Skip to content
Hardcover The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible Book

ISBN: 0743291476

ISBN13: 9780743291477

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

Save $20.31!
List Price $25.00

6 Available

Book Overview

The author of The Know-It-All follows up his New York Times bestselling account of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica with another improbable adventure--a year spent living, as literally as possible, by the rules of the Bible.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A man's journey, plumbing the depths of trying to live by the Bible

How can I rate or judge one person's life story? Only by the way he writes about it. His story is his story, and deserves five stars simply for telling it. But I give this five stars because he wrote about it so compellingly. I had a difficult time setting the book down, always wanting to keep on reading and moving forward and see what he did next. When humorous things happen, he writes about them in a way that led me to chuckle along. Times of seriousness were written poignantly enough to sometimes shed a tear, or feel my heart moved as well. I especially applaud him for including stories about his wife, and how she wasn't always keen on what he was doing, and the difficulties they had while he went on this adventure. And I give him great credit for sticking with his goal for the whole year (and slightly beyond), and not giving up. Jacobs is a wonderful writer! I will definitely be looking for more books by this guy, and will read his previous book. And speaking as a Christian - and an ordained minister at that - I found his spiritual journey, and his insights into Judaism and Christianity as what was basically an outsider, to be very interesting to read about. Some of the things we take for granted or as base assumptions, he didn't know - he had to find out, and he continually showed the courage to go find a scholar, a rabbi, a minister, or other person with the knowledge to help him out. Especially when he found a law to be silly, instead of writing it off, he sought out someone who could explain why it might be there, and what it meant historically and means to some in the context of 21st century earth. I learned things about Christianity and Judaism from him; and also I learned a few things about my own personal faith from him. Sometimes I was challenged to rethink myself, or to consider "Have I really thought about that enough?", sometimes I was affirmed. And as a non-fundamentalist, I applaud him most for showing - by being a living, tangible proof - that taking the Bible literally, and living everything in it literally, is impossible. For all the fundamentalist, biblical-literalists, follow-the-law Christians, this book serves as proof that their foundation is built entirely on sand, and that none of them are honest when they so arrogantly say they live "true to the Bible". Of the great many people in the world, Jacobs is perhaps the only one who's ever really tried to live by all the Bible's teachings; and he showed it can't be done. My only complaint about Jacobs isn't about the book, and so it doesn't affect the rating, is that he didn't enter into the community aspect of either Judaism or Christianity, both of which are highly communal; one could easily make the argument that neither one can be done without a community. But Jacobs did try to do it all alone. Though he brought in people when he had questions, he never entered into a worshiping community at a synagogue or a church, never entered into the life of a faith family. H

"The Secret Fraternity of Bearded Guys" ~ Obedience, Cognitive Dissonance and the Holy Antenna

I was less than three paragraphs into the introduction of `The Year of Living Biblically' when I came to the conclusion that I was going to love this book. A. J. Jacobs latest literary endeavor takes the reader on a delightful and insightful journey onto the highways, byways and a neglected side roads or two in search of an authentic expression of 21st century Biblically based spirituality. Relying on the Bible, both Old and New Testament, as his beginning and end to all decision making processes Jacobs provides us with a very personal, intelligent, humorous and thought-provoking look at man's modern day search for God. Jacobs is an extremely talented wordsmith who knows exactly how to transfer his inner thoughts and outward events onto the printed page in such a manner as to make one feel as though they're engaged in an intimate conversation with a close friend. His ongoing interior dialogue shows his audience that he is definitely an individual of depth who knows and understands the religio/philosophical issues he's dealing with. His mental musings are coupled with a quirky slant on the oddities of faith making for an entertaining and hilarious reading as he deftly moves from the absurd to the sublime. Long after the laughing stops and the book has been finished and put aside you will be left with numerous nuggets of profundity to crack open and digest at your leisure. The most important for me was his recognition that true belief must be accompanied by corresponding actions lived out in the real world every day, if not as an act of love, most certainly as an act of obedience to the rules. As the Bible says, "Faith without works is dead."

