs up for this book and its author, I now want to read his other book, The know-It-All.