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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

by

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible Cover

ISBN13: 9780743291477
ISBN10: 0743291476
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the bestselling author of The Know-It-All comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes.

Jacobs's quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations — much to his wife's chagrin.

Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah's Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle thetwenty-first-century brain.

Jacobs's extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.

Review:

"Surely the Bible can teach and inspire. But has it lost the ability to startle? To make us gasp? In our society, where 90 percent of households possess a Bible and more than a third of American adults say they've read from it in the past week, it's hard to see the text with fresh eyes. Even if you're in the small minority that admits to never having read it, you probably know something about it. Maybe... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Readers will cheer for this oddball who grows a beard, avoids wearing mixed-fiber clothes, and carries his own three-legged miniature seat onto the subway." Library Journal

Review:

"If he starts out sounding like an interminable Ira Glass monologue, smarmy and name-dropping, he becomes much less off-putting as the year progresses, for he develops a serious conscience about such quotidian failings as self-centeredness, lying, swearing, and disparaging others. He may not be, he may never become, a moral giant, but he certainly seems to be a nicer guy." Booklist

Review:

"The Year of Living Biblically is an extremely compelling book, appropriately irreverent and highly entertaining. More significantly, it is a tale of an intense and intelligent spiritual search that will speak powerfully and instructively to a generation of seekers." Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College

Review:

"A.J. Jacobs has written a — how else to put it? — Good Book. Let me take my review from the original, Psalm 2, verse 4: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.' And let me suggest that readers, whether they know their Bible or not, get to know A.J. Jacobs. But not in a biblical sense, please." P.J. O'Rourke

Review:

"Seeing that most people violate at least three of the ten commandments on their way to work — even people who work from home -— says a lot about the scale of A. J.'s feat. The fact that you need to buy six copies of this book to unlock the code to save all humanity...well, that's just pure genius." Ben Karlin, co-creator of The Colbert Report" and co-author of America: The Book

Review:

"A biblical travelogue-and far funnier than your standard King James." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Inspired by Thoreau, Ilgunas set out on a Spartan path to pay off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans by scrubbing toilets and making beds in Coldfoot, Alaska. Determined to graduate debt-free after enrolling in graduate school, he lived in an Econoline van in a campus parking lot, saving—and learning—much about the cost of education today.

Synopsis:

In this frank and witty memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a 3-year transcontinental jour ney, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.

 

Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a masters program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure—it would be his very own “Walden on Wheels.”

 

Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police, and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunass limits and resolve in the two years that fol lowed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment. Walden on Wheels offers a spirited and pointed perspective on the dilemma faced by those who seek an education but who also want to, as Thoreau wrote, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

About the Author

A.J. Jacobs is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, and The Guinea Pig Diaries. He is the editor at large of Esquire magazine, a contributor to NPR, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City with his wife and kids. Visit him at AJJacobs.com.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

Brooke Sanchez, July 9, 2010 (view all comments by Brooke Sanchez)
This book is inspiring. The author goes into this crazy world of religion, a discussion which is usually extremely close-minded, with a very open mind. I would recommend this book to just about anyone, no matter there religion or lack there of. Everyone should read this book.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
lesismore9o9, July 21, 2009 (view all comments by lesismore9o9)
While the concept of gonzo journalism is most regularly associated with excessive drug use and acts of mayhem while reporting, the founding ideas are a bit more serious. Hunter S. Thompson defined his creation as the pinnacle of engagement, comparable to “a film director who writes his own script, does his own camera work and somehow manages to film himself in action.” The driving principal is that in this deep level of engagement, the author cannot remove himself from the story and as such greater depth can be attained than through straight reporting.

From this technical perspective, it’s easy to consider A.J. Jacobs as some form of gonzo practitioner. Jacobs’ writing career regularly involves chronicling a series of social experiments he subjects himself to, ranging from outsourcing his daily life to India to striving for honesty in all cases to studying every last piece of information in an encyclopedia. Not content with these lengths though, he moved from the collected knowledge of man to the collected knowledge of God in his book “The Year of Living Biblically” – and the journey proves to be entertaining and surprisingly poignant.

The book’s title summarizes its intent perfectly: for one year, Jacobs strove to follow the Bible to the letter, ranging from its most basic commandments to the most obscure proverbs. Visibly, this meant donning all-white single-fiber garments and growing a beard resembling the brush outside a haunted house; and behaviorally it meant regular prayer, never lying and giving away 10 percent of his salary. He presents his findings in a journal format, tackling a new issue each day and recording his results.

Of course, the issue with following these rules is that many of them aren’t truly applicable in modern life, and therein lies the real humor of “Living Biblically.” Not eating fruit unless the tree is five years old, not wearing any garments that have more than one fiber, not touching any woman for a week after her period (his wife Julie is not amused) – Jacobs tries to keep to all of these and more, often going to great lengths and annoying those around him. He never betrays any frustration at the limitations, only an increasing curiosity at their origins and how he can work them into his daily life.

