The Year Of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (@AJJacobs) [Book Review]

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“My quest has been this: to live the ultimate biblical life. Or more precisely, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. To obey the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love my neighbor. To tithe my income. But also to abide by the oft-neglected rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers. To stone adulterers. And, naturally, to leave the edges of my beard unshaven (Leviticus 19:27). I am trying to obey the entire Bible, without picking and choosing.”

I became a fan of AJ because of the James Altucher Show (podcast). He’s been a guest a couple times and I just liked his style: The way he thoughts about things, how he answered questions, he just seemed like a cool and inquisitive person, someone I would have a conversation with myself.


AJ’s written a few books, many of them the human experiment type. He tried to become the “smartest” person in the world by reading encyclopedias. He wanted to see what a life of being perfectly healthy was like. He organized the world’s largest ever family reunion and demonstrated how every human is related to each other. I decided to give his experiment of following the Bible to the letter a shot. Not because I’m religious (I claim no religion), but just to see what happened with him. Plus, we judge books by the covers, and his cover art was interesting.


The book was long, longer than I wanted it to be. Twice I considered shelving the book and not even finishing it. I finished it for three reasons.


  1. My mental difficulty with quitting something I’d started m, such as reading a book (even a bad book — not to say that Living Biblically was bad; it wasn’t).
  2. I read some amazon reviews of the book, expecting a lot of negatives from bible-thumpers who felt AJ had made a mockery of Christianity just to sell books. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
  3. I recalibrated my reading speed and focus, and got through the last 60% in three days.


I understood by the last 20% of Living Biblically why the book is so long: The Bible is long! And it’s quite the wordy book. AJ had to get through and try applying as much of the Bible as he could, and that takes time (and words). He did his experiment for real though, traveling abroad to Jerusalem and all over the USA, meeting with experts and reverends and fringe group organizers to pack as many interpretations and practices of the religion as possible into twelve months.


Living Biblically is an interesting and occasionally funny read. Jacobs deftly handled the only subject other than politics that people are super-quick to get offended over and made a great book out of it. It’s an impressive performance.

You Should Read The Year Of Living Biblically IF: You strongly identify with any religion. You’ll see how someone interprets and applies the rules of said religion.