Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Spiritual Journey for the Secular

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A. J. Jacobs

The title of this book is a meaningful mouthful. Jacobs, a secular Jew who recently read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica for his last memoir, decides to tackle America's other foundational tome--arguably the one in ascendance of late--by attempting to follow every rule in the Bible.

Those expecting hilarity to ensue will not be disappointed; there are many humorous scenes and throughout the book Jacobs's tone is so friendly and welcoming that the urge to read just a few more pages is almost irresistible. But, while Jacobs begins his quest to make a point about fundamentalism--and, without a doubt, succeeds in making it--he also discovers, over the course of the year, the wisdom behind a great many religious teachings. In a year that has seen several books extolling the virtues of atheism, it is heartening to see someone from the secularist side examine the virtues that even we who do not follow a particular creed can find in the Bible.

Jacobs also ventures out to meet people who follow the Bible according to their own interpretation, from the Amish to a snake handler whose small church focuses on following passages literally that most consider metaphor. He goes to Jerry Falwell's church to hear the now-deceased bigot give a surprisingly tame sermon and talks with red letter Christians whose emphasis on the words of Jesus gives them a bent 180 degrees from the current Republican platform.

In short, Jacobs, while following as much of the Bible as literally as he can, learns how others pick and choose--and his book, besides being a humorous and enlightening read, is a good manual for those who would follow his lead in learning to be more grateful for life's everyday blessings. This is a wonderful work that I won't soon forget!

This review has been posted on The Year of Living Biblically will be released October 9 and was provided for review early as part of Amazon's Vine program.

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