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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1. The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as PossibleThe Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs falls squarely into that category of memoirs/ non-fiction that I like best.  I've seen the term "stunt memoir" used to perfectly describe this type of book and would definitely apply it to this one. Jacobs has decided to follow ALL of the rules in the Bible as literally as possible (bet you couldn't figure that out from the title). He spends the first 9 months of his year with the Old Testament before finishing up in the New.

What did I think? Well, I enjoyed it and I went looking for Jacob's other books, but it took me a very long time to finish it up, I'm talking Months.  I'd put it down and walk away and there was nothing about it that compelled me to pick it back up.

Jacobs spends  a lot of time talking about how this experiment has changed his view of religion and I think that was the most interesting part, to me. He starts off the book as a non-believer of Jewish descent, but as the book goes on he has moments of pure belief. He is as startled by this as you would expect and I enjoyed his honestly.   In addition to deciphering the rules on his own, he consults with quite a few other religious scholars and the differing view on things is also quite interesting. Overall a good book, but not one of my favorites for the year.

How do you feel about "stunt memoirs"? Do you have a favorite? Do you prefer straight biographies? Do you think that writers can be completely honest when they know they are doing a trick for a book? Or do you think they probably fudge a bit to sound better? (Hello, James Frey.)

If you're interested in other books about personal religious experience, I also read and enjoyed:

Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture by Daniel Radosh (my review)
The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding by Idliby, Oliver and Warner (my review)
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert (pre-blog)

Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner (also pre-blog)

You can find AJ Jacobs online here, but it doesn't look like he updates very often.

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
Simon & Schuster
416 pages

PS. I decided to number my 2010 reads in the subject line of the post. I like the idea that I'll be able to tell at a glance where I am. 

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  1. This was one of the first "stunt memoirs" I read, and I thought it was quite funny. I'm not sure if it'll ever be a favorite, but I felt like he did a good job poking fun at some of the religious issues he came across without being mean or offensive about it. I also love the term "stunt memoir" :)

  2. I've heard good things about this one so at some point I'm going to pick it up from the library. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

  3. I have this book on my shelves, and I've started it, but like you I'm compelled to walk away for long periods of time. Now I'm thinking of returning to it soon, and then I may walk away for a few more months. This is the first "stunt memoir" I've read (I think), and the only other one I can think of that I find interesting is his other book, The Know-It-All. We'll see how it goes!

  4. Kim, I stole the phrase "stunt memoir" from someone else, and you just reminded me that I meant to figure out who it was to give credit. I didn't ever find him to be mean about other people's belief, which was refreshing.

    Andi, Do you find it interesting while you're actually reading it? I did, but I wasn't compelled to go back to it either.

  5. I do enjoy "stunt memoirs" for some odd reason. One that comes to mind that I liked a lot is See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward. Sorry to see this one wasn't that compelling.

  6. I do always wonder about stunts done for books - especially when the stunt is done with a deal already in place - like people who uproot their lives and go move somewhere crazy or take on bizarre practices and make it seem like they are taking a HUGE risk, when really, they've been paid to do it. I always think it would be more interesting if they'd written the book first and then gotten a deal - then the risk is a real one.

  7. Stunt memoir...that's a new one for me, although it does seem to apply to Jacobs and his books.

    I picked up The Know-It-All audio at the library the other day...mainly because our library has a lousy selection of non-fiction audio and this was one of the few that sounded interesting.

  8. I like The Know-It-All but it also took me MONTHS to get through. Eek.

    I liked Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life too, although it's been SO LONG since I read it that I can hardly remember what I liked about it.

  9. I love stunt memoirs a lot. I would never have the stick-to-it-ivness to do something like this myself but love to read about others who do. ;-)

    Oh, and I've used the term in the past but I think I stole it from an online article about these sorts of books so perhaps you read the same article?


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