Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically

One Year; 365 Days - I'm pretty sure that's how long it took me to read this book  It's not that it wasn't interesting, it was.  Nor was it because it wasn't well-written; it was.  I really can't say why it took me so long to read this book, other than that it is the kind of book that is best taken in small doses.

AJ Jacobs is an atheist who takes on living Biblically (taking the Bible 100% literally) for a year, as a book project.  His goal - to prove that the Bible should not and can not be taken 100% literally.  His approach to research the Bible as much as possible, talk to religious leaders in a variety of religions and do whatever it takes to live as the Bible dictates.  He not only follows the well-known commandments but digs up many lesser known mandates and follows those too.  His family background is Jewish, so he starts there with the Old Testament and chooses to focus the majority of his book (9 months) on the Old Testament laws.  The reality is that it felt his entire focus was on the Old Testament. Even during the final 3 months the references are primarily Old Testament.  I found this a bit distracting towards the end of the book, however I found the last 3 chapters (months) of the book some of the easiest to read.  I can't help but wonder if the greater ease in reading had something to do with a better match in his words and actions.

It was obvious that much like the Psychological idea that smiling makes you feel happier (which I should act on more often), AJ (or his alter-ego Jacob) found that living Biblically actually made him a better and more focused person.  In the early days of the project he was doing things only because it was a project, over time his actions became habit and changed his mindset.  I won't spoil the book and tell you whether or not he "found God" as a result of his project and honestly I don't think that matters.  It's funny that just reading a book like this of someone else doing this makes me want to try to be a better person.  I read his stories and I see that there are many little things I could change and I don't need a Bible to tell me that some actions and choices are better than others.  This book is a good reminder that sometimes we just need to do the right thing because it's the right thing, rather than get too caught up in whether or not it's what a book tells us to do.

*I picked up my copy of this book (after a long wait) on PaperBackSwap.  There's been a wait list for the book the entire time I've had, so I'm sure someone will be made happy when I repost it and give them the opportunity to read it.  I'd love to see a follow-up to this book, perhaps even just an article or interview of "Where is he now".

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