I picked up The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs because I read two positive reviews of it — raych at books i done read and Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf — and because I am always up for a good memoir/creative nonfiction piece. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed by the book and can recommend it as well.
Jacobs describes the premise of his book as this:
My quest has been this: to live the ultimate biblical life. Or more precisely, to follow the Bible as literally as possible.
To complete this task, Jacobs takes on the more well-known biblical requirements (be truthful, honor your parents) as well as things that most people have never heard of (bind money to your hand or not touch a woman within seven days of her menstrual cycle) and tries to follow them as literally as he can for the year. In many cases he consults a spiritual council to get their interpretations of his actions and get a better handle on what he is trying to do.
I was a little nervous starting this book because I was afraid it would turn into a mockery of Evangelicals or even religion as a whole. However, Jacobs does a good job of balancing his incredulousness at some of the rules and, rather than just dismissing them outright, trying to find an explanation for why the passage was written or interpreted as we now know it. In that sense, I think Jacobs does a good job of taking his quest seriously and writing in a way that points out the inconsistencies in literal interpretation of the Bible without mocking those who practice religion in that way. It’s a hard line to walk, and I admire how well Jacobs manages to balance.
My favorite minor part of the book is the character of Jacobs’ wife, Julie. Jacobs portrays her as both supportive and frustrated with his life-altering assignment, which makes her more complicated. I also like the way she challenges him — during her period, Jacobs makes a big deal about not sitting in a kitchen chair after Julie has because of a mandate related to women and their menstrual cycles. Julie responds to what she deems idiotic by sitting in every chair in their house while Jacobs is out for the afternoon. Genius.
- A.J. Jacobs personal website, www.ajjacobs.com
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!