Friday, February 13, 2009

A.J. Jacobs: The Year of Living Biblically

This book came highly recommended by Running With Dogs. We like a lot of the same stuff, and sometimes we're confused for the same person, so I figured it was worth a shot. Plus, I'm generally kind of a nerd about religious things, and this book is about just what it says: living the way the bible says for one year. I liked the book, but I didn't like the protagonist, aka the author, AJ Jacobs. His last book was about reading the encyclopedia. It was called "The Know-It-All," and I think that pretty much sums it up. He's just kind of annoying and egotistical.

There were some moments of glory, like his description of Amish children playing baseball:

The kids are good, but something is off about the game. I realize after a few minutes what it is: This is the quietest baseball game I've ever seen.. No trash talk. No cheering from the parents in the stands. Near silence, except for the occasional crack of the bat. It is eerie and peaceful and beautiful (p35).

I've always felt baseball is a kind of ballet, and Jacobs describes Amish ballet baseball beautifully. And he's honest about his sort of self-obsession.

And I must, absolutely must, stop self-GOogling. It's a horrible habit that I still haven't kicked in my biblical year. I found one blogger in Singapore who got my book for a birthday present, though he seemed more excited about another present, a T-shirt that read, "I'm looking for Treasure. Can I See Your CHest?" I've done image searches on myself, and found an outtake from an appearance on C-Span's Book TV... (p 151).

All of this is interesting, but doesn't make me like Jacobs anymore. (Sorry, dude, if you're reading this. The parts that do make me like him are where he discusses wanting to find humane and ethical ways for raising his young son. The parts where he knows he can figure out how to be a better person, but doesn't want to be a better person just to be a better person, but because he actually *is* a better person. The book is good, if a bit too long, and a bit too self-indulgent. Stop trying, AJ, you're almost there!