The Year of Living Biblically

One of the nice surprises of the last few months has been my invitation to join the Amazon.com Vine program. Very exclusive little group really. I’ve no idea why or how they found me. But they did and I’m quite thrilled with the fact.

If you don’t know about it Amazon has chosen a group of people to get free stuff. The cost is a review. Free books, and assorted other things, just so that I’ll write a review about the product. Buzz building I suppose. Some of the stuff I get wasn’t even released yet.

Well, that’s changed now, so I’m going to be occasionally featuring some products I got to review as they become available to the general public. Mostly because these are things that are outside my usual topics of church, theology, and whatnot. A little variety is good.

The first book I got back in August was a sheer delight. Called The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Here’s my review:

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” In this book, A.J. Jacobs not only tries Christianity, he tries out the whole Bible, both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.

He does indeed find it difficult. But he doesn’t find it wanting. In fact his year long quest to follow all of the commands of the Bible results in a most delightful and insightful read.

It is delightful because Jacobs is such an engaging writer. His style and approach are quite refreshing in this age of vitriolic attack. Most books on religion these days are apologetic, trying to thrust an opinion onto the reader, often through dense prose or angry rhetoric that dismisses those who disagree. Such books are one-sided and narrow-minded. Jacobs, however, breaks free of the contemporary love for irony, sarcasm, and anger by being an open observer. He dives into the world of Biblical rules without a preconceived dogma and because of this provides a most interesting assessment of what the Bible is about. Even more he does it with a wit and conversational style that draws the reader into his increasingly obscure discoveries.

It is, I think, because of this openness to learn that Jacobs provides so many insights. He’s not burdened with the weight of having to support one cause or another. Instead he approaches religion as it is so very rarely approached, with a sense of newness and curiosity, making it seem like Jacobs is as much a tour guide as a year long zealot.

The Bible has many weird and difficult parts, but in The Year of Living Biblically A.J. Jacobs looks beyond the weirdness to see what it means. And what he finds is inspirational, encouraging, and downright enjoyable from beginning to end. The Year of Living Biblically is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I’m going to heartily recommend it to everyone I know.

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