“The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs
Dear friends who aren’t into religion at all — This is probably the book for you, too.
A.J. Jacobs, a very funny writer who last brought us “The Know-it-All,” in which he chronicled his adventures reading the entire encyclopedia, has once again written a funny, intelligent, and engrossing memoir of a year spent doing something: In this case, it’s trying to live exactly by the Bible. Which means he takes all the rules found within the Bible and tries to put them into his very modern life as a Dad and writer for Esquire magazine.
No, he doesn’t sacrifice his son.
But he does have a boatload of rules to follow.
He can’t cut his beard. He also can’t touch his wife within a week of her menstrual cycle, and has to figure out whether it’s worth it to try and stone people. (He gives pebbles a try.)
He visits a mega-church, has an Orthodox Jew go through his closet looking for clothes made from more than one fiber, and prays a few times a day. He stops working on the Sabbath, and discovers how hard it is, in our modern times, to stop thinking about work.
He tries to avoid lustful thoughts (not easy when you work for Esquire – Rosario Dawson makes an appearance) and blows a ram’s horn on the first day of each month, while at the same time being a dad to toddler Jasper, and a husband to Julie, who is trying to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization. He cuts down on gossip and profanity, gets caught up in all sorts of food rules he has to obey, and starts dressing all in white. In New York.
He explores the biblical passages behind hotly-debated issues like polygamy, homosexuality, and abortion. He travels to the Middle East, and has dinner with a distant relative who may or may not be a cult leader. He meets gay evangelicals and the Red-Letter Christians, and has an eye-opening experience with a wacky neighbor that winds up providing the book’s emotional climax.
Is he converted to Christianity at the end of the year? No. Yet, he entered this journey as an agnostic, and comes out at the other end of his year as slightly a kinder and nicer human being.
Whether you believe in religion or not, we could probably all use a reminder to “Love thy neighbor” and “Honor thy parents” from time to time.
Jacobs is funny and candid in this book. It was a joy to read, I learned some stuff, and I look forward to his next adventure…. which apparently has something to do with attaining physical perfection? To be determined!