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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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  •  
    P. Boughan Washington, DC USA 06-04-12
    P. Boughan Washington, DC USA 06-04-12
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    "Interesting and sincere take on the bible"

    As a former Catholic now atheist coming to terms with my new world view I'm trying to understand the viewpoints that are different than mine. As part of a long term plan to read the the bible at some point in the future for myself, this book was wonderfully insightful into the bible and the implementation of its teachings by people of various sects. Much of the discussion of religion from an atheist point of view in print or documentary films amounts "haha, look at those idiots" which I find useless. Although it is not a path I choose I want to understand this book that continues to impact our human history and how those who follow it pick and choose on their own.

    Particularly insightful was the view in Haddism (sp?) and how everyone is a cafeteria believer (they pick and choose which part of the bible they follow), and that the height of that selectivity is that in Christians picking passages from the old testament while largely viewing it as "overwritten" by Christ's death.

    The one caveat to this book is that this immersion project could only be undertaken this successfully by a man given the limitations placed on women in religious orders.

    In summary, this is a listen definitely worth your time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chad zimmerman, MN, United States 05-17-12
    Chad zimmerman, MN, United States 05-17-12
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    "You sound stuffy.."
    Would you try another book from A. J. Jacobs and/or A. J. Jacobs?

    Sure, I think he is genuine in his writing.


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

    The Mosh Pit of Jewish Men celebrating...I try to imagine a Pantera Concert filled with Hasidic Jews...


    Would you listen to another book narrated by A. J. Jacobs?

    If I can stomach is Nasaly Voice for 6 plus hours...yes.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Definitly..as long as it stays true to the book and doesn't go all "New Years" or "Valentines Day" on the bit...."Tu Bishvat"


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Grinnell, IA, United States 02-21-12
    Karen Grinnell, IA, United States 02-21-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Mediocre, but an interesting journey"

    I love reading and learning about religions and their baggage. I thought this was an amazing idea, to live the bible literally for a year, but the story dragged. There are some funny stories from this adventure, like stoning an adulterer....with pebbles. I learned a lot about the bible from listening, especially the historical references. I would buy this type of book when it goes on sale :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. McRitchie Iowa, United States 02-21-12
    K. McRitchie Iowa, United States 02-21-12 Member Since 2009

    Lifelong Learner

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    "Mediocre, but an interesting journey"

    I love reading and learning about religions and their baggage. I thought this was an amazing idea, to live the bible literally for a year, but the story dragged. There are some funny stories from this adventure, like stoning an adulterer....with pebbles. I learned a lot about the bible from listening, especially the historical references. I would buy this type of book when it goes on sale :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP Oakland, CA 12-14-11
    KP Oakland, CA 12-14-11 Member Since 2006

    There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Better than I thought..."

    I ended up enjoying this book and getting some good insights to think about, actually. I have to admit that I did listen to the abridged version, since it was the only audio version available. I usually hate abridgements, but I just didn't think I could handle the 400+ pages on this topic. I was only reading it for my book club, after all! So, then the fact that I enjoyed it was a bonus, and I was happily surprised. There is a 1 hour talk available that the author gave about his experience, too; I may listen to that as well before the book club!

    One of the things I liked about the book is that the author has a great sense of humor combined with some great insights. Sense of humor: He introduces his Jewish family by saying they aren't very religious at all; they are Jewish in the same way the The Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. I liked his insights from his Biblical year, too. One chapter is "Love keeps no record of wrongs." Then he goes on to describe a list he has kept of various little arguments he's had with his wife and when HE was RIGHT and she was wrong. He decides that he will admit it to his wife and then destroy the journal. He tells his wife and asks if she's mad. She says no and laughs, saying it was just so heartbreaking that he needed this list. I liked his wife; he uses examples of her a lot.

    He started the book saying he wanted to explore Biblical literalism since millions of people say they take the Bible literally. By the end, he comes up with a food metaphor to sort of summarize his year. The term "cafeteria Christianity", he says, is a derisive term that fundamentalist Christians use to criticize moderate Christians, saying you shouldn't pick and choose from the Bible but should follow it all. Fundamentalist Jews say the same thing about the Torah, he says. A.J. Jacobs says that what his year showed him is that EVERYONE practices cafeteria religion, moderates and fundamentalists, because it would be impossible to keep everything on your plate. Otherwise they'd kick women out of church for saying hello ("The women should keep silence in the churches for they are not permitted to speak." I Corinthian2 14:34) or boot out men for talking about the Tennessee Titans ("Make no mention of the names of other Gods." Exodus 23:13) So he learned that there is nothing wrong with choosing. They key is choosing the right dishes from the cafeteria. You need to pick the nurturing ones - compassion, the healthy ones - love thy neighbor - NOT the bitter ones.

    I guess I feel like it doesn't take living Biblically for a year to figure this out, BUT is was funny, insightful, and somewhat inspriational to read this, so I'm glad he did it (and not I! )

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    11-29-11
    11-29-11 Listener Since 2006
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    "Facinating story....and funny!"

    What in interesting premise, facinating work. Well read by the author, combines scholarship with human interest and humor to make a great read!! Unique genre.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derrick Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada 11-04-07
    Derrick Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada 11-04-07
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    "weak effort"

    This book is a huge disappointment. I purchased the book with the expectation that I would be following the authors radical transformation to "live biblically". Instead I get a story about a guy who grows a long beard and "tries" not to lie. The author gives the indication (both through the title and the forward) that he is going to live the bible literally. In the book he practices the bible tradition of stoning by dropping a store purchased pebble on a the foot of perceived sinner. The author takes the bizzaire stories of the old testament, like the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and then attends a public chicken slaughter party as his "equivalent". So how does the author live the bible as litterally as possible? Well he tells the readers that he has sex with his wife to "be fruitfull and multiply" and he brings a fabric analyist into his home to ensure he has no blended clothing. When it comes to the new testament the author declares that he simply cannot accept that Jesus Christ is God. OK, well that's the fundamental message of the entire New Testament. So aside from following a few Jewish traditions (which millions of Orthodox Jew do every day) the author makes pathetic attempts to "follow the bible as literally as possible" and instead sums up his learnings with a generalized "it's good to have tradition but nothing is true or certain" philosophy. How unimpactful. Sorry to have read it. Should have read the other poor reviews on this site first.

    8 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dianna More 01-08-09
    Dianna More 01-08-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Love it"

    Wonderfully funny and informative. I bought 2 more copies as gifts.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel Bethany Beach, DE, USA 05-24-09
    Rachel Bethany Beach, DE, USA 05-24-09
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    "Fantastic funny!"

    This interesting work by Jacobs takes you through his year as indicated by the Title. The authors narration was perfect and inflicted every emotion in just the right place. I'm glad I bought this as audio instead of reading the book!

    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
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