The real problem – from his perspective at least – comes up in the variety of instances where the Bible seems to contradict itself, especially when moving from Old to New Testament. A key instance comes in what should be one of the simplest rules, the Sabbath: “A friend of mine once told me that even observing the Sabbath might be breaking the Sabbath, since my job is to follow the Bible. That gave me a two-hour headache.” Jacobs come across as neurotic and yet likable, determined to find an answer no matter what crazy direction it takes him.

Jacobs doesn’t try to work these issues out alone, consulting with a wide variety of scholars and professors to seek interpretations of the Bible and interpretations of those interpretations. He runs the gamut from a sect of snake handlers to openly gay Christian fundamentalists, and even makes a pilgrimage to Israel where he herds sheep and speaks with his “spiritual omnivore” guru Uncle Gil. As with the proverbs he judges none of them beforehand, but simply admires and comments on the strength of their faith.

His neutrality is helped by his own lack of religious background – raised in a secular family and a self-defined agnostic – but as the year goes on he finds that immersion in faith is starting to rub off on him, creating an alter ego dubbed Jacob. Jacob scolds him for paying attention to Rosario Dawson’s sex life, puts olive oil in his hair and pays attention to every little moral choice made during the day. With every prayer or simple “God willing” he inserts into conversation, it’s clear as the book goes on that his journey has changed him, not dramatically but in very subtle ways of thought and appreciation.

At one point in the book, as Jacobs begins to show some frustration at why the Bible can be so contradictory or hard to understand, one of his spiritual advisers offers him a key piece of wisdom: “Life is a jigsaw puzzle. The joy and challenge of life – and the Bible – is figuring things out.” In many ways, “Living Biblically” is defined by this wisdom – a book that confronts hundreds of challenges, and winds up being a joy for the sheer fact that the journey is being undertaken.
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(8 of 13 readers found this comment helpful)
Amanda Schaefer, January 2, 2009 (view all comments by Amanda Schaefer)
This is a surprisingly reverent exploration of the Bible as well as the customs of those who believe in it literally. It's fascinating to watch Jacobs transform bit by bit through this exploration.
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(7 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743291477
Subtitle:
On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom
Author:
Jacobs, A. J.
Author:
Ilgunas, Ken
Publisher:
New Harvest
Subject:
Religious
Subject:
Topic - Religion
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Christian Life - General
Subject:
Biblical Studies - General
Subject:
Christian Life
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Cloth
Publication Date:
20130514
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.25 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Religion » Christianity » Biblical Reference » Criticism
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Religion » Christianity » Inspirational
Religion » Western Religions » Inspirational

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible Used Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780743291477 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Readers will cheer for this oddball who grows a beard, avoids wearing mixed-fiber clothes, and carries his own three-legged miniature seat onto the subway."
"Review" by , "If he starts out sounding like an interminable Ira Glass monologue, smarmy and name-dropping, he becomes much less off-putting as the year progresses, for he develops a serious conscience about such quotidian failings as self-centeredness, lying, swearing, and disparaging others. He may not be, he may never become, a moral giant, but he certainly seems to be a nicer guy."
"Review" by , "The Year of Living Biblically is an extremely compelling book, appropriately irreverent and highly entertaining. More significantly, it is a tale of an intense and intelligent spiritual search that will speak powerfully and instructively to a generation of seekers."
"Review" by , "A.J. Jacobs has written a — how else to put it? — Good Book. Let me take my review from the original, Psalm 2, verse 4: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.' And let me suggest that readers, whether they know their Bible or not, get to know A.J. Jacobs. But not in a biblical sense, please."
"Review" by , "Seeing that most people violate at least three of the ten commandments on their way to work — even people who work from home -— says a lot about the scale of A. J.'s feat. The fact that you need to buy six copies of this book to unlock the code to save all humanity...well, that's just pure genius."
"Review" by , "A biblical travelogue-and far funnier than your standard King James."
"Synopsis" by , Inspired by Thoreau, Ilgunas set out on a Spartan path to pay off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans by scrubbing toilets and making beds in Coldfoot, Alaska. Determined to graduate debt-free after enrolling in graduate school, he lived in an Econoline van in a campus parking lot, saving—and learning—much about the cost of education today.

"Synopsis" by , In this frank and witty memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a 3-year transcontinental jour ney, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.

 

Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a masters program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure—it would be his very own “Walden on Wheels.”

 

Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police, and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunass limits and resolve in the two years that fol lowed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment. Walden on Wheels offers a spirited and pointed perspective on the dilemma faced by those who seek an education but who also want to, as Thoreau wrote, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

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