The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
by A.J. Jacobs
Here’s a book to beat the February blahs.
A.J. Jacobs was an editor at Esquire magazine in 2007 when he wrote this book. As an experiment, he wanted to see if he could go a full year trying to live by all the rules in the Bible. And he wanted to follow those rules literally. The results are curious, fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny.
First of all, there are over 700 rules for living in the Bible, which Jacobs didn’t realize when he took this task on.
Some rules were easier than others. He observed the Ten Commandments. He was fruitful. He multiplied.
But the Bible also says not to shave your beard. So he didn’t, for a year. When his beard took on Ted Kaczynski proportions, he was regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. Another rule states you cannot wear clothes of mixed fibres, so walked down the streets of New York wearing a shepherd’s robe. He has to learn to play a 10-string harp.
There are endlessly funny stories. Like when a rule says he must stone adulterers. One day, he finds himself sitting beside an old man in a park, learns in conversation the old man cheated on his wife, so Jacobs picks up a handful of dirt and gently lobs it at him. The startled man just stares at him for ten full seconds. Jacobs admits it wasn’t a true stoning, more like a severe pebbling.
But there are also many meaningful stories. He tried not to covet, gossip or lie for a full year. It’s not easy, but he finds life fulfilling when he tries and succeeds. A next-door neighbour dies and Jacobs realizes he didn’t repay the tiny kindnesses she had shown him over the years (love thy neighbour). Jacobs also spends time with people from various faiths to get their interpretations of biblical rules, which is fascinating.
You don’t have to be religious to enjoy it. You don’t have to know the Bible. You just have to be able to enjoy a wonderful writer trying to live a life full of seemingly impossible rules.
It’s a good book about the good book. You’ll enjoy it.
Top 3 Reasons To Read This Book:
1. A.J. Jacobs’ wife. She tries to be patient in her husband’s crazy year-long scheme. Jacobs sets up a tent in his living room, for example. She wants to kill him.
2. Enjoying his struggle to understand certain biblical rules. Example: The Bible says he who winks plans perverse things. His father-in-law is a chronic winker.
3. Without question, it’s definitely the Old Testament that gives Jacobs the best material.