Title: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Release Date: September 9, 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In an attempt to understand faith as a nonreligious person, A.J. Jacobs decides to live by every rule in the Bible for one year. He follows the rules we know: the Ten Commandments, but also the more obscure, such as not mixing clothing fibers and playing the harp. He chronicles his experiences in this memoir.
I’m not usually a huge fan of stunt memoirs, or memoirs in which people do strange or unique things for the explicit purpose of writing a memoir about them. A.J. Jacobs is a stunt memoirist, yet I’ve found that not only do his antics not bother me, but I actually quite enjoyed the one book I’ve read of his so far. Perhaps its his incredible honesty or his humorous writing style; either way, I was eager to delve into The Year of Living Biblically.
Jacobs chooses his quest in A Year of Living Biblically in an effort to more fully understand religion, and I’ll admit, at the beginning that sounded silly to me. But as I read the book, I found that Jacobs really was experiencing something profound. Not only was he cultivating a new outlook on religion, with more patience for rituals, but he also was developing a faith of his own. It’s incredibly interesting to read about his personal journey over the course of this book.
As you can imagine, parts of The Year of Living Biblically are very, very funny, such as when Jacobs finds he has to stone an adulterer. There are some classic scenes in this book that will have readers thoroughly amused. Jacobs does an excellent job combining humor, introspection, narrative, and research into various religions and rituals, and what’s more, he balances the story incredibly well. He provides a personal connection, while also ensuring the reader is learning something and is invested in the story, all with a laugh to go along with it. What more could you want in a read?
Despite the stunt nature of The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs is actually very respectful of religion. If you’re easily offended, you may find Jacobs’ nonchalance off-putting, but I found it incredibly refreshing. Jacobs was honest with the reader about what he felt, but he tried to keep an open mind and was willing to learn. The most interesting part of the memoir, though, is Jacobs’ commentary and end conviction that it is almost impossible to actually follow the Bible literally. It’s a great read, and if you enjoy memoirs, you should definitely give it a chance.
Other books by A.J. Jacobs: