The Latest Book from Bruce

The Secrets of Happy Families

Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More

The Secrets of Happy Families book coverBest-selling author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler found himself squeezed between aging parents and rising children. He set out on a three-year journey to find the smartest ideas, cutting-edge research, and novel solutions to make his family happier. READ MORE


The Council of Dads

A Story of Family, Friendship & Learning How to Live

The Council of Dads book coverWhen bestselling author Bruce Feiler was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his leg, he could only imagine all the walks he might not take with his daughters, the ballet recitals he would miss, the art projects left undone, and the aisles he might not walk down. READ MORE

Read Bruce’s cancer diary.

Bruce's latest news

The Secrets of Happy Families featured and tested on ABC’s Nightline. Watch the video here.

A great review of ‘The Secrets of Happy Families’ in the Washington Post!

How Happy is Your Family? Take the quiz in Parade Magazine and check out the feature on NPR and in USA Today.

Reader’s Guide

Introduction

WALKING THE BIBLE is Bruce Feiler’s engrossing 10,000-mile journey and archaeological odyssey — by foot, jeep, rowboat, and camel — through the Holy Land. A fifth-generation Jew from Savannah, Georgia, Feiler was overcome with the urge to reconnect with the Bible, musing upon the original seeker, Abraham, as his inspiration:

“Abraham was not originally the man he became. He was not an Israelite, he was not a Jew. He was not even a believer in God — at least initially. He was a traveler, called by some voice not entirely clear that said: Go head to this land, walk along this route, and trust what you will find.”

Along with noted Israeli archaeologist Avner Goren, who acted as Feiler’s trusted guide, partner, mentor, and sidekick, Feiler embarks on painstakingly retracing through the desert the Pentatuech, the first five books of the Old Testament. Traveling through Turkey, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, and Jordan, three continents, and four war zones, Feiler converses freely with Bedouins and religious pilgrims alike. He visits actual places referenced in the Bible, including Mount Ararat, where it is believed that Noah’s Ark landed after the flood, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, the site of the burning bush where Moses first heard the words of God, and Mount Nebo, where Moses overlooked the Promised Land.

In engaging and lucid prose, Feiler continually reflects on how the geography of the land affects the narrative of the Bible, and pointedly wonders whether the Bible is just an abstraction, or a living, breathing entity. Ultimately, Feiler concludes in WALKING THE BIBLE that the Bible “is forever applicable, it’s always now…It lives because it never dies.”

The land that Feiler explores on his journey is timeless. WALKING THE BIBLE is not only a “good read,” it’s worth thinking about and savoring the people and places Feiler visits. This Study Guide is designed to help book groups explore and reflect on WALKING THE BIBLE through discussion. The Study Guide helps groups trace the large themes Feiler touches upon in his travels — feelings about the land, its people, their history, the Bible — and Feiler’s own experiences on his journey. Whether you’ve journeyed to the Middle East or are content to remain an “armchair traveler,” WALKING THE BIBLE is a fabulous adventure through a timeless world. And its accompanying Study Guide will deepen your experience and understanding of the region.

Discussion Questions

  1. Feiler traveled to many places as he journeyed through the sites found in the five books of Moses. Which one did you find the most interesting or inspiring? Why?
  2. Of the many facts, stories, and history Feiler tells about the Bible and its geography, what did you find the most surprising? In other words, what did you learn about the Bible you didn’t know before?
  3. In the chapter, “Wall of Water,” Feiler writes, “As much as [Avner] knew about the Bible, he seemed to know more about the nature of travel, about how to go to places, leave a bit of yourself behind, take a bit of the place with you, and in the process emerge with something bigger — and experience, a connection, a story” (page 192). What do you think was Feiler’s most significant “experience” or “connection” in his walk through the Bible? Why?
  4. Describe Avner’s connection to and feelings for Sinai.
  5. What is Feiler’s purpose in Walking the Bible? Does he accomplish that purpose? How?
  6. Describe how the desert figured in Feiler’s travels — what he found there, its influence on the lives of those who live in the desert now and on those who lived in biblical times.
  7. Who do you think was the most fascinating person Feiler met in his travels? Why?
  8. In “Sunrise in the Palm of God,” Feiler writes, “[The] more profound change the journey brought about in me…allowed me to turn off my mind occasionally and open myself up to feelings-spiritual, emotional, divine, even imaginary — that might innately connect me to the world….after months of traveling around the Middle East, I felt newly aware of the emotional power of certain places, the essential meridians of history that exist just underneath the topsoil…” (page 420). Have you ever traveled to a place that connected you emotionally to place in the way Feiler describes? If so, describe your experience. If not, where do you imagine such a place might be for you?
  9. Describe Avner and how Feiler relies on him.
  10. Describe some of the contrasts Feiler experiences between the ancient biblical world and the modern world of the Middle.
  11. In “Go Forth,” Feiler writes, “Some journeys we choose to go on, I realized; some journeys choose us” (page 35). Talk about a time when you felt compelled to begin a journey — a time when you felt the journey chose you.
  12. In “In the Land of Canaan,” Feiler writes about meeting Fern Dobuler, an Israeli who was originally from New York. Fern says, “When my kids used to go on field trips in America, they went to a museum, to the Empire State Building. Here when you go on a field trip they drop you off in the middle of the nowhere and you walk, for hours and hours and hours” (page 49). Discuss the difference between how Americans and Middle Easternsers feel about or experience the land.
  13. Contrast the differences Feiler experiences in Israel and with his experiences in Egypt.
  14. Discuss the similarities and differences between St. Catherine’s monastery in the chapter, “On Holy Ground,” and Kibbutz Sdeh Borer in the chapter, “The Land of Milk and Honey.”
  15. How did Feiler’s travels change your mind about the Middle East, the people who live there and their history? Or how did Feiler’s travels support what you already think about the Middle East?

For Further Reading

  • The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter
  • God: A Biography by Jack Miles
  • The Bible as It Was by James Kugel.

Reference

  • The HarperCollins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, annotated by the Society of Biblical Literature
  • Harper’s Bible Dictionary, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier with the Society of Biblical Literature
  • Harper’s Bible Commentary, edited by James L. Mays with the Society of Biblical Literature
  • The Harper Atlas of the Bible, edited by James Pritchard.