REVIEW: “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs

yearoflivingbiblically_ajjacobsRecently, I’ve been trying to be more “open” in my reading — to read things that I would have previously been “afraid” to read, for fear that my faith would be challenged so much as to change my stance on things.

This is a book that I wasn’t going to read. It’s written by someone who doesn’t necessarily believe in God, and I thought that he’d “bash” my faith (Christianity) too much, and that the book would just make me mad. Then, just a week or two ago, a friend in one of my online book groups reviewed this book, and included several quotes. Well, that was enough to get me curious enough to put the book on hold at the local library. When it came in, I brought it home and started reading… and then I couldn’t put it down! LOL.

The author’s family was/is Jewish, so I think that helped him to be more open to doing this “experiment”. I think that made him more accepting of what he was trying to do.

I really don’t even know what all to say about this book… it really got me thinking, but I think (LOL) it will take me a few days to really process it all. What I do know sponge1now, though, is that I was definitely in the right mindset to be reading this right now… at this point in my life. I’ve gone through a “dry spell”, of late, and I’m just starting to pull out of it. Therefore, a book like this is something I soaked up like a sponge. 😉 I couldn’t get enough.

My favorite quote from the entire book (I wrote down 6 pages of them! LOL) was actually by Tony Campolo, not A.J. Jacobs… it was mentioned on page 270, and went like this:

“The problem with a lot of religion…is that people have interpreted the Gospel so much, we’ve started to believe the interpretations instead of what Jesus said.”

Good stuff, and so very, very true (unfortunately).

A lot of the book also had me seeing the recurring theme that “faith inspires action“. This is something a friend of mine wrote to me on Facebook last week, and just so happens to have run all throughout this book (even if not in so many words; the idea was there).

Something this book has really brought to light for me is the fact that I really want to get more out of my Bible reading next year. I plan to read through the Bible in one year, again (did this a couple of years ago, and feel that I need to do it again), and yet, I want to dig deeper… I want to really have it make an impact on my life — instead of it just being another thing that I check off my mental “to-do” list each day. This quote sums up nicely what I’m thinking:

“I need something specific…Beauty is a general thing. It’s abstract. I need to see a rose. When I see that Jesus embraced lepers, that’s a reason for me to embrace those with AIDS. If He embraced Samaritans, that’s a reason for me to fight racism.” (p.328)

Or, this one (a little more abstract of a quote, but still, it’s seeing the deeper meaning behind what is written on the page, and that’s what I want to do):

“Esau wasn’t really about to die; he was just hungry. He’s a slave to his urges, pure id, and an exaggerator to boot. He’d do anything for a snack, including selling the sacred birthright; he showed no respect for what God had given him.” (p.239)

It’s been driving me nutty… I’m trying to remember what book I came across recently that did this sort of thing — took a familiar Bible passage, and pulled it apart, and helped you to see the deeper meanings behind what was written there. I love that sort of thing, and want more! (there’s that “sponge” thing, for me, again!)

Anyway. Overall, this isn’t a scary book, and it really challenges your faith in a good way… it’s not against Christianity, but it also doesn’t accept it totally, either. A.J. finds himself more changed than he originally had expected. As he says on page 172 (and I shared, already, in my Teaser Tuesdays post –below), “That’s the paradox: I thought religion would make me live with my head in the clouds, but as often as not, it grounds me in this world.

I’d definitely recommend this book. 😉

Rated: A-

9 Replies to “REVIEW: “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs”

  1. I am also a devout Christian, but I still chuckled my way through this one. I appreciated the way the he seemed to grow as a person through his experiences. I loved your review.

  2. Thanks for the review. I read A.J. Jacobs book The Know-It-All, and wanted to read this one but like you was afraid to read it due to the subject. I think I’ll put it on my TBR list.

  3. I’m currently reading this book — in the November section right now. For me, it’s an interesting perspective to see how someone who didn’t grew up with a self-described secular mindset responds to Judaism (his heritage) and Christianity as he encounters the Bible for the first time. Like you I’m surprised about his openness. I’m looking forward to see how the Bible shapes his outlook on life.

    To me it helps our faith and helps us reach out when we can see the perspective of someone who is on the outside, looking in. Even when the person doesn’t agree with us, it helps to give us some insight into their world as well.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking as I was reading (how it’s good to get someone’s perspective “from the outside looking in”). Definitely helpful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *