Sadly here is a book you will not likely to find in many Catholic book stores or even in online Catholic book stores. I just finished reading The Bad Catholic’s Guide To Wine, Whiskey, And Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life and Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak and I can’t recommend it highly enough. When John Zmirak emailed about the new book I ordered it immediately since I doubted my local Catholic book store would carry it. Though if you do find it in a Catholic book store you might be tempted to take it out in a brown paper bag (which is quite appropriate for a book on alcohol) so that you don’t lose your pious creds among other store shoppers.
I had previously reviewed their first book Bad Catholics Guide to Good Living which I also enjoyed. This book takes the same format and applies it to the many intersections of the Catholics Church and the making of various spirits.
Take equal parts history, drinking songs, teleology, odd facts, monastery brewers, and add a heaping measure of humor you start to get an idea of what this book is like. At close to 400 pages this is a fairly long book and what I think is an amazing accomplishment that it is both informative and funny throughout. Seldom has one book made me laugh out loud as many times as this one did. The footnotes are also a major part of the book. If you are inclined to not read footnotes, do not do that with this book. Sometimes the footnotes provide fascinating information and sometimes they are just jaw-achingly funny.
The book covers various alcohols literally from A – Z and also contains segments on loopholes to the Ten Commandments throughout the book. This is a book only Catholics could write in the first place. There is not exactly a rich Baptist tradition between breweries and vineyards. While I was aware that many monasteries throughout history had their hand in these arts, it is rather amazing just how many connections there are of intersections between the Church and alcohol. Though not really surprising considering the miracle of Cana and wine used as the species for the Holy Eucharist. This history is quite facinating just reading straight, but the authors punctuate this history with many funny moments. Their are also many strange but true facts scattered throughout the book that you would think they were just part of the authors well developed humor. One being a quote from anti-Catholic and just strange John Harvey Kellogg (yes founder of the cereal) who ironically turns out to be a flake.
Another great thing about the book is that while these are Bad Catholic guides, the authors themselves are quite serious Catholics (if serious can be applied to them) and when they include discussion of Church teaching and theology throughout the book it is quite good. The swipes they take at both progressive and rad trad Catholics are also fun. Some people will pick up the book expecting something else and will discover that not only that Catholics aren’t Puritans, but they will see aspects of the faith quite well presented.
There are also some very funny comparisons in various tables included my favorite being the comparison between Lager Beer and Infallible Papal Declarations. Another hilarious section is a critique of some of the songs you will find sung at most Masses.
"Here I am, Lord." This hymn depicts a human soul responding to the call of Christ–but the music is whiny and grim, evoking in most people’s minds a can of rancid potted meat, being slowly spread by windshield wipers across a plate of dirty auto glass. You hear Christ calling all right–but you feel like He’s some hobo who’s tapping at your window at 4 a.m. to wake you from a sound sleep so He can ask you directions to Dunkin’ Donuts. You don’t so much want to answer Him as clock him with a slipper. Sung in a sleepwalking, zombie rhythm, its use at Communion time produces a strikingly cinematic effect, which film critics have dubbed "The Church of the Living Dead." Here again, we have a chance to bring good out of evil: In preliminary tests, use of this song by military interrogators has proved successful, slightly more humane replacement for water-boarding.
As you would expect on a book covering this subject they do cover the discussion of drunkenness and the virtue of temperance. I also loved that fact that they made the comparison between people going to Whole Foods to buy pristine and purer organic foods and at the same time pumping their bodies full of hormones through birth control, a point I have made myself. This book is just flat-out funny and informative and one that I would highly recommend this book along with the first one in the series.