Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically | Newbery and Beyond

Next up is The Year of Living Biblically, written by A.J. Jacobs.  The author is Jewish, but only just (he says he is as Jewish as Olive Garden is Italian).  He took a whole year to, as the subtitle says, “follow the Bible as literally as possible.”  This meant animal sacrifices (just once!), not wearing mixed fibers, letting his beard grow out, eating kosher, avoiding lust, celebrating Passover, writing Scriptures on his door frame, and so on.  Along with attempting to follow all the rules in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments, but with a focus on the Hebrew Bible), Jacobs visited several Jewish and Christian groups and places–the Amish, Hasidic Jews, snake handlers, and even the Holy Land.

This book is funny–Jacobs did not grow up in a practicing Jewish or Christian home, and his shock at some of the stranger rules in the Bible brings fresh life to it for those of us who are (or who think we are) intimately familiar with the Bible’s contents.  However, although Jacobs describes himself as an agnostic and was not converted to either Judaism or Christianity by the end of his year-long experiment, he is surprisingly respectful to both faiths and to those who believe and follow the Bible.  He genuinely seems to have wanted to learn, and although he did give up most of his practices at the end of the year, he did find that he found peace in the Sabbath and in prayer, and liked the sacredness that following these rules lent to everyday things like washing, eating, dressing, etc.  For me, as a Christian, I appreciated Jacobs’ respectful approach and his desire to learn, and his insights gave me renewed desire to follow God’s laws myself.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Have you read this book?  Have any suggestions for what I should read next?  Let me know in the comments!

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