'Tis the season to be jolly! Or, now that you've finished NaNoWriMo, it's the season to put down your ragged novel with a relieved sigh and pick up someone else's book. In the holiday spirit, I recommend The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, a nonfiction romp through one man's quest to follow all the rules in the Bible, to the letter, for an entire year.
As an agnostic who is, as he terms it, about as Jewish as Olive Garden is Italian, Jacobs has an interesting perspective on faith and the faithful. As a new father who wants to raise his children, he wonders if religion (and its rules) have anything to offer in the way of parenting wisdom. As a Jewish guy, he is interested in discovering his heritage -- and as such, most of the book focuses on the Hebrew Testament. As a husband, he is dismayed when the Biblical ban on lying makes his wife start asking him random questions. As a liberal, he is conflicted over different interpretations of scripture on issues like abortion and gay marriage.
Above all, this book is hilarious. It's an irreverent and surprisingly insightful crash course in the Bible. Jacobs records his journeys (physical and spiritual) in an informal, funny, thoughtful voice. The style makes it a light read, but it's long enough to keep you occupied for the month. It will also challenge and maybe change your ideas about religion, faith, and the world in general.
The Year of Living Biblically has been well-recieved by both secular and religious audiences. If you're not religious yourself, Jacobs is a perfect narrator. If you are, then you'll probably learn something new about your own faith or enjoy seeing things from Jacobs's respectful, but candid, perspective.
And if you pick it up and don't like it, there's always A Christmas Carol.