Highly recommended: The Year of Living Biblically

Last week, I received (via Amazon) and read The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs. Jacobs, a self-described Jewish agnostic and an editor at Esquire, had previously written The Know-It-All (in which he described reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover). In this case, however, he was not only reading the Bible, he was attempting to follow all the commandments and injunctions found in it.

The book is a delight. I admired Jacobs’ honesty, particularly about his own failings and struggles, his empathy with the various religious groups he encounters even (especially!) when he strongly disagrees with their beliefs and practices, his willingness to introduce great upheaval in his personal and family life just to find out what this Bible stuff is all about, and his courage to adhere to his lists of commandments — the bulk of which come from the Mosaic law — even at the risk of social awkwardness.

Plus the book is really, really funny.

Day 124. January 2. We’re back in New York. I’m not supposed to make New Year’s resolutions — probably a pagan ritual — but if I did, here’s what mine would be: I have to start thickening my skin. It’s right there in Ecclesiastes: Don’t pay attention to everything everyone says about you; you know you’ve talked trash about other people.

Today I was reading the Amazon.com reviews for my encyclopedia book (I know, not biblical), and I ran across one that was very strange. The reviewer said she looked at my author photo and discovered that I’m not really that ugly. In fact, I’m kind of “normal looking.” Which I guess is sort of flattering. Normal looking.

But she didn’t mean it as flattery. She said that I’m normal-looking enough that I have no excuse to be socially awkward, neurotic, or best with an inferiority complex. So I should shut my normal-looking trap and stop complaining. This is the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever received. It sank me into a bad mood for three hours. The Bible is right; I have to toughen up.

And I must, absolutely must, stop self-Googling. It’s a horrible habit that I still haven’t kicked in my biblical year. …This is alll very unrighteous, very vain. I should think instead of the well-being of my family and my neighbors — and on God.

I should be more like Noah. It took Noah decades to build his ark. Can you imagine the mockery he must have received from doubting neighbors? If Noah were alive today, he wouldn’t be wasting his time checking out what blogs said about him. He’d be down at Home Depot buying more lumber. Starting today, I’m going to be more like Noah. Toughen up. (pp. 151-152)

Read it. ..bruce..

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