The Year of Living Biblically
I have just finished reading this book and it was most definitely a page turner. I am no theologian or a biblical scholar. However I was drawn to this book due to my own recent (on-going) explorations with Christianity. This works out well since A. J. Jacobs is about as secular as they come. His previous work, The Know it All, was about reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Needless to say he finds pleasure in weird assignments along with his day job of writing at Esquire magazine. He undertakes the project after a discussion with his aunt, Orthodox Jew, about his ex-uncle Gil.
At first glance I thought this book would be a humorous look at the out-datedness of the Bible and its laws; and yes there are liberal amounts of humor sprinkled throughout this book, but I believe it is balanced with reflection and insight from the author. As he follows the laws of the Bible he reflects on why they are there and also looks for help finding out. AJ spends a lot of time researching and does his best to take this project seriously, including having spiritual advisors, who range from retired pastors to Hasidic rabbis and one eccentric “ex-uncle” living in Jerusalem and a whole multitude in between. He comes into plenty of problems trying to follow the laws literally. Being a New Yorker he is not in the most religious of places, certainly not the Bible-belt buckle we are used to. He has plenty of excursions to visit holy places and churches/temples and even a trip to the Creationist Museum, yes there is one.
AJ’s journey is inspiring and thought provoking. He borders on a truly spiritual experience at various points throughout the book but manages to restrain himself. It is worth a read to see all of the conflicts that arise with his wife and son as well as the secular world that seems to be working against him, constantly tempting him to fail at his year long mission. In the end though he is able to make it through and finishes with some very strong insights from his year spent living Biblically.