The Year of Living Biblically

  • by A. J. Jacobs
  • Narrated by A. J. Jacobs
  • 6 hrs and 15 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

After his hilarious chronicle about reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z (actually a-ak to zyweic), our fearless author, A. J. Jacobs, tackles a new intellectual adventure, an exploration of the most influential book in the world: the Bible. He determined the best way to explore the Bible was to live it, as literally as possible. For one year. There are 700 rules in the Old and New Testaments, A. J. discovered - some wise, some general, some contradictory. Some from Jesus, some from prophets, some from God. A. J. assembled a board of spiritual advisors: rabbis, ministers, and priests, some conservative, some of them "one four-letter word away from excommunication", who would provide guidance and advice throughout his journey. But the journey was, by necessity, arbitrary. DIY religion. In The Year of Living Biblically, A. J. explores the Bible chronologically, from the Old Testament (crucial, given the 10 Commandments) to the New Testament (crucial, given America's powerful evangelical movement and its literal interpretation of the Bible) and lives the Bible on every level. He obeys the 10 Commandments, he is fruitful and multiplies (A. J.'s wife had twins during his year!); he remembers the Sabbath and keeps it holy. But he also obeys the oft-neglected rules, such as avoiding clothes of mixed fibers and refraining from shaving the edges of his beard (Leviticus 19:27). So, throughout the year, A. J. is commonly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. Or Moses. This is a look at religion today through one man's totally arbitrary, deeply funny, journey. In A. J.'s hands, The Year of Living Biblically is also fascinating and irresistible.

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What the Critics Say

"[A] hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir." (Publishers Weekly)
"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.'" (P. J. O'Rourke)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Too short!

While the hook is "What happens if you try to follow all the rules in the bible", the author really is a man who want to be a better person (just like he wanted to be a smarter person in his previous book) who uses the bible as a guide. Note that the author begins relatively non-religious, and he does not really "find" religion, so this is not a devout handling of the material. The book is generally very funny, but is poignant in parts. It took a bit to get used to the author's reading (I had liked the reader on his first book), but he adds the right touches without feeling like he was acting the book.

My only regret is that it is abridged: I enjoyed it enough that now I either have to get the book to see what I missed, or wait for an unabridged reading and go through it again.
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- Michael Trick "Operations researcher"

Excellent... But tongue in cheek

You should be warned that this book is a cross between a documentary and a comedy... he does some pretty outlandish stuff. I would compare it to the "Super Size Me" movie, where there is a very real and relevant theme, but it is taken to the extreme for entertainment value.

This story was funny, endearing and had no problem keeping my interest. I felt the author/narrator is extremely well-spoken (compared to the other audio books I have heard). The story had a good flow... although I felt the ending was slightly weak. I could relate to his and his wife's feelings and difficulties throughout.

If you are looking for a very serious look at religion in contemporary society, this may not quite hit what you are looking for. If you are looking for an entertaining story about a secular guy who tries to learn about and incorporate select parts of the old testament into his life (often to the chagrin of his wife) and relate to its teachings, you'll like it. And if you are somebody like me who grew up secular and has tried to become more religious, you will definitely be able to relate.

Some of the other reviewers complained about it not containing enough on Christianity. The book is focused only on the old testament (this is stated in the books online summary), and the author is jewish, so much more weight is definately given to the jewish view of old testament laws. He does have some christian advisors and devotes some, but not a majority, of time to christian perspectives and values... Just don't expect the whole book to be based on christianity or jesus' teachings.

If you are looking for a funny and interesting piece on relating to the old testament, this book is fantastic. Just be clear what the book up front.
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- Jonathan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-27-2007
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio