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Notes: A Book Reading with A.J. Jacobs

before_after.jpgA Book Reading with A.J. Jacobs
MJCCA Book Festival 11/9/2007
Sweetwater Brewing Company Brew Ha-Ha

Author of The Know-it-All (my review) and The Year of Living Biblically

– believes in full immersion in projects
– likes to think of himself as human guinea pig; his �life as a laboratory�.

– Two key articles
o My Outsourced Life in Esquire � outsourced his life to a company in India, and lazed about for a month. Best month of his life.
o I Think You�re Fat � tried out radical honesty, where you lack a filter on what you say. Worst month of his life.
– grew up in a secular home
o He is, �Jewish in the way Olive Garden is Italian.�

Steps to writing The Year of Living Biblically
o Bought a stack of Bibles
o Collected a board of spiritual advisors
o Read the Bible in several versions and made a list of 700 rules to follow.
o Followed them.
1. Some easier than others, such as in Leviticus 20:27 (ESV) �They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.� All Jacobs had to do was avoid picking a fight.

There were 2 hard rules to follow
o Avoiding the sins we commit every day such as lying, gossip and coveting
1. �I never became a saint, never became Angelina Jolie.�
2. But in pretending to be a better person, he became one.
o there were rules that were troubling in modern day America, such as stoning adulterers
1. Bypassed this by only using pebbles.
2. Read story from The Year of Living Biblically (pg. 91-94, Day 62) about running into a man who admitted to being an adulterer and the end result of his attempt to stone him.

There were 2 motivations for writing The Year of Living Biblically
o Genuine spiritual inquiry � sparked by his need to raise up his son morally
o His concern with fundamentalism
– found that the interpretations of words is important
o found out that stoning is not what we traditionally think of it as (i.e. throwing rocks) but actually throwing off a cliff, when the person was drunk.
– Jacobs �Out Bible talked a Jehovah�s Witness�.
– Ironically, he is going to appear on the cover of an evangelical magazine and in Penthouse and Playboy at the same time.

4 lessons learned
o Thou shalt give thanks.
o Thou shalt be reverent.
1. Jacobs started out as an agnostic, came out a reverent agnostic � meaning that he appreciates the sacredness of things more
o Thou shalt not stereotype
o Thou shalt pick and choose
– The journey took Jacobs �from the sublime to the ridiculous, and back again�
– When asked if he used the Torah as well as the Bible Jacobs replied that he wanted to, �get back to the original intent, almost like an Antonin Scalia of the Bible!�

Read more at A. J. Jacobs Blog or at mental_floss, where he is regular contributor both to the print magazine and their blog.