Supplementary reading

A Year of Reading Biblically spreads its wings

October 22, 2014 | Young Voices | Volume 18 Issue 21
Aaron Epp | Young Voices Co-editor

Did you know that there’s an illustrated Bible that retells the stories in Scripture using Lego? The Brick Testament is a series by a man in California named Brendan Powell Smith, who has spent thousands of dollars using those small, colourful bricks recreating biblical stories and then photographing them.

 “While there is really no substitute for reading the Bible itself, The Brick Testament endeavours to come as close to that experience as possible for people who wouldn’t normally read the Bible all the way through on their own,” Smith writes on “For those already familiar with the Bible, it offers the chance to brush up in a fun way, or to reconsider what they have read before.”

The Brick Testament is one of the many intriguing titles I’ve come across as this Year of Reading Biblically has progressed.

I love books, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve found myself gravitating toward books that have to do with the Bible over the past year. I’ve dug a few off my bookshelves that I’ve had for years, and also picked up a few new ones over the past 10 or 11 months that I’ve come across while perusing the stacks at various bookstores.

Here are three of the books I’ve picked up and flipped through in the last few months. I have not read all three of these cover to cover, but have read parts of them from time to time, to supplement my Bible reading:

  • Know Your Bible for Kids by Donna K. Maltese (Barbour Publishing, 2013).

I came across this title at a store in Lake of the Woods, Ont., while heading to a fishing trip this past summer. The store had a small rack of Christian books, and this was one of them. I was drawn to the small, 128-page volume because it reminded me of the illustrated children’s Bibles I looked through when I was young, but also because it gives a brief, two-page overview of each book in the Bible. Each entry discusses who wrote the book, when it was written and what the book is about; it also identifies an impor-
tant verse from each book, what that verse means, and what the book’s key message is.

  • The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

I first read this book a number of years ago, and its title inspired the name my editors and I chose for A Year of Reading Biblically. Jacobs, an editor-at-large at Esquire magazine, has made a name for himself by taking on different projects and writing about them. In his 2004 book, The Know-It-All, for example, he wrote about reading the entire 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 33,000 pages of it.

For The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs, a secular Jew, read the Bible, wrote down every rule he came across, and then spent a year following those rules. It’s an entertaining read that documents Jacobs’ spiritual transformation. He has no dramatic conversion experience, but by the end of his year of living biblically, he defines himself as a “reverent agnostic,” someone who believes in the idea of sacredness, and that rituals, the Sabbath or prayer can be sacred. Jacobs offers many fascinating insights along the way.

  • Good Book by David Plotz (HarperCollins, 2009).

When I first spoke with my editors about A Year of Reading Biblically late in 2013, one of them suggested that a book might come of it. David Plotz, an American journalist, beat me to it. In Good Book, Plotz—who starts the book by writing, “I’ve always been a proud Jew, but never a very observant one”—writes about reading through the book on which his religion, his culture and his world are based. He offers summaries of each Old Testament book that are both incisive and humorous. Flipping through Good Book from time to time has been a good way for me to make sense of what I’m reading in the Bible and has also brought my attention to some of the things I’ve missed along the way.

Finding books like the ones listed above has made for a richer Year of Reading Biblically.

--Posted Oct, 22, 2014

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