Acquired via BookCrossing 11 Dec 2009 – secret santa gift at BCBirm Christmas meal

A.J. Jacobs likes an intellectual, properly *challenging" challenge.  Last time we met him, he was reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover.  So he’s a bit more rigorous than others of the authors whose books go into my "quest" tag group on LibraryThing.  This time round, inspired by his secularised but interesting family and his responsibilities to his young son, Jacobs decides to try to follow the Bible literally, for a year. 

Although some of the rules are a bit odd, and you could approach the task on different levels, this is not a frivolous undertaking, but a serious attempt to look at the place religion and rules have in people’s lives.  Jacobs draws together a group of spiritual advisors, of various religions, and also visits different groups as he goes along.  He spends more time on the Old Testament than the New, then looks into claims that the New Testament "cancels out" some of the O.T. rules and regulations.  

Jacobs explains both the rules, his reactions to them, and others’ thoughts on them clearly and succintly.  He freely admits that he’s not religious at the beginnning of the year; by the end he is finding comfort in prayer and, while not overtly religious still, a changed man, definitely slower and more thankful for family and everyday things.

This isn’t po-faced though. There are plenty of jokes, plenty of self-deprecation and also a celebration of the people he finds a kindred feeling with along the way, from a deep South snake-handler to the jolly Jewish festival-goers with their beards and smiles.  Oh, and he grows a *great* beard, too.

Highly recommended, and I’ll be offering this on a book ring soon.