"The Year Living Biblically" by A. J. Jacobs

The following is something I wrote in an email to my in-laws that I never ended up sending. Sometimes, I dunno, I just sit down to write and I end up with a novel, something way, way, way too long for me to actually send. Plus, I realized that while I was trying to recommend them to read the book, I really ended up saying all the reasons they shouldn't read it. Finally, when I realized how much apologizing I was doing for Jacobs, I decided that there was no way I could honestly recommend it. And so why write a ten page email about a book I can't recommend?

But hey, that's what blogs are for!

"So Danny and I read a book that is really interesting and funny. Well, more accurately, sometimes I read passages of the book out loud to Danny. Also, I only read the first half of the book because I read a bunch of online reviews that criticized the second half. So, it's kind of silly that I'm recommending this book, since I didn't really read the whole thing at all, but honestly while reading it, I kept imagining what your guys' reaction would be. I think you'd think it was very funny.

It's called "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs. It's not a book I would own, but rather one I would get from the library. And I totally hate the cover because it's just too over the top and slightly sacrilegious. And actually, there were a few parts I skimmed. But if you can get over these things, I can vouch for the first half of the book being quite entertaining.

It's about this agnostic American Jew who tries to spend a year living all the literal commandments in the Bible. The first half of the book focuses on the Old Testament, and the second on the New Testament. I think the reason he does a better job with living the literal commandments of the Old Testament is because they are way, WAY WAYYYYY easier to follow. For example, one thing he has to do is not wear wool and linen at the same time (Deuteronomy 22:11). Apparently there are Jews whose profession is to examine your clothing under a microscope to make sure it's not mixing fibers, because the labels can be wrong! So, this seems totally weird and crazy. But in the end, it's way easier to do than to follow Christ and believe in Him. I read about one chapter into the New Testament section, and he was basically explaining why he didn't think he could ever accept Christ as his Savior. Not very uplifting! Which is why I read the online reviews, and I'm glad, because now I don't have to waste my time reading something that's not going to be uplifting. Danny said, "Well, then he completely fails his goal to live the Bible literally, since accepting Christ as the Savior is like the one main commandment of the New Testament!" Very true. I can see how he would have had an easier time with the Old Testament anyway, seeing as he has his own family's heritage to lean on.

But the first part is hilarious and I learned a whole lot of things about Judaism that I didn't know/hadn't considered. Danny says that mostly it made him even more convinced that Jewish law/customs are totally...pharasee-ical? Like at one point he talks about how it was a commandment to wear tassels, and even though in the OT it mentions that there were several strands of blue thread in these tassels, for centuries Jews didn't put blue strands in because they weren't sure the exact shade of blue. Until recently, when scientists discovered the type of snail that would have made the blue dye used in Israel way back when. So now sometimes the tassels do have blue threads in them. Interesting.

He tries to keep the commandment to "spare not the rod" when his 2 year old son is misbehaving, and so he ends up getting a nerf stick. Which totally doesn't work; he whacks his son, but instead of disciplining him, his son just laughs and whacks him back with something else. That was funny.

But if you do decide to read it, don't have too high of expectations. He doesn't do as comprehensive a job as he possible could have, and the book mostly feels like he's doing a publicity stunt to sell a book. But I really did think parts of it were super, super funny. I think in the end, the main thing he gains from the whole thing is more appreciation for prayer. I mean, he was a totally a-religious guy before; praying several times a day every day for a year will definitely have some effect on you. I wish he had changed more; he says in the beginning that if his post-year-living-Biblically self were to meet his pre-year-living-Biblically self, they would probably thing each other was delusional. But even though it was happy that he gained some faith, of course it's still sad that he's still mostly a lost person. It seems there are way too many people like that."

My favorite experience of all involving this book was laughing out loud while reading one of the Amazon.com reviews. In the book, Jacobs describes how he is constantly reading the reviews for his other book (about his experience reading the whole encyclopedia). In the review for this book, somebody wrote something about how he knows Jacobs would be reading the review personally, so, um, hi? I thought that was hysterical.

If I were a writer, I would obsess over all my Amazon.com reviews, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Add a comment!