I realized recently (and very awkwardly) that I read a lot about being single. I need more balance in my life, which is one of the reasons I turned to The Thrill of the Chaste for my last review. However, that was still a book about being single. In came Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter. Edited by Hallie Lord of Betty Beguiles (the only fashion blog I trust), the anthology consists of ten short essays by Catholic women who are active bloggers and seeking to live their faith in a Sex and the City-Planned Parenthood-Cosmo-saturated world. These ladies offer an alternative, and then alternatives to that. Their love for Jesus and the Church unites them and gives an unfailing guide to their deeply practical advice.
Style, Sex, and Substance initially piqued my interest because I love reading the musings of several of its contributors: Hallie, Austinite Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary, and Simcha Fisher of I Have to Sit Down. That interest was sustained when I realized that, by reading all of the essays, I could gain a much fuller perspective on what it means to be a Catholic woman in the 21st century. There was the obligatory chapter on living single (written by the only unmarried contributor), and others I expected on femininity, motherhood, and marriage. I didn’t expect the chapters on female friendships, the new evangelization, and prayer. Such a wide variety of women from across the country and in many stages of life helps balance out the topics that “really matter” to Catholic women today.
Even the format is top-notch. Each chapter of the book is short enough to be taken in a single sitting, but each also concludes with six reflection questions. The questions could easily be adapted for small group discussions, making this the ideal book club or women’s group read. If I were in Hallie’s position, I would have the most trouble deciding how to arrange chapters. The concluding essay by Barbara Nicolosi was one of my favorites, though, and it was particularly well-placed. After nine chapters building from identity through vocation, with a smattering of favorite prayers and insightful quotations, Nicolosi’s offering gives the reader a call to action. Even though this is an ink-and-paper (okay, also Kindle) book, the world is rapidly turning toward new forms of disseminating information. Rather than burying her head in a hole, though, the Church encourages her faithful to embrace new technologies and new methods of communication to claim the world for Christ. After reading the preceding chapters, we are armed with a new self to offer to the world: the modern Christian with an eye toward the future.
Style, Sex, and Substance seems like the first step toward filling the emptiness I found in books like Captivating. Being informed by the theology of the body and the Eucharist added a quality to this book that I can’t quite describe. Honestly, reading it felt a little like when I first dove back into the Church seven years ago. I expected to find goodness and maybe even happiness. I found joy. If you’re a woman, get this book. If you’re a man, read it for the women in your life. You will not be disappointed.
Up next: My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, by Dawn Eden in her first book since The Thrill of the Chaste