Book Review: Good Book by David Plotz

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Plotz, David - Good BookI’ve been quoting from David Plotz’s blog project quite a bit, so I thought it was about time to see the product that issued from it: Good Book.

For the most part, the content is the same as the blog. The only additions are an introduction, a conclusion chapter called “Should you read the Bible?”, a chapter about Plotz’s travel to Israel, and a rather amusing appendix with various quick reference passage lists.

Why read this book?

As Plotz himself admits in the introduction, he has little to offer the discussion. He’s an agnostic Jew who has, prior to beginning this reading project, merely gone through the motions of his faith without bothering to look too deeply into their meaning. He can’t offer learned commentary, as many others have.

As a fellow amateur reader, I’m in much the same situation. Why should I bother blogging my reading when so many others with a far more knowledgeable vantage point, are doing the same? Like Plotz: “I had one – and only one – advantage over the experts: the book was fresh to me” (p.4).

That’s precisely what I’ve been enjoying about Plotz’s writing. He hasn’t had a chance to rationalize or to explain away (or, from the other side of the fence, to accentuate ) what he reads. He has to take it as it is, black on white. And, though he and I differ in our perceptions on many points, I’ve found it quite nice to have someone else reading it for the first time from the same general vantage point of having only had very superficial instruction.

Where it’s different from simply reading the Bible for myself is that Plotz, as a Jew, has had some different cultural instruction than I have, and so points out different things. He’s also a different person, so he’ll spot or highly things that I might not have noticed on my own.

Why read the bible?

In the final chapter, Plotz gives his reasons for why he thinks it’s a great idea to read the Bible. He hits on most of my own reasons: that it’s the basis for so much of our culture, both in law and in literature, and it’s good to understand where that’s coming from. I would add that when many people working against social justice issues – such as LGBTQ rights – are talking Bible-speak, we are most effective in opposing them when we are able to speak the same language. Maybe not for the leaders, but the younger generation is more likely to listen, I think, to arguments couched in a framework that they can understand.

Lists

Plotz finishes off the book with quote lists, and these are quite funny. There’s the 12 best pickup lines, God’s 11 best miracles (plus a bonus very lame one), 11 heroes you don’t want to be named after, and so forth. It’s a cute way to end the book.

Blogging the Bible

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plotz-david-good-bookA couple years ago, Slate‘s David Plotz undertook a project to blog the Bible – much as your humble narrator is doing, but in a far less verbose manner.

I’ve only read a couple of the entries so far, but it seems to be rather interesting. Plotz focuses more on his own personal impressions of his reading rather than summary, although it seems pretty easy to figure out what’s going on based on his commentary, so I don’t think that reading the Bible is necessary to enjoy the blog.

He only goes through the Old Testament. Being a Jew, that’s where his interests lay.

He’s also written a book based on his experiences called Good Book. Have you read it? Leave your impressions in the comments!

The Comic Torah: Reimagining the Very Good Book

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Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenzweig have put together the Comic Torah – a comic book reimagining of the Torah with Sharon as a stand-in for God and Aaron as Moses. There are quite a few recognizable characters, too, so keep an eye out!

I really like the concept, and the execution is certainly interesting. One review calls it “midrash” – the Jewish tradition of commentary. From what I can see on their website, they don’t seem to be trying to whitewash some of the more… colourful episodes, instead providing a fairly accurate portrayal of the “very good book,” warts and all.

You can read some of the pages for free on their website, or buy the book on Amazon.