Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Year of Living Biblically

A.J. Jacobs likes to pull stunts, get book deals, and write about them. In addition to being a regular writer for Esquire magazine, he's written a book called The Know-It-All, where he told about his adventures reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. This time, he vows to adhere as literally as possible to all the laws in the Old and New Testaments.

I found this book entertaining and intriguing. Jacobs is thoughtful and funny. His adherance to the laws is most obviously manifested as he grows out his beard and wears white clothes with tassels on the end. One particularly hilarious episode is in the beginning, when he cannot touch his wife for 7 days, or sit anywhere that she has sat, because she might be unclean. His wife, being a modern woman, is a little resentful about what this particular law implies. She retaliates by sitting in every chair in their apartment, thereby making it impossible for him to sit down anywhere.

Jacobs is an agnostic with a Jewish background. He comments freely about his fluctuating viewpoints on God and religion. He examines carefully the impact of doing good deeds and following rules...all the rules...and what effect this has on his inner thoughts. The reader also gets to follow Jacobs and his wife through their quest to have another child...which works out a little differently than planned.

Jacob performs a stunt, but it is one that he carries through thoroughly as he can, and his modern-day thoughts and humor make this a book for anyone, regardless of spiritual choice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Snowflower and the Secret Fan

I have had Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See on my "to read" list forever, and saw the library owns it on audio through Overdrive, so I thought that was a better way for me to catch up on my reading list. I really enjoyed this book, especially because it focused on so many cultural and historical practices of China. I had never studied in depth any of these like foot binding, and arranged marriages, but See was able to make the facts and stories so interesting that it was a very quick listen. I really felt drawn to the characters with the unbelievable trials they went through as the novel described two friends over many decades of their lives. The traditions and the pain and joy they went through seemed so real. I also thought it was a great book to listen to because it was such good storytelling.