Thou shalt read this book

Around a year ago, I read my first book by A.J. Jacobs, The Know-It-All, a memoir of the author's quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. As a follow-up to that top-notch book, he has taken on a shorter but more difficult book, The Bible. For a year, Jacobs intended to follow the commandments of the Bible as literally as possible: not just the well-known ones (like "Thou shalt not kill") but the obscure ones as well (such as wearing clothes of mixed fibers). It was to be, as the book title states, The Year of Living Biblically. The first problem with undertaking such a task is that there are a lot of different Bibles out there and even more ways to interpret what's in them. While Jacobs seems to rely mostly on the Revised Standard Version, he consults other versions as well. Over the course of the year he will meet with a number of different religious groups and individuals representing a broad spectrum of interpretations. The nice thing about the Encyclopaedia Britannica was it was pretty straightforward, with little wiggle room for misreading. But in the Bible, almost everything can be read at least two ways. Even the Ten Commandments are subject to multiple interpretations: Does the commandment against killing mean all killing? What about executions? It is this ambiguity that lets the Bible fit almost all agendas. Is the Bible pro- or anti-slavery? What is its views on abortion, homosexuality or the roles of women? As Jacobs finds during the year, there is no true agreement. (And if the Bible has a message that contradicts your ideals, do you reject your ideals or (at least in part) the Bible?) Jacobs finds that truly living Biblically - adhering to all the restrictions - is virtually impossible, and he finds that even the most literal reader of the book engages in some picking and choosing. As a self-described secular Jew, there is much that he personally disagrees with, but he is respectful of every faith he meets. Many times, he even finds his preconceptions about certain groups to be different from reality. He also finds that for even the obscure commandments, there are experts who can assist him, such as the man who can tell you if your clothes do truly violate the stricture on mixed fibers. As Jacobs goes through the year, he finds that he is personally changing: the act of living Biblically changes the very way he thinks. He doesn't become a religious fanatic, but his worldview is affected. Throughout, however, he keeps his sense of humor and there are plenty of funny moments in the book. Overall, this is a superb follow-up to The Know-It-All (I think it helps if you've read that one first, but it's not essential). For a look at the Bible that is illuminating and simultaneously reverent and irreverent, this book is the one to read.

Light-hearted but insightful look at a very serious subject

Towards the end of this book, author AJ Jacobs speaks of the emptiness he experiences when he completes a project. I know the feeling. I have it now. I hate to put down his book. This book is a travelogue, with Jacobs documenting his journey through terrain both strange and familiar. Throughout, he exhibits a self-deprecating wit that in no way undermines his insight. Laugh out loud funny? It is that. But even when he's wagging his bushy beard at something absurd, Jacobs' humor is neither cynical nor mean-spirited. His observations feel unflinchingly frank, but never superior--he is quick to acknowledge that he is as eccentric as anyone. None of this is meant to imply that this book will be a comfortable fit for everyone. He is, after all, pointing out some of the more unusual and esoteric Biblical rules, trying them on, questioning them, looking at the people who follow them. I felt he handled the subject of Biblical literalism with meticulous respect, but some readers might be made uneasy at such scrutiny of sacred cows. And that would be a shame. Because while it's easy to laugh at his humor, it's equally important to reflect on his subtext. What are the psychological and social impacts of ritualism? There's a lot to be learned from an outsider looking in. Like any good tour guide, Jacobs has come to feel like a friend, and I'm going to miss him. Until next trip.

Thou Shalt Not Miss This

Here's THE book to give to everyone who has commandeered the Bible to justify science-hating, gay-hating agendas ("we must follow the Bible to the letter")...or more broadly, for ANYONE who is the least bit curious about the most widely-read and influential book in the world, and the ramifications for precisely following it. A.J. Jacobs takes us on an extraordinary journey -- to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments to the stone adulterers (because of pesky U.S. laws, the author had to settle for pebbles) be fruitful and multiply (not as easy as it sounds!))...and building a hut (again, not easy with today's liability issues.) The journey transforms his life -- from what he eats and wears to little-known precepts (anti-winking?) As you might imagine, there's a good deal of humor in this book. But, for this agnostic, the spiritual journey that A.J. takes is quite profound, even life-altering. It's also quite a learning experience to read about A.J. touring a Kentucky-based creationist museum, doing scripture study with Jehovah's witnesses, or wrestling with archaic rules that actually have relevance for today's society. There are, indeed, epiphanies about ritual, prayer and community -- which tie right into the author's admitted OCD -- and the comfort of believing in a God that cares. In the end, I was educated and entertained simultaneously -- a rare feat for a book. I began reading skeptically (what relevance do ancient rules really have to my life?) and ended up with a better understanding of why and how the Bible influences so many today.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell My Personal Information | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured