From Publishers Weekly
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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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