Book Review: “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs

The long and the short of the book is this: Jacobs attempts to live by the rules in the Bible as directly and completely as possible. In fact, it’s subtitled “One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible“, and that is a fairly accurate boast. The state of biblical interpretation being what it is, this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in some time. How many people are willing to up-end their entire life, at least potentially, not what they do believe in, but for what they don’t?

Jacobs, it becomes clear from the earliest pages of the book, is my kind of agnostic. In fact, he’s the kind of agnostic I’d be if I were more inclined to biblically literalist pranks (and considering how inclined in that direction I am, that’s saying something).

His own scepticism prevents him from really committing to the task insofar as having faith is concerned, but that’s what interests me (and him) most: his willingness to test his lack of faith, and how it changes over the course of his year. This is mad scientist experimenting on himself territory. Think of a ‘Super Size Me’ styled experiment conducted on a man’s soul rather than his digestive system, and you’re getting close to the idea.

Kudos are due to Jacobs both how thoroughly he throws himself into this research, how honestly he reports its effects on him, and how good a job he does avoiding the easy cheap shots against fundamentalists of all stripes.

All in all, this is a fascinating book that any agnostic (and anyone else, I would think) should find an interesting and thought-provoking read.