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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 9 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Oct. 9 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743291476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743291477
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.8 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #143,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs (The Know-It-All). He didn't just keep the Bible's better-known moral laws (being honest, tithing to charity and trying to curb his lust), but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day. (He considered some rules, such as killing magicians, too legally questionable to uphold.) In his attempts at living the Bible to the letter, Jacobs hits the road in highly entertaining fashion to meet other literalists, including Samaritans in Israel, snake handlers in Appalachia, Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., and biblical creationists in Kentucky. Throughout his journey, Jacobs comes across as a generous and thoughtful (and, yes, slightly neurotic) participant observer, lacing his story with absurdly funny cultural commentary as well as nuanced insights into the impossible task of biblical literalism. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Jacobs does projects, not just books. For The Know-It-All (2004), he read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. For the follow-up, he tried for a year to observe the Bible's 700-odd rules for righteous behavior. He let his beard grow, wore only garments made of unmixed fibers, prayed regularly, essayed biblical disciplining (short of the physical) of his two-year-old son, and practiced the purity laws: no sex for awhile after his wife menstruated; no shaking hands; lots of washing; not eating this and eating that; et cetera ad infinitum, it seems. Informally counseled throughout by a clatch of Jewish and Christian advisors, he also queried members of such strict sects as the Amish, the Samaritans, and snake-handling Pentecostals. He maintained his staff-writer chores at Esquire and his domestic responsibilities, and he became the father of twins during the long experiment, which he reports in a continuum of journal-like summaries. If he starts out sounding like an interminable Ira Glass monologue, smarmy and name-dropping, he becomes much less off-putting as the year progresses, for he develops a serious conscience about such quotidian failings as self-centeredness, lying, swearing, and disparaging others. He may not be, he may never become, a moral giant, but he certainly seems to be a nicer guy. Olson, Ray

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cantelon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 7 2008
Format: Hardcover
The book is Jacobs' journal of his attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible. He documented more than 700 rules in the Hebrew and Christian bible. As a pastor you can imagine why I needed to read this. Jacobs starts his Biblical journey (as I started mine as reader) as a bit of a skeptic. He describes himself as a secular Jew but says "...I'm Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." A self-described agnostic - religion, the Bible and God had not taken up a lot of thought room in his life up to this point.

Jacob's research is very well done. He does not simply read the Bible but draws upon over a hundred Jewish and Christian resources as well as creating and regularly seeking the counsel of a spiritual advisory board made up of conservative and liberal rabbis, mainline and evangelical pastors. His bibliogrpahy is neither staunchly left or right but a mix of both and the middle. I especially appreciated a referance to Dennis Covington's fantastic book Salvation on Sand Mountain (which I have also read) and Jacobs' own visit to Appalachia. He also variously speaks to Tony Campolo, Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), an Amish innkeeper, as well as visits Jerry Falwell's church, and several Bible study groups that cover the spectrum from conservative to liberal, etc. You get the idea.

The insights that Jacobs has into religion, the Bible, God and believers in general are quite incredible. Many of them are very affirming for me as a pastor and a Christ follower. As a believer, one cannot, no matter how hard one tries, fully put themselves into the shoes of a non-believer and see what they see or understand as they understand so the book does a great service in this sense.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Len TOP 100 REVIEWER on Jan. 7 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title would lend one to believe the intention of the author was to make fun of fundamental Christians and Jews. In point of fact, this is an honest attempt by Mr. Jacobs to live not only in accord with a literal interpretation of the bible but also an attempt to follow its more general principals. He honestly begins his quest with the idea of gaining a better understanding of those who follow a literal interpretation of their religion and with that, through a process of "cognitive dissonance," become a better person himself. He spends most of the year wearing white, never trimming his beard, praying, avoiding clothing that combines the fabrics wool and linen, writing the commandments on the frame of his apartment door, visiting and accepting advice from leaders of both the fundamentalist and liberal churches. He even visits his "crazy" Uncle Gil living in Israel who he meets next to the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews in Jerusalem, a place where his uncle likes to go and pray at 3:00 in the morning. The book is filled with humour and insights and one, I was surprised to have finished. I was sure it would be one of those gimmicky books that I "get" within the first two or three chapters. Here, there is nothing to "get" only the attempt by Mr. Jacobs to get in touch with his Jewish religion and gain a greater understanding of the Christian one. Well worth the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sheri S. on Jan. 13 2009
Format: Paperback
A.J. Jacobs set out to follow the Bible's words, as literally as possible, for an entire year. As ambitious of a task as this seems, it is not entirely uncharacteristic of Jacobs, given his previous book, "The Know-It-All", which documents his reading of the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. With the guidance of Rabbis, Priests, professors and friends, Jacobs sets out on his quest and ends up learning a lot about himself along the way. He explores a number of religious sects and groups, including Chassidic Jews, Red Letter Christians, the Amish and even a trip to Israel to visit the Samaritans.

When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect but I was intrigued by the concept and I had to find out more. From the start, I found this book incredibly interesting and really easy to read, despite it being a work of non-fiction. Jacobs has a witty and fun way with words which kept me amused and informed at the same time. His anecdotes are always humorous and in keeping with important themes that he discusses in the book.

Jacobs does a great job of addressing misconceptions found in the Bible and lending explanations to the seemingly bizarre commandments that are seldom understood or even contemplated. While it is difficult to remain completely objective when exploring topics like religion, Jacobs approaches each experience with an open mind and an open heart with just the right amount of inevitable skepticism.

"The Year of Living Biblically" is very funny and yet simultaneously insightful. Because Jacobs gained a great deal from this quest, readers will too. I really appreciated the respectful way he addressed the laws of the Bible and tried to show their greater purpose and meaning.

This book is required reading for anyone, no matter what your beliefs, there is something each and every person can learn from this thought-provoking book.

[...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. L. Biron on June 23 2008
Format: Hardcover
Having grown up in and left a very fundamentalist church 10 years ago, I was naturally curious about A.J.'s project. I caught site of the book on the fly at the bookstore with no knowledge of A.J. or his writing before. Not only has his book proven to be very entertaining, it is at once thought provoking as it is humorous. Worthy of mention, his wife seems very patient during what was undoubtedly at times a trying year for her. This is one book where I'm definitely going to miss this very candid and humble writer who I looked forward to reading every night before bed. A.J. if you're still checking reviews, I have another 5 readers lined up for you and am looking forward to your next book...
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