REVIEW – The Year of Living Biblically

A.J. Jacobs’ book, (subtitled “One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”) has been out long enough that there are probably many reviews available, so mine will just be a quick summary of why you can skip it.

It’s contrived. You may be aware of people who can play the handsaw. They can play recognizable songs. This guy is playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I’m sure it took some time to learn to do it, and it’s interesting, but it has very little impact on the musical world.

It seems to me that A.J. Jacobs has made a similar contribution to religion. He spent a year, looking at Biblical law and trying to follow all the rules, no matter how obscure. (His previous book was about his year spent reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica) He did this with the help of some advisors, but not in community. He acknowledges this deficit.

I’m trying to fly solo on a route that was specifically designed for a crowd….This year I’ve tried to worship alone and find meaning alone. The solitary approach has its advantages…But I was doing it [specifically, observing holidays, but I think it sums up the whole exercise] cluelessly and by myself, and it felt empty.

The Guinness Book of World Records is a fun book.In it you can find out some cool things about odd people doing odd thing. Jacobs’ book is similar. He plays the saw, or dances for 72 hours straight. It is not really a faith journey, though some of it allows him to discuss his lack of belief. He does not end up seemingly much further down the road then he was when he began.

Jacobs has a good sense of humor throughout his self-imposed ordeal. I imagine his wife had to have had the patience of Job. Jacobs writing is worth reading, I just wish his wit and energy was put into something a little more substantial.