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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the Outside In
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...
Published on April 7 2008 by Peter Cantelon

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure about this one...
I really enjoyed learning more about the Bible through this book. It will definitely open your eyes to interesting and obscure facts and rules that aren't commonly known. However, I didn't really appreciate the narration... I found myself getting really irritated by the authors infinite references to his career and other book, which made this book a little hard to finish...
Published on Jan. 25 2009 by A. Saini


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the Outside In, April 7 2008
By 
Peter Cantelon (Morden, Manitoba, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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.

Aside from the insights Jacobs' journey is incredibly humourous and at times quite poignant as well (the impact on his wife and family plays a major role). His openess and honesty are disarming and refreshing and his writing style is very approachable and easy to slip into. I won't tell you what the impact this experience had on Jacobs except to say it was definitely a perspective changer.

This book is a great read and will spark many a lively discussion (good book club material). I highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a gimmcky read, Jan. 7 2008
By 
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & Insightful, Jan. 13 2009
By 
Sheri S. (Montreal, Quebec) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Humorous, a Great Read!, June 23 2008
By 
S. L. Biron "Sam" (Chelsea, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rules are made to be broken, Dec 29 2007
AJ has written a remarkable book that transforms himself and the reader into a diverse perspective of strict religious life in a secular world of New York City. Similar to John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me,The Year of Living Biblically doesn't just observe a culture that he isn't part of but fully becomes part of that culture. The modern day saying, rules are made to be broken, don't apply here.

The Year of Living Biblically is written in a wonderful humours and intelligent style. Working on a subject that could have many cheap shots, AJ shows the read that he is a much better person and writer then that. Practicing biblical laws in today's world can be a difficult thing to do. Some are so bizarre one has to ask; 'What were they think of?' AJ and his panel of advisor's make a good case for their original uses and why they're practiced by many today.
The hard liner fundamentalist and atheist maybe disappointed in The Year of Living Biblically. There is no silver bullet for either side. Not to give the book away, but for me the open-minded person will come away with a stronger understanding of an ancient mind set and how and why it was applied their religion.

The reader may also come away with some new habits. I now put my right shoe on then my left, then tie my left then my right shoe. Read the book to find out why.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trying almost everything in the Bible at least once, Dec 6 2008
By 
Brian Griffith (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Paperback)
This is a social experiment I wouldn't impose as punishment on criminals, but Jacobs makes it both illuminating and entertaining. How far can he take Bible literalism for a whole year? He tries to avoid discriminating in which traditions he will observe. Some hundreds of injunctions, like the one about taking eggs from under mother birds without hurting the mother, can be done once and crossed off, like a list of things to be done within 365 days. Other commands won't go away, like observing "Thou shalt not lie", when his wife keeps asking "What are you thinking?".

As I feared, Jacob's juggling act gets complicated. He notes, "In Judaism, the biblical laws that come without explanation -- and there are many -- are called 'chukim'". There's also a Hebrew term 'Chasid Shote', meaning a righteous idiot like the guy who avoided helping a drowning woman lest he break the ban on touching her.

Along the way, Jacobs searches out fellow literalists. He invites the Jehovah Witnesses to his house to learn they don't believe in the Trinity or Hell, since they claim those doctrines arn't properly in the book. He learns of Jews who want to bring back polygamy, and a gay pastor whose pamphlet titled "What Jesus Said about Homosexuality" opens to a completely blank page. He finds there's a group called "Jubilee USA", which seeks to apply Old Testament laws about forgiving debt in the Jubilee year to the problem of odious debt in Africa. In his personal quest for literalism, Jacobs finds that the line "Love ... keeps no record of wrongs" forces him to delete a computer record of incorrect statements made by his wife.

Anyway, it's a surprising trip, and Jacobs is certainly changed. He emerges from his year more grateful for life and more funny than ever. This is a well-conceived, delimited experiment in religious practice, that's well reported, and highly productive of workaday insights.

--author of Correcting Jesus
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute Awesome Read!!, Oct. 8 2008
By 
Heather Eby (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Paperback)
I love this book! Everytime I picked this book up I laughed and laughed! There were times where I was reading with my husband beside me and I just had to share what A.J. had written. Then we both had a giggle together!

I kept my Bible close by while reading this book. I thought it was neat how A.J. was pointing out all these little things that are in my own Bible and actually doing them! That took a lot of courage because now-a-days people will scoff at you for the smallest things. So even growing that beard the way he did deserves a big round of applause! I know what he's talking about with the stack of books. I myself have a slight fetish for Religous literature. It never ends! Everyone has an opinion and I'm glad A.J. did not hold back (Most of the time...poor chicken! hehe)when it came time to explore the text into real life.

If you like this book and would like to learn more about the Bible, I personally found The Idiots Guide to The Bible a great read!

