People have long understood that making a dramatic but temporary change to your daily routine can help you open your mind, broaden your experiences, and examine your normal life with new eyes, without being hampered by the fear that is common in the face of more permanent life changes. This is one of the purposes behind such religious observances as Lent and Ramadan, among others.
Here are 10 books by people who’ve done something interesting, different, or just plain weird for a whole year:
1. Beavan, Colin – No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process
An honest and non-preachy account of a Manhattan family that takes dramatic steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
2. Cohen, Benjamin – My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith
A funny yet thoughtful account of an Orthodox rabbi’s son and his efforts to rekindle his own faith by visiting Christian churches.
3. Dunn, Claire – My Year Without Matches: Escaping the City in Search of the Wild
Burned out by her job and busy life in the city, Dunn quit her job and spent a year with a wilderness survival program in the Australian bush.
4. Jacobs, A.J. – The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
A.J. Jacobs is the master of “my year of…” books (if you enjoy this book, you may also want to check out his attempt to read the Encyclopedia Brittanica, his quest for bodily perfection, and more) and this funny book chronicles his efforts to live his life according to Biblical strictures, from growing a beard and avoiding mixed threads to eating crickets and playing a ten-string harp. For a similar experiment from a female perspective, we recommend A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, by Rachel Held Evans.
5. Kingsolver, Barbara – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Kingsolver, a successful novelist, and her family of four left their home in the Southwest to return to Kingsolver’s family farm in Appalachia and spend a year eating only local food and food they had grown/raised themselves.
6. Murphy, Kevin – A Year at the Movies: One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey
A funny and entertaining account of one man’s year of going to the movies every day.
7. Rees, Jasper – A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument
Musicians and music lovers will especially enjoy this hilarious account of a man’s attempt to master the French horn.
8. Shea, Ammon – Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages
A surprisingly funny and entertaining account of one word lover’s attempt to read the entire Oxford English Dictionary (including the bibliography), with commentary on some of the unexpected treasures found therein.
9. Vincent, Norah – Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Year Disguised as a Man
A thought-provoking account of a woman who disguised herself as a man for a year.
10. Wallace, Danny – Yes Man
A passing comment by a stranger on a bus led Wallace to set himself the challenge of saying “yes” to everything for a whole year. This funny and touching book shares both the successes and failures that resulted.
What are your favorite books about people doing something interesting or unusual for a year?
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