What I’m Reading Wednesday: The Year of Living Biblically

This is the beginning edition of what I hope will be a periodic series. I say “hope” because I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like. I absolutely love to read, I just don’t prioritize it in my schedule. The way I log most of my reading is by listening to books on CD in the car. It doesn’t replace that wonderful feeling of holding a book in my hand (I will never get a Kindle), but it is a great substitute. Books on tapes and CDs got me through four years of commuting one hour each way to work. Now that I work only 15 minutes from home (yay!), I don’t get through a book as quickly, but I’m fine with that!

I’m a non-fiction reader. My degree is in history so I tend to migrate toward biographies and histories. I’ve always felt that if it didn’t really happen, why bother reading about it?

One of my recent book on CD picks was The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. *This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through these links, I will receive a small commission. This is how I keep the blog going.*

I have wanted to read this book ever since it came out in 2007. Oh, that’s another thing. This series will not necessarily be reviews of new books. I’ll leave that to the experts. This is just going to be me sharing books that may be of interest to my readers, whether the book is new or old.

Here I am seven years after publication, finally reading the book. I always thought the book was the story of a devoutly religious man striving to live by the letter of Biblical law for a year. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The author, A.J. Jacobs is of Jewish heritage but had been raised to be agnostic, if not atheist. He took it up as a professional challenge, just as he had spent a year reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica a few years before.  I was captivated to see if this challenge would stir a religious conversion in him. Read on to find out or stop now and buy the book or borrow it from a local library to find out.

With some books on CD, I fade in and out. I think of other things, like what I’m going to make for dinner, and then realize I’ve missed an entire chapter. Sometimes I go back and re-listen. Sometimes I don’t bother. But, with The Year of Living Biblically, I was spellbound. One time while listening, I actually missed my exit on the Interstate because I wasn’t concentrating.

Jacobs describes his struggle to interact with the modern world while living under Biblical principles. His wife was not very supportive, which made things more difficult. Both because he is Jewish and because most Biblical law comes from Leviticus, Jacobs focused heavily on the Old Testament. I wish he would’ve been equally handed in his Biblical representation and spent more time on the New Testament.

Jacobs found himself in a comfort zone with many of the laws because he admittedly, is a bit OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). He liked the structure and the rituals. He also liked that Biblical law instructs men not to touch women for fear they may be “unclean” due to menstruation. Being a germaphobe, Jacobs particularly liked having an excuse not to have to shake hands.

Day after day would go by and Jacobs still struggled with his faith. One thing was certain; he inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) began praying to God in times of trouble. Amen!

He also began to appreciate the rituals and customs of the Jewish faith.

I recommend this book as a way to delve deeper into sometimes obscure Biblical laws. It also brings to light how difficult it is to be a strict literalist in the modern world.

Buy Now:

The Year of Living Biblically Paperback

The Year of Living Biblically, Kindle edition

 The Year of Living Biblically, Audio CD




While I truly enjoyed every moment of the book and learning more about Biblical law, I was a bit disappointed by the ending. Jacobs’ wife never fully respected his project, so when the project was over, it was pretty much over. It wasn’t as if they grew together spiritually as a couple and chose to carry some of the Biblical principles into their everyday life. And, as much as I sat on pins and needles hoping for a religious conversion from Jacobs, it never happened. He definitely was less agnostic than before and more respectful and accepting of the Jewish tradition, but he never fully accepted God in the way that Jews and Christians do. At the end of the book, I believe Jacobs would probably still define himself as an agnostic. He was definitely in a better spiritual place than in the beginning of the book, but still not quite there.


8 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Wednesday: The Year of Living Biblically

  1. carolrood

    It is sad that his project ended with such a non impact in his life as a whole. I would have hoped that as a Jew, even if he ended up being as Agnostic as he began that he would at least have held tightly to the traditions and rituals he learned. That in itself is an important part of being Jewish.

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks for stopping by! He did learn to value some of the traditions. He appreciated the circumcisions of his twin sons more and had a better understanding and respect for traditions, but he still questioned God as a supreme being.

  2. Dawn Muir

    I read the book last year and like you I enjoyed the book, but the ending…not so much. And, I swore I won’t never get a Kindle, but I ended up getting a Nook as a birthday present a couple of years ago and now I absolutely love it. There are still some books I delve into in hardback because I love the feel of the book in my hand, but it is so nice to have a ton of books with me when I am traveling, waiting at the doctor’s office, etc. I think I read on my Nook almost everyday now. But that is all I do with it, I don’t go on the internet or anything like that, just read, which gives me great pleasure!

    1. Lisa Post author

      I know what you mean, Dawn. I thought about that as I hauled 3 books to Canada and ended up only reading a fraction of one. I also know it would conserve paper. But, I just…can’t…do it!

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