(All archived reviews are from a previous book blog journal)
The Year of Living Biblically:
One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
By A.J. Jacobs.
This is a wonderful story about a man's quest to discover what this religion thing is all about.
He decides to follow all the rules set out in the bible, even the really crazy ones, like stealing eggs from pigeons. Sometimes, the rules don't really affect him, but sometimes they change him in the most profound way. Like the rule in the bible about how you must always wear white. It makes him feel lighter, and happier. More spiritual.
I also learned so much about Jewish traditions, and the reason behind them. I always thought it was sexist to call women unclean during their period, but when a woman bleeds it is considered a little death. The loss of a potential life. And apparently there is a similar one for men too, but no one talks about it that much.
It is so admirable how he commits to the project, even to the inconvenience of his family. (The interplay between himself and his wife is one of the real delights of the book.)
He starts out not believing, but knowing that if he goes through the motions of the traditions, he might end up believing.
He comes out the other side a "reverent agnostic," he says. Paying attention to all the rules, resting on the sabbath, obeying laws, giving thanks, made him pay more attention to life. To the tiny every day things.
When learning the different ways to pray, he says thanks over his hummus: "I'd like to thank the farmer who grew the chickpeas for this hummus. And the truckers who drove them to the store. And the little old Italian Lady who sold the hummus to me at Zingone's deli and told me 'Lots of Love.'" It sounded silly, but made him really pay attention to the food he was eating, and made him feel connected to all those people.
He gained so much from the different traditions he examined: Amish, Hasidic Jew, Red-Letter Christian, Snake Handers, Jerry Fallwell's parish, and the philosophy of his various spiritual advisors, like the "pastor out to pasture."
He gains a small bit of meaning from even the strangest traditions. He learned how to surrender, he broke down religious stereotypes, and learned how to live in each moment, giving thanks.
I recommend it to anyone of any religion, or no religion.