Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: The Twible by Jana Riess. Add *this* to your gift list!

The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less...Now with 68% More Humor!
Jana Riess
Paperback: 320 pages

Yes, there's a Kindle edition, but that means you'll miss the sidebars in the print edition (e.g., “WTF is Revelation?” and “Five Deuteronomic Laws We Really Hope You’re Not Observing.”). Plus, trust me, you really do want this displayed on your coffee table.

At one point in my life I had at least one Bible in every room; different translations to meet different needs. I also had the predictable stack of commentaries and concordances, although I basically used the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as a doorstop. 

Over the years I've winnowed the collection way down and could probably do so even more now that I have The Twible by Jana Riess. I'm only semi-kidding.

What at first gawk and giggle looks like a goofy send-up is, in fact, a rigorous, comprehensive and blessedly brief synopsis of every freakin' chapter of every book within the agreed upon canon of Hebrew and Christian Scripture. (Note to Dr. Riess: get going on the Apocrypha). And no, I cannot provide examples because as I wander my way through The Twible, almost chapter supplants the previous as my favorite. Buy this book and discover your own!

In case you don't already know, Riess is the author of quite a few books, including one of my faves, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor. A blogger for Religion News Service, her cred for taking on this project includes an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD from Columbia University. Even more significant: her love of scripture and astonishing ability to simplify texts that have been rendered obscure by earnest theologians and crazed Bible-thumpers. 

So why The Twible? As Riess explains, back in 2009 she was "struck, Old Testament lightning-style" by how much she actually hadn't read and didn't know. As an experiment, she decided to summarize a chapter a day on Twitter "but with humorous commentary." 

Humorous is an understatement. Much of The Twible is laugh-snort hilarious because of her strategic use of idioms and images from contemporary culture to clarify ancient texts. 

Riess wonders if she has now guaranteed herself a room reservation in hell. Doubtful, because God is a great kidder and, as people of deep faith know or damn well should, the most joyful noise to make unto the Lord is laughter. The Twible generates that abundantly, making it a welcomed, much-needed gateway to scripture in a traditional format and form.