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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible | [A. J. Jacobs]

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

Our fearless author, A. J. Jacobs, tackles a new intellectual adventure, an exploration of the most influential book in the world: the Bible. He determined that the best way to explore the Bible was to live it, as literally as possible. For one year.
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Publisher's Summary

After his hilarious chronicle about reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z (actually a-ak to zyweic), our fearless author, A. J. Jacobs, tackles a new intellectual adventure, an exploration of the most influential book in the world: the Bible. He determined the best way to explore the Bible was to live it, as literally as possible. For one year.

There are 700 rules in the Old and New Testaments, A. J. discovered - some wise, some general, some contradictory. Some from Jesus, some from prophets, some from God. A. J. assembled a board of spiritual advisors: rabbis, ministers, and priests, some conservative, some of them "one four-letter word away from excommunication", who would provide guidance and advice throughout his journey. But the journey was, by necessity, arbitrary. DIY religion.

In The Year of Living Biblically, A. J. explores the Bible chronologically, from the Old Testament (crucial, given the 10 Commandments) to the New Testament (crucial, given America's powerful evangelical movement and its literal interpretation of the Bible) and lives the Bible on every level. He obeys the 10 Commandments, he is fruitful and multiplies (A. J.'s wife had twins during his year!); he remembers the Sabbath and keeps it holy. But he also obeys the oft-neglected rules, such as avoiding clothes of mixed fibers and refraining from shaving the edges of his beard (Leviticus 19:27). So, throughout the year, A. J. is commonly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. Or Moses.

This is a look at religion today through one man's totally arbitrary, deeply funny, journey. In A. J.'s hands, The Year of Living Biblically is also fascinating and irresistible.

©2007 A. J. Jacobs; (P)2007 Simon and Schuster Inc.

What the Critics Say

"[A] hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir." (Publishers Weekly)
"A.J. Jacobs has written a - how else to put it? - Good Book. Let me take my review from the original, Psalm 2, verse 4: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.'" (P. J. O'Rourke)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jonathan Westwood, NJ 12-04-07
    Jonathan Westwood, NJ 12-04-07
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    "Excellent... But tongue in cheek"

    You should be warned that this book is a cross between a documentary and a comedy... he does some pretty outlandish stuff. I would compare it to the "Super Size Me" movie, where there is a very real and relevant theme, but it is taken to the extreme for entertainment value.

    This story was funny, endearing and had no problem keeping my interest. I felt the author/narrator is extremely well-spoken (compared to the other audio books I have heard). The story had a good flow... although I felt the ending was slightly weak. I could relate to his and his wife's feelings and difficulties throughout.

    If you are looking for a very serious look at religion in contemporary society, this may not quite hit what you are looking for. If you are looking for an entertaining story about a secular guy who tries to learn about and incorporate select parts of the old testament into his life (often to the chagrin of his wife) and relate to its teachings, you'll like it. And if you are somebody like me who grew up secular and has tried to become more religious, you will definitely be able to relate.

    Some of the other reviewers complained about it not containing enough on Christianity. The book is focused only on the old testament (this is stated in the books online summary), and the author is jewish, so much more weight is definately given to the jewish view of old testament laws. He does have some christian advisors and devotes some, but not a majority, of time to christian perspectives and values... Just don't expect the whole book to be based on christianity or jesus' teachings.

    If you are looking for a funny and interesting piece on relating to the old testament, this book is fantastic. Just be clear what the book up front.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    10-30-07
    10-30-07 Listener Since 2007
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    "Educational and entertaining"

    The idea was a great one. The implementation was pretty good. The topics discussed were humorous and the writing was entertaining. I am not sure if this is abridged or unabridged but it seems like he left out a lot of the year. I understand he can't put EVERYTHING into the book, but I felt like I was missing something. Throughout the chapters I was entertained and wanting more and for it to build and hit a climax. It never really did, the ending was a little disappointing though interesting. I also felt he could have dealt more with the New testament. Though most of the "rules" are set in the old, he seemed to skim over the new saying he would deal with that in the last 4 months of the year, but it was a very short part of the book and I feel he could have learned even more by dealing with that part.

    Overall a good "read". I am not sure the author was the best choice for the audio, but I always like when it is the author who reads so I guess that is OK.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Trick Pittsburgh 04-18-08
    Michael Trick Pittsburgh 04-18-08 Member Since 2004

    Operations researcher

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    "Too short!"

    While the hook is "What happens if you try to follow all the rules in the bible", the author really is a man who want to be a better person (just like he wanted to be a smarter person in his previous book) who uses the bible as a guide. Note that the author begins relatively non-religious, and he does not really "find" religion, so this is not a devout handling of the material. The book is generally very funny, but is poignant in parts. It took a bit to get used to the author's reading (I had liked the reader on his first book), but he adds the right touches without feeling like he was acting the book.

    My only regret is that it is abridged: I enjoyed it enough that now I either have to get the book to see what I missed, or wait for an unabridged reading and go through it again.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Baker Amsterdam, Netherlands 10-06-09
    A. Baker Amsterdam, Netherlands 10-06-09 Member Since 2005

    Andy Baker

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    "It was a nice idea..."

