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

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
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's review
Aug 04, 2009

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bookshelves: book-club, biography-memoir, non-fiction, 2009
Read in August, 2009

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 cannot admit exists, or at least add an element of spirituality to an otherwise secular life.

It's difficult to take Jacobs' approach with any seriousness -- after all, the changes he makes are temporary and ultimately superficial, because at the bottom of it, all that effort is to serve the writing of another pseudo-memoir that hopefully becomes another NYT bestseller. Let's face it -- this is a bit of an ego trip in a quest for fame that's hardly genuinely holy (and to his credit, I think Jacobs realizes this).

In spite of it all, Jacobs' heart is in the right place and after living his biblical year with gusto, he actually emerges from the experience changed for the better. Not fundamentalist changed (thank God, cause we need another one of those like we need a hole in the head) but a little more thoughtful, patient and thankful for the little things. That's a kind of spirituality I can relate and aspire to.

Jacobs' experiment reminded me that the Bible remains a bedtime story for me -- an interesting, bemusing, text that's caused the world as much grief as it has provided humans comfort. The problem with the Bible is that its messages are too easily twisted to support evil agendas, promote intolerance, and justify cruelty. I'm not a practicing anything and live a pretty much secular life. I think organized religion is fraught with risk and does little to nurture genuine faith and spirituality. But I do long for a more spiritual existence and I imagine to have real belief in a higher power must be very comforting indeed.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Betsy (new) - added it

Betsy Boo Thanks Trudi...I have this on my to-read list and it's nice to have a review. I'm also currently on a quest to read the Old Testament all the way through, precisely because of the twisting of scripture "to support evil agendas, promote intolerance and justify cruelty." I guess I thought if I experience it first hand I can make up my own mind. I'm finding it very disheartening, though. I much prefer the NT, to be honest. It's far more in line with my view of God.

Trudi I'm with you Betsy, the NT is far more in line with how I like to live my life, but of course, that too has been used for nefarious purposes. I sometimes think if Jesus had his way, he'd be smacking more than a few people upside the head with: "That's not what I meant, you moron!" :-D

message 3: by Betsy (new) - added it

Betsy Boo LOL!!!

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