The Year of Living Biblically is exactly what the title suggests: the story of A.J. Jacobs’ attempt to live one full year exactly as the Bible tells him he should. He tries to follow the rules of the Bible to the letter, including growing a beard, not telling lies, wearing tassels, not touching women during their cycle, and MUCH more. The result is both hilarious and thought-provoking, as Jacobs both chronicles his year and shares what he learned while doing so.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for so long, so when I saw my library had it on audio, I began listening to it in my car right away. I immediately could tell why so many bloggers enjoyed this one, Jacobs has a funny/smart way of writing which grabs the reader’s attention right away. And this book is absolutely hysterical – the stuff he does in the name of the Bible, and the reactions he gets from people, just made me laugh out loud.
It was interesting to read this book as a Christian, because the greatest chunk of Jacobs’ year was spent on the Old Testament, and most Christians (myself included) believe that most of those laws were deemed unnecessary once Jesus came, and instead, we are to follow Jesus’ teachings. Personally I still believe in most of the moral laws of the Old Testament (most of which are repeated by Jesus anyway), but not the ritualistic, behavioral-type laws. But Jacobs follows them all (at least, as many as he possibly can) and the result is very, very interesting.
The best parts of the book, for me, are when Jacobs really investigates different sects of both Judaism and Christianity. He visits Hasidic Jews, fundamentalist Christians (Jerry Fallwell’s church, actually), a Pro-Gay Christian group, and even takes a trip to Jerusalem. I loved getting a glimpse into these different religious groups, and even when I disagreed with some of their beliefs, it was interesting to hear from Jacobs how their different beliefs were all shaped by the same thing, the Bible.
I enjoyed hearing about what Jacobs’ learned from this year – how he both changed his own beliefs but also kept them mostly the same. And I liked the analysis about what he learned about religion in general, in fact I liked it so much that I would have liked more of it. But I suppose this was more about his experiences than anything else, so in that regard the book was extremely successful.
The audio production of The Year of Living Biblically was very well done. I would have liked it if Jacobs read it himself, but the version I listed to was read by another actor. In looking around, I’m seeing that Jacobs narrates an abridged version of the book, however the one I listened to was unabridged (which I tend to like a lot better, anyway).
I would definitely recommend reading The Year of Living Biblically, either in print format or in audio. It is both funny and thoughtful, a perfect combination for a memoir.