Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The Year of Living Biblically
I love A.J. Jacobs. I read The Know-It All in January and just loved the way he writes. He made a book about reading the Encyclopedia Brittantica interesting and funny. He just seems like he'd be a cool, although somewhat odd, guy to hang out with. For The Know-It All, he chronicled his year he spent reading the EB. For The Year of Living Biblically, he spent a year following the Bible literally. I was a little nervous about this one because I was afraid he was doing this to try to show how silly the Bible is and poke fun of Christians. That was fortunately not the case. The thing about A.J. that I like is that he just seems to like learning, so he enjoyed the experience of learning more about the Bible and religion in general rather than trying to promote a cause. It was also interesting that one of the reasons he wanted to pursue this topic was because of his son. He didn't want to raise his son to be without religion, without a moral compass. I find it odd that he doesn't want his son to be an agnostic even though he's one. A.J. is also a secular Jew, so that added to the interesting aspects of the book to see him digging into his family history and also made his lack of conversion make a little more sense to me.
Anyway, the book itself is just fascinating. He grows a beard that he can't trim. He wears white clothes. He avoids touching women in general since it might be the time of the month where they are unclean. He takes a seat with him at all times to keep from sitting on soiled ground. He travels to Israel. He attends Jewish religious festivals. He talks to evangelicals and visits a creationism museum. And even though he doesn't believe in creationism, he doesn't mock it either. He talks about how intelligent the scientists there are. He's truly open in a way very few people are. He lets himself experience being in the moment of whereever he is, trying to see others' rituals and beliefs through their eyes. He's still too liberal for me, but then pretty much everyone is.
Summary of why you should read this book: it's funny, entertaining, and enlightening. It made me want to learn more about my religion and dig deeper in the Bible. I learned things I didn't know, both about the Jewish faith and my own.