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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  46,814 Ratings  ·  4,786 Reviews
From the bestselling author of "The Know-It-All" comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. ...more
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2007)
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Kipley Wentz I wondered the same thing, but I just finished reading it and the author does not mock religion, though one could get that impression from the cover…moreI wondered the same thing, but I just finished reading it and the author does not mock religion, though one could get that impression from the cover photo. It's not like, "Look how silly these religious people are, following these dumb rules!" He does his best for one year to follow the laws, commandments, and advice in the Bible. Sometimes he feels silly and is skeptical, but also discovers unexpected joy, peace, and understanding through the rituals he follows. It is not mean-spirited nor intended to ridicule.(less)
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
63rd out of 3,933 books — 5,807 voters
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. JacobsThe Happiness Project by Gretchen RubinAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertJulie and Julia by Julie Powell
A Year in the Life
1st out of 144 books — 264 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Carl
Nov 09, 2007 Carl rated it did not like it
Ask yourself: "Would it be fun to literally follow the bible for one year?" If, like most people I know, would answer no, then run away from this book as fast as you can. I got about 200 pages in when I realized, I can't fucking stand this guy, and his story is getting old quickly.

Here's the problem: There are so many retarded things the bible says you should and shouldn't do. Take, for example, do not lie, thou shalt not lie, or however they fucking say it in there. You could write a long enter
...more
Lisa Nelson
Dec 27, 2010 Lisa Nelson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Lisa by: Michelle
Shelves: non-fiction
(4 1/2 Stars)
First, To: A.J. if you have Googled yourself thank you for such an interesting and wonderful read! I loved your honesty.
To: A.J.'s Dad you can click that you liked this review.
To everyone else: There were some highlights from this book that I would love to share. I love being able to have a record of what I've read and what I thought about a book, you probably hate getting so many e-mail updates on what I've read so delete if you must. I definitely shared too much on this one, now y
...more
Sparrow
Jun 12, 2009 Sparrow rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sparrow by: Heather Persinger
It seems very authentically Jewish to write smart and funny social commentary about exploring spirituality through following obscure rules. I don’t know if such a thing as being “authentically Jewish” exists (versus everyone who is inauthentically Jewish, right?), and I hope I don’t offend by that phrase, but what I’m saying is that I don’t think Moses and Isaiah and all the boys would kick A.J. Jacobs out of their club. In fact, I think Jacobs comes closer to meaningful Bible commentary than an ...more
Patrick Oden
Sep 04, 2007 Patrick Oden rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Bible
Shelves: nonfiction, fun, religion
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried." In this book, A.J. Jacobs not only tries Christianity, he tries out the whole Bible, both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.

He does indeed find it difficult. But he doesn't find it wanting. In fact his year long quest to follow all of the commands of the Bible results in a most delightful and insightful read.

It is delightful because Jacobs is such an engaging writer.
...more
Dave
Nov 29, 2007 Dave rated it it was ok
The concept of "The Year of Living Biblically" is this: the author would forgo his secular lifestyle for a year and embrace the Bible and its teachings as literally as possible.

"The Year of Living Biblically" didn't have the same success as his other works. Jacobs, who is known for immersing himself in a project for a year and then writing about it, was warned by family that maybe this wasn't the best concept for a follow-up to his popular "Know-It-All" book, and they may have been right.

Jacob
...more
Jordan
May 08, 2008 Jordan rated it it was ok
The Year of Living Biblically starts out pretty fine: I chuckled; I was interested to find out what would come of it all. Halfway through, however, I'd pretty much had enough. Jacobs is a little too smug (though he puts on the requisite veil of "Oh, God! I'm so bad at this religion thing!"), he doesn't portray his wife or son too nicely (she comes off as a humorless snot, though she's probably lovely in real life; son Jasper sounds like a brat), and it's annoying how little Jacobs thinks of my m ...more
Kristopher Jansma
Mar 30, 2008 Kristopher Jansma rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookblog
My fiancee has been bugging me for months to read this book and I am oh-so-glad that I finally did. Her enthusiasm for it was unflagging - she brought home an advanced reader's copy from work as soon as she heard it was in the works. She then bought at least two more copies for friends during the holidays - bought them, even though she works for the publisher and could have probably finagled a pair of free ones. But I kept hesitating, despite her praise. For one thing, it's non-fiction, which I ...more
Petar X
This is what I call a snork book. So funny in parts that if you are drinking coffee, its going to come spluttering out of your nose. AJ Jacobs is a secular Jew (me too) and spends two thirds of this book researching biblical law and trying to live it. The last third addresses the New Testament in the same way. Living biblically for AJ means dressing in white robes, growing a ZZ Top beard and trying to literally fulfil each commandment even if terribly embarrassing. Like buying the guy behind him ...more
John
Aug 26, 2008 John rated it did not like it
It's mean of me to say so, because it's clear that writing it was a rather significant spiritual experience for Jacobs, but this book is just silly. It's meant to be entertaining-yet-thought-provoking, but I only found it mildly entertaining, and not at all thought-provoking. I actually found his wife funnier than him. My favorite part by far was when she was temporarily "unclean" and it annoyed her to be thought of that way, so in revenge she sat on all the furniture so that A.J. would have no ...more
Abby
Aug 12, 2008 Abby rated it it was amazing
I really, really liked this book! A.J. Jacobs is now one of my favorite guys. He writes for Esquire magazine. I don't even know for sure what that magazine is about (I think it's a men's magazine), but it makes me want to read it anyways.