    I got this book because it sounded like an interesting idea. Almost anything biblical interests me. However, the author's voice hits me like Sarah Vowell's voice hits some people. (I don't mind Sarah Vowell's voice.) Jacobs' voice got on my nerves. I stopped listening to it at about the 3/4 mark. He's got a very "this was very cute and clever of me" tone to his voice, which I started to hate. I don't know how his wife puts up with him. It's probably a better read than a listen. It is an interesting experiment.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kaeli Irving, TX, USA 01-13-08
    Kaeli Irving, TX, USA 01-13-08
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    "Really following the word of God..."

    The man who read the entire Encyclopedia Britinica in one year takes on another amusing task (thereby making me wonder, yet again, how his wife puts up with him). A. J. Jacobs uses a year of living as close to Biblically as possible as a way to examine his own agnosticism, the faith of the masses, and his everyday life. This book is funny, the writing is sharp and the plot leads to alot of introspection on the reader's part as well. It is interesting to consider some of the rules in the Bible, and to consider why we follow some and preach on them so heavily and yet ignore others. I do think Jacobs needs a little more information about the New Testament, but it's still a good overview.

    Since the author does the naration, you can be sure that everything is emphisized correctly. He is a great storyteller-both in print and out loud.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 12-04-07
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 12-04-07 Member Since 2004
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    "So-So"

    Not as amusing as I had hoped for, but I did learn some interesting biblical facts and interpretations that I wasn't aware of before.
    I realize the author was the reader and that distracted from it immmensely. Had we had a different reader I might have enjoyed it more. His voice totally annoyed me !

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Oklahoma City, OK, United States 10-14-07
    Carolyn Oklahoma City, OK, United States 10-14-07 Member Since 2007
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    "Thoughtful, humble and funny"

    I thought this book would be different when I bought it. Turns out--it was better than I expected. Although it was written with a generous dose of humor, it was, in fact, good humor. What could have been a lampoon of religion, turned out to be a sincere effort to understand the ancient text that captivates so many. The author relates a lot of honesty, humility and even tenderness in his experience. I was impressed by these things, and even inspired, at times. Tucked into this text is a lovely reminder that tolerance and acceptance of the beliefs of others is far nobler than derision. Thanks, A.J., I needed the gentle reminder! Perhaps you do too. You'll enjoy this book.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Calhoun, KY, United States 04-26-14
    Rebecca Calhoun, KY, United States 04-26-14 Member Since 2008

    I'm a PhD theatre student who loves not proofreading my reviews (sorry) because I have to do enough of that in school. :)

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    "Oh the Cleverness of Me - AJ Does the Bible"

    I have listened to a few of AJ Jacob's books now and this is yet another experiment of his that is a bit out there - which is what makes his books sell. Jacobs uses his life as his catalyst for his writing, which makes this a rather blog-like book. So it has a bit of a documentary type feel too it which is perfect for a long drive.

    I was going on a road trip with my parents and didn't think they'd exactly be into listening to Game of Thrones or my audible obsession with Molly Harper. I was not about to listen to a crime novel - my parents love them but they're just not my thing. As Christians who grew up with all these Bible stories I thought they'd get a kick out of Jacobs' attempt to live by God's rules set down on paper.

    My mother thoroughly enjoyed this, laughing out loud and my dad chuckled occasionally and found Jacobs amusing. This book was definitely a good choice. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a Jewish and/or Christian background because you'll get the jokes, and for anyone of any other religion you get the chance to see a guy put himself out there and follow some really ridiculous rules.

    As for the narration, I think it would have been better to have someone else read this. While it is about his life, so it makes sense for him to read it, Jacobs has an "oh the cleverness of me" tone to his voice that can get on your nerves. After a while you realize this guy is totally smitten with his ideas and thinks he's awesome. I'm all about self-confidence but listening to someone go one in that fashion for 6 hours can get to be a bit too much. We'd get around this if it were read by someone else.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHRIS Tavares, FL, United States 10-26-11
    CHRIS Tavares, FL, United States 10-26-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Its ABRIDGED! Buy the book if want the whole story"

    To all the reviewers complaining about the short shrift the New Testament gets, I say read the dead tree version for the full story. Overall worth one credit, but I could do with less talk about the author's OCD routines and issues.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris McMillon Dallas, Tx 01-30-08
    Chris McMillon Dallas, Tx 01-30-08 Member Since 2007
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    "A wonderful story"

    Both educational and fun, this story is pleasent to listen to and very addicting. Great to listen to in snippets.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 29 results PREVIOUS123NEXT
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  • LISA
    York, United Kingdom
    2/9/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Things you never knew"
    If you could sum up The Year of Living Biblically in three words, what would they be?

    Thought provoking, crazy, informative


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Year of Living Biblically?

    The fact that there is a rule for ultra Orthodox Jews about wearing mixed fibres!


    Any additional comments?

    Thought provoking and challenging, while maintaining humour

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • ganiyu
    manchester, United Kingdom
    11/3/12
    Overall
    "Fantastic."

    Fantastic book. Riveting.



    Full of wonderful insight and hilarious humour.

    Couldn't put it down.



    Well done A J JACOBS



    A British journalist is doing something similar.



    Look it up in the guardian:

    The Book of Rachel

    As a Christian, Rachel Held Evans was intrigued to find out what sort of advice the Bible could offer a wife in a modern relationship. So she decided to take its instructions to women 'hyper-literally' for a year. Interview by Hannah Booth

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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