This week for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I picked The Year of Living Biblically - One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs.
The author was raised in a secular family and was interested in seeing how faith and real life intersect. He chose to follow the Bible in as literal sense as possible - from the Ten Commandments to hundreds of less publicized rules in both the Old and New Testaments.
Some of the outward changes in the author - such as letting his beard grow and not trimming it for a year - bring out some interesting reactions from those he encounters. Some of the reactions are positive and accepting (especially from those of a similar, ultra-conservative faith) while other reactions are questioning and apprehensive (such as when he tries to navigate through an airport security screening).
There are many funny experiences that he has during the year, especially as he tries to figure out how to follow some of the more obscure and dated rules/behavior. For these, he consulted and met with numerous Jewish and Christian leaders who helped relate what was in the Bible to everyday life.
What was interesting to read were the changes that the author went through on a personal and spiritual level. Whatever faith or spiritual journey a person takes will be filled with growth and even some set-backs that challenge one's beliefs. This book - since it documents the author's experience over a year - captures all of those elements.
I enjoyed reading this book. I learned about Biblical rules I had never heard of - such as not mixing wool and linen (Deuteronomy 22:11). The author says that the was probably zero chance that anyone in America was following this rule. "Of course, I was flat wrong," he said.
There are actually shatnez testers. Shatnez means "mixed fibers." The tester will come to your home and look through a microscope at the fibers in each article of clothing. The book says that "Linen looks like a piece of bamboo. Wool is like a bunch of stacked cups. Cotton resembles twisted streamers. And polyester is smooth, like straw."
Another section discussed the importance of focusing on the present day rather than living or expecting things to happen in the future. It ties into a verse in Proverbs that says, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."
One of the friends he consulted through his journey had a voice mail greeting that ended: "Your next action could change the world, so make it a good one." What an excellent reminder and a great way to guide one's life. I could only hope that at least some of my actions in my life have made a difference.