So, when he's not writing for Esquire, he writes books. This is one of them. It's about his quest to live all the laws of the bible the best he can, for a full year. Not just things like "Love thy neighbor", but also the stranger laws- blow a horn at the start o
...more
Danna
Mar 22, 2008 Danna rated it it was ok
I found the book to be less about an exploration of the Bible and biblical religions, more about: "I'm OCD and here's my latest obsession!" I did appreciate that the author mentioned this directly on page 148, and the book was quirky and interesting enough that I stuck with it until the end.

The bit that stuck with me the most wasn't one of the oddities, like binding money to your hand or not sitting on a chair that was recently sat upon by a menstruating woman, but rather an omission. In their s
...more
La Petite Américaine
This book would have been a lot better had it been written by someone more capable and less smug. The premise itself is fascinating -- living the bible literally -- as are the religious groups that the author decided to interview, including snake handlers, the Amish, right-wing Christians, and Samaritans, to name a few. However, his "whoooa, I'm so secular, wow, look at all these religious people, whooooa" attitude made it nothing more than a half-baked project written under a deadline, sloppily ...more
Bobby
May 27, 2013 Bobby rated it liked it
What would happen to the man who really tried to put others before himself? Love his enemies? Turn the other cheek? Give to all who asked- no strings attached?

I'd like to read that man's memoirs.

But unfortunately, at the end of his hilariously pedantic year-long tour of the Bible, Jacobs manages to have covered none of these. (Loving your neighbor as yourself is mentioned only in the last chapter- when he says it is in fact impossible.)

One must wonder at the man who can spend a year in intense s
...more
Michael
A.J. Jacobs is a journalist and editor of Esquire magazine, who has some really interesting ideas for memoirs. I first heard about Jacobs by a friend who read his book; The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. While I’m yet to read this book (but I will) I decided to read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.

The b
...more
M
Nov 03, 2007 M rated it it was amazing
Ok, I did NOT think I would like this book, and I certainly didn't think it would get five stars - and I grappled with that, as usual, but felt like I can't not give five stars to a book I loved this much just because I'm a snob (I try to apply the same to my students' papers, sadly I am not as effective there).
First, I gotta say, what a painless way to read nonfiction! This is basically Dave Barry does Bible - Jacobs is sharp witted, funny and has fantastic lines - and his breadth of biblical
...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
A secular writer (for Esquire, he'll tell you at least 100+ times!) decides to live by the bible literally for a year, and write about the challenges of doing so.

Hits:
- In his effort to try to get a fair representation of the bible, he tries several different interpretations/variations of the bible. This in itself is challenging, as there are thousands of variations available - KJV, NIV, NAB, GNB, GWT, and so on. He is sent a copy of a "hip hop" version. (!!!) "The Lord is all that." vs. "The L
...more
Diane
Dec 09, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
Don't let the subject of this book scare you into thinking it's preachy or self-righteous or filled with sermonizing. It is actually a very funny and open-minded book about the Bible and how following it to a literal extreme is well, just plain silly.

A.J. Jacobs has a wonderful sense of humor throughout his year-long project, but I felt bad for his wife, Julie, who had to put up with all kinds of ridiculous rules and projects. (At one point, he built a yurt in his living room to get a feel for w
...more
❀Aimee❀ Just one more page...
For a guy who doesn't consider himself religious, he has quite a journey trying to live Biblically. I was worried it would be really sacrilegious, but it wasn't. AJ himself gets more out of the experience than he anticipated. He has a lot of deep musings as well as hilarity.
Megan
Oct 18, 2008 Megan rated it liked it
This book follows the author, A.J. Jacobs, on a year-long quest to follow every single rule in the Bible, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament.

I read this book in the large-print version from my library. It was a big hit with my friends, who saw it sitting on my dining room table and wanted to know everything about it. For some reason, the concept really seems to fascinate people (or maybe just the weird people I hang out with). Luckily, A.J. Jacobs gave me enough funny stories to ente
...more
Lara
Mar 23, 2009 Lara rated it it was amazing
I REALLY enjoyed this book. For starters, I love people who do ridiculous, over-the-top things, so I figured I was pretty much destined to adore the author. (I now really need to read his first book, involving him reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica.) In this book (as the title indicates), Jacobs attempts to follow the Bible as literally as possible for a full year.

