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Good Book    by David Plotz order for
Good Book
by David Plotz
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

David Plotz thought he knew what the Bible was all about. Raised by a nonreligious Jewish mother and father, he went to Hebrew school as a child, and an Episcopalian high school as a teen. He'd been taught the old and new testaments, and had heard other bits of Biblical lore from movies, TV shows, parents and teachers. But it wasn't until he actually picked up a Bible for the first time at his cousin's Bat Mitzvah that a startling realization dawned on him - he really had no idea what the Bible actually SAID.

And so began the basis for this book - over the course of a year, Plotz read the Hebrew Bible, word-for-word, cover-to-cover. Good Book is his collection of thoughts, ideas, questions, and observations from that year-long journey. He chose to read the Bible independently, without the aid of commentary or study guide, so that he could experience it for himself. Ultimately, he hoped to deepen his understanding of the faith of his fathers, and perhaps draw closer to God himself.

Good Book is arranged as a chapter-by-chapter tour of the Hebrew Bible. Plotz gives a short summary of each book, and then records his thoughts, as they come, on each chapter of that book. This style of writing feels incredibly intimate - almost as if we are reading his diary. His feelings come across in all their humor, outrage, grief, and delight, in a refreshingly raw and uncluttered narrative. Many parts of the book could be construed as sacreligious, but I don't believe that was Plotz's intent - he just recorded his first instincts about what he read, whatever those happened to be.

This is not necessarily a book to be read from cover to cover, but would be an interesting resource for a personal Bible study or Bible study group. Because Plotz does not come from a background of faith, he raises difficult questions that could challenge believers to think about the reasons behind their belief. At times, his impulsive instincts show his lack of knowledge about Biblical culture and custom, and his use of contemporary pop culture references can be somewhat jarring.

Good Book is a unique perspective on one of the most beloved books in history. It will certainly inflame some, challenge others, and should spark discussions about the faith that is held dear by millions throughout the world.

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