I would like to finish by saying, A.J. Jacobs, You are My Hero! I hope you continue on with your quest and I would love to see you take more Religous books and live them out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny & Informative, July 8 2008
By 
H. Arendt "avid online shopper" (Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed my time reading this book. Some books have great steam and then lose it midway through. This one kept it up til the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HIghly Recommended, Aug. 17 2010
By 
S. Jager - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Paperback)
This book, without a doubt, delivers exactly what you're looking for when purchasing a memoir from a humourist. There is absolutely nothing lacking...except more pages.
I've read all books available from Mr. Jacobs. This was my first, then I read The Know-It-All (which, by the way, is a home-run as well).
When reading this, you feel as though you are becoming personally acquainted with him, from the minutia of everyday life to the more grand and wider scoping ideas and musings we normally save for our nearest and dearest. I'm not one who is radically interested in celebrities of any sort beit singer, actor, writer, artist - but if I saw AJ Jacobs out and about (which would be unlikely since I live in Northwestern Ontario), I would immediately ask him where his wife Julie is and could she join me for dinner...I feel like I've got my fill of him through his book(s) but with his wife who is more than a secondary character...she's the backbeat of it all...I feel like I want to know her because she'd be as entertaining as hell (just like her hubby).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting -- but more sociological than spiritual, Oct. 17 2008
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (Paperback)
So you've devoted an entire year to reading the Encyclopedia Britannica in its entirety and writing about the experience. What do you do for an encore? Sticking with the book theme, it seems almost natural to turn your attention to the most important book ever written. So it is that A.J. Jacob devotes another full year of his life to the Bible - not only does he set out to read the Good Book, he makes plans to follow its teachings as literally as possible. Raised in a secular Jewish family, he is curious to know if his year of living biblically will change him into a religious person. In my opinion, however, what he describes in this book is an intellectual journey, not a spiritual one.

Jacobs goes all out, trying to follow even the most obscure laws and prescriptions he can find in the Bible. It's a lot more work than just following the Ten Commandments. He chooses to follow the Old Testament for the first eight months, then devote the last four months to the New Testament. Apart from his own reading and research, he calls upon a number of different religious figures to help him understand all of the teachings and rituals. He grows a beard, takes to wearing white clothes consisting of no mixed fibers, blows a ram's horn at the start of each month, attaches fringes to his garments, paints words of scripture around his door frame, performs many more little rituals that have no real significance for him at all, etc. It causes many a hardship to him and his family (a wife, a two-year-old son, and as the months pass, a set of twins on the way) - especially his long-suffering wife (being treated as unclean the week following Aunt Flo's monthly visit is not too popular with the women these days, for example). Over the course of the year, he has a number of unique experiences, travels to Israel, and seeks out guidance from both liberal and conservative followers of Judaism and Christianity. He learns a lot about himself in the process, but the key question is whether or not he will emerge from this grand experiment a changed man.

Inevitably, one's views of this book will greatly depend upon one's own religious beliefs. Atheists and agnostics will probably delight in all of the crazy Old Testament instructions he follows, while Jews and Christians will have their own interpretations, running the gamut from liberalism to fundamentalism. As a fundamentalist Southern Baptist (one religious affiliation Jacobs did not consult), it bothers me that Jacobs and many other individuals paint religious conservatism with such a wide brush of pre-judgment. We're not monsters; we just happen to interpret the Bible literally rather than picking and choosing the things we find convenient for our lifestyles and habits. We're slandered for believing we alone are right in our beliefs, yet that faith is what defines us. I don't believe Jacobs was completely open-minded in his approach, having to some degree prejudged Christian fundamentalists from the start.

From my perspective, if Jacobs really wanted to find God, he went about it exactly the wrong way. He can follow every rule he finds in the Bible, but it avails him nothing in the end because he never really seeks a personal connection with God, even in his approach to prayer. That is why I do not consider his journey to be a spiritual one at all. Jacobs doesn't even attend church on a weekly basis, although he does spend time with a number of different religious groups and leaders. Furthermore, his four months spent following the New Testament are nowhere near as intensive as the eight months he spent immersed in the Old Testament. In modern terms, Jesus makes little more than a cameo appearance in these pages, and the heart of the Gospel message itself is rather neglected.

The Year of Living Biblically is certainly interesting and entertaining, but I do not consider it very enlightening. Jacobs does gain some understanding of the religious experiences and beliefs of several groups of believers (some of which surprise him), but he never makes an effort to approach God in a personal, soul-searching way. Instead, he adopts this technical image of a Biblical lifestyle, a decidedly outward approach, and periodically wonders if it is working any changes in his internal, spiritual life. On the whole, I find the whole thing little more than a sociology project, dealing primarily with the reactions of friends, family, and strangers to his project and, in turn, his reactions to their reactions. Jacobs learns a lot about himself over the course of the year, but I do not think he succeeded in finding anything remotely profound.
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