A Year of Living Biblically

Posted June 25, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 8 Comments

He really did wear that outfit.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
by AJ Jacobs
Simon and Schuster
Purchased in the Nook Store
[#46 in my 75 book challenge]

After my less-than-stellar review of Jacob’s The Know-It-All, I thought I’d give another book of his a try. The reviews, both online and from friends, for The Year of Living Biblically were much better. Religion fascinates me, especially the sociological aspects of religion and how different people interpret/practice it. Jacobs takes his religion to an extreme, following every single rule he possibly can from the Bible — with a dash of humor, of course! Since Jacobs is a self-proclaimed agnostic, his experience is fascinating to watch.

In true AJ Jacobs-style, the man takes his task seriously. This man does not play around. He reads the Bible  and imerses himself in it, but also reads oodles of other books about the Bible: commentary, different versions, notes, and even some really extreme texts. He visits experts on various aspects of religion, and seeks many Biblical and religious experiences: he hangs out with the Amish, Hasidic Jews, an extreme uncle-turned-cult-leader, snake handlers, evangelicals, fundamentalists, and gay fundamentalists. He grows his beard, wears only white, and attaches tassels to his sleeves. He tries to avoid all lying, gossip, and lustful thoughts. Jacobs learns to love some of the rules (observing the Sabbath) and loathe others (not touching his wife when she’s menstruating). The comprehensive, yet open-minded, approach Jacobs takes to this task is fascinating. I enjoyed every day and every word of his journey.

My favorite part is when Jacobs makes his new intern, Kevin Roose, his slave. Roose is SUCH a suck-up, which makes it even more hilarious. He’s ready to do anything Jacobs asks, no matter how weird. I loved Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple, which he decided to write after his experience as Jacob’s slave. Both books affected me in a similar way. Both are about agnostic guys immersing themselves in the world of religion with open minds. Jacobs, like Roose, learned a lot about the good side of religion. This book may show a lot of the absurdity, contradictions, and outdated rules of Christianity, but it also show the history and hidden benefits behind them.

FINAL GRADE:  A   It’s hard for non-fiction to get an A, but this one really earned it. I love a book that surprises me, and this one surprised me around every corner. I liked it far better than The Know-It-All, and you’ll notice that I also finished this one in far less time! I definitely recommend it to adults and anyone interested in the Bible or Christianity from a humorous perspective. I learned a lot about what’s really going on in good book, and if I weren’t starting a Ph.D in the fall, I would probably start in on my life-long goal to read the whole Bible for myself. Now there’s a review that might take up more than a few paragraphs on a blog post, huh?

Have you read any interesting rules in the Bible? Have you ever learn anything about the Bible that surprised or shocked you? (The first time I read the four Gospels during Lent one year, I was shocked by how different they all are, and how many of the details from Bible stories aren’t even in the actual Bible!)


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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8 responses to “A Year of Living Biblically

  1. This sounds totally interesting, and like a fantastic experiment! I’m not going to lie though, I feel sorry for his wife. Hopefully she didn’t have to follow all of these laws as well (other than respect the ones directly concerning her). I admire his ability to immerse himself so completely, may have to check this one out sometime.

    • Trying to think what would happen if C said ‘I’m sorry honey, the bible says that touching you would make me unclean’ especially if he said it while I had PMS

      • Miss Anderson

        I’m pretty sure Jacobs’ wife didn’t appreciate that particular rule. She didn’t appreciate a lot of the rules…sometimes she would even try to sabotage his efforts!

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