One of my friends told me he found this book a little contrived - but I disagree. At the very beginning, Jacobs admits that
...more
JJVid
Mar 15, 2013 JJVid rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
"It is through being in Christ and following Him that we become transformed. Unless one takes this step, one cannot be truly transformed. So, after your year is over, you will go back to being a man who find purpose in weird projects and writing assignments. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is much more rewarding." This is an e-mail sent to A. J. Jacobs by 'a conservative evangelical Christian' which I think aptly sums up this book. Unless he accepts the Biblical stories as valid and honest a ...more
Evan
Jan 26, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it
Given to me by my wife on Christmas (and, incidentally, eaten by my dog exactly one month later), The Year Of Living Biblically was written by A.J. Jacobs, an editor of Esquire magazine. Jacobs’ previous book (The Know-It-All) entailed reading the encyclopedia in its entirety. To find a gimmick for his next project, Jacobs turned to an even more popular volume: The Bible.

Jacobs spends a year attempting to follow all the Old Testament’s instructions as literally as possible, in ways both expected
...more
Linda
May 26, 2008 Linda rated it liked it
Recommended to Linda by: NPR- religion podcast
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim
I really thought I'd enjoy this book far more than I did. The premise is great but the actual results just didn't live up to my expectations.

A.J. Jacobs states, numerous times, that he is an atheist. As an atheist myself his attitude and actions throughout the book don't hold that up. He is actively trying to find God which means that to some extent he does believe God exists and I find it a little jarring.

Although there are some humourous parts of this book overall I didn't find it that funny.
...more
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
I read this book a year or two ago and really enjoyed it. As someone who has many many orthodox Jewish friends, I liked the seeing A.J. Jacobs try to live basically as they do. It was an interesting book, that's for sure. I have a weakness for books like this!
John Wiswell
Feb 26, 2016 John Wiswell rated it really liked it
A.J. Jacobs delivers another fun bathroom book. After Know-It-All, where Jacobs tried to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year, here he spends a year studying The Bible and trying to live it as literally as possible. His clipped, self-deprecating style persists, and so do the extremely short chapters, inviting you into deep topics for very brief periods of time. The best part of the book is Jacobs's balance of his latest life-gimmick and his wife's conception of twins, because all th ...more
Trudi
Okay, I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It was amusing in parts and Jacobs has a delightfully quirky writing style that kept me engaged and reading. He's a bit of a geek -- who suffers from mild OCD -- but he's also an all-around "nice Jewish boy" doing his best to be a good husband and father. Hence, his dubious ambition to live biblically for a year -- the logic being perhaps living a literal interpretation of the Bible will make him a better person, bring him closer to a God that he ca ...more
Carrie
May 02, 2008 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carrie by: NYT
I loved this book. It was on the NYT bestseller list and I was intrigued. The NYC library system has 115 copies and it took me 4 months on the waiting list to get it. It was so worth the wait.

The author decides to live the bible a literally as possible for a whole year. Side note he has an amazing wife to put up with this for a year during which she is pregnant with twins.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"You just have to tell them that you have a hunger and a thirst. and you man not sit at t
...more
Scott Franklin
Jul 07, 2008 Scott Franklin rated it really liked it
I am not even sure how I was turned on to this little book but late this past fall, I added it to my reading list and was fortunate enough to receive it from my parents as a Christmas gift. I love that I usually have time over the holidays to make it completely through a book.

Summary: The book is basically a journal through A.J. Jacobs’ religious experiment to obey the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, as literally as possible. Those familiar with the Scriptures realize that there are a great
...more
Skylar Burris
Jul 04, 2009 Skylar Burris rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity, judaism
This book was amusing, although it occasionally inspired eye-rolls as the author’s literal interpretations of Scripture sometimes defied the Biblical context and both Jewish and Christian tradition (even orthodox and fundamentalist traditions). The author’s attempts to draw a list of commands and advice from the Bible and to follow it literarily is at times comical, and it ends up highlighting the importance of following Scripture in the context of a tradition and a fellowship of like believers. ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Year of Living Biblically by A J Jacobs 1 6 Dec 23, 2015 06:25PM  
Topeka & Shawnee ...: January 2013 - The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs 3 29 Jan 03, 2013 02:31PM  
OP Book Club: #book 1 1 7 Jan 23, 2012 01:44PM  
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A.J. Jacobs is a New York Times bestselling author, Esquire editor and human guinea pig.

Among Jacobs’ life experiments:
--The Know-It-All. The bestselling memoir of the year he spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a quest to become the smartest person in the world.
--The Year of Living Biblically. The bestseller about his life as the ultimate biblical man. He followed every rule of th
...more
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“My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it'll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It's like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.” 429 likes
“. . . my obsession with gratefulness. I can't stop. Just now, I press the elevator button and am thankful that it arrives quickly. I get onto the elevator and am thankful that the elevator cable didn't snap and plummet me to the basement. I go to the fifth floor and am thankful that I didn't have to stop on the second or third or fourth floor. I get out and am thankful that Julie left the door unlocked so I don't have to rummage for my King Kong key ring. I walk in, and am thnkful that Jasper is home and healthy and stuffing his face with pineapple wedges. And on and on. I'm actually muttering to myself, 'Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.' It's an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I've never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.” 43 likes
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