Subtitled One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible Literally, AJ Jacobs' book is quite possibly one of my top ten favorite non-fictions of all time. The story begins when Jacobs begins to consider the social ramifications of the bible and how it is followed in modern day society. Being a self-proscribed Starbucks-drinking secular city boy, the notions presented by the "good book" are somewhat foreign to the author. Raised in a Jewish household that rarely adhered to stout Jewish beliefs, Jacobs had never experienced devout religion before.
Instead of jumping into the project blind, Jacobs spends untold hours reading the bibles (14 different versions, if memory serves) and assembles a panel of religious leaders to advise him on the correct way to go about his project. The first month or so of his journey, Jacobs examines the almost comedic strangeness of some biblical laws/rules. You can see him struggle to get a grasp on the sheer size of his self-imposed fanaticism.
The book also serves to illustrate an almost satirical look at religion. For instance, Jacobs discusses how many worshippers pick and choose the rules they wish to follow in the bible. Meanwhile, he also compares the differences between biblical literalism and interpretism. An eye for an eye, for example, has been shown to mean monetary exchange--not the bloody endeavor it sounds like.
Jacobs' wife, who's appearances are rare, serves as a good catalyst for some events. She also serves as a sort of "control" as she unbiassedly tells the author how foolish some of his new-found habits are. Jacobs is not above self-deprecation. I found it hilarious when he wrote of checking his first book's sales ranking on Amazon.com daily. You find yourself instantly drawn to Jacobs as more than just an author, but rather a witty friend down the street.
The events that transpire in the book are amusing. From the Jewish man who's job it is to search your closest for mixed-fiber clothing to the oddness perpetuated at the Creationist Museum, Jacobs paints a picture of religion unmatched as far as a I know. And while Jacobs does illustrate the lunacy of some sects, he never demeans or pokes fun at any person or organization he crosses paths with.
The book, contrary to what you might think, is not a call-to-arms for religious people. Not once did I feel as though I was being coerced to magically start attending church again. It is, quite literally, an exploration of religion. Jacobs, to experience the full effect, delves deep and buries himself in the character. I truly believe everyone should pick up this book the first chance they get.