The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007) is AJ Jacobs‘ second ‘memoir’ (I’ve also read his first memoir, The Know-It-All, in which he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica). It’s pretty much what it sounds like – AJ goes through the Bible, finding anything that sounds like a rule, and tries to follow everything to the letter. No interpretations. It says stone an adulterer? He stones an adulterer (albeit with pebbles. well, one pebble.). It says tie tassels to your clothing? He does just that.
Although not a comedy book per se, The Year of Living Biblically is definitely humorous in tone. That’s why AJ can get away with his year-long experiment, which occasionally leads to the ridiculous. For example, he tries to avoid touching his wife during her menstruation, and brings a Handy Seat with him everywhere so he can avoid sitting on ‘dirty’ chairs. As well as trying to check off Biblical rules like shepherding and loving his neighbour, AJ talks to many religious figures, Jewish (Old Testament) and Christian (New Testament). He has spiritual ‘advisors,’ and also goes on road trips to talk to the Amish, and to evangelical Christians (including snake-handlers, which are exactly what they sound like).
It’s AJ’s (often ridiculous) efforts to follow EVERY rule in the Bible and his determination to talk to many religious sects with points of view across the spectrum that make this book fun, but not frivolous. Coming from a secular point of view, he initially sees many religious rituals as bizarre, but by experiencing them himself, he begins to understand the meaning they hold for the people who practice them. Although I’m sure he only just scratched the surface of religion and the Bible’s rules, AJ makes a great effort at presenting religion to the secular world.