The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
When I first participated in the CBR Book Exchange, emmalita had graciously gifted me two books: The Year of Living Biblically and Colm Toibin’s The Master. I am in the process of reading the Books I Own But Have Not Read, and I thought this would be a great addition to my bookshelves. As it turns out, I was right. I’ve long enjoyed Jacobs’ shorter works, and reading a whole book was a great way to dive into his style.
A.J. Jacobs is a writer and editor of Esquire, and at the time of writing The Year of Living Biblically, he was trying to reconfigure his identity as a Jewish man. He decided to live out the Bible for a full year as part of a book deal to see what happened. This involved him having to follow all sorts of archaic laws, keep the Jewish Sabbath, and grow out his hair and beard to full and untamed lengths. Despite some of the more “clickbaitish” aspects of the project, Jacobs went on a comprehensive spiritual quest to think about who he was as a spiritual individual, how and why we interpret the Bible, and how to nourish our spiritual selves.
As a Christian, I found this book to be meaningful and thought-provoking. I make it a point to read out of the Bible every day, but I also try to think critically about my beliefs and religious practice. One part of the book that jumped out was when Jacobs asked about why certain Jewish traditions are practiced, and the answer was a mere, “Tradition” or “We don’t know; we’ve always done it.” It’s good to analyze your religious practice, and even if you’re not a person of faith, this can be a good way to think about your personal spiritual philosophy.