“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.”
― Alberto Manguel
Sobriety-based literature runs the gamut from memoirs and novels to self-help workbooks and guides, making it difficult to pinpoint what will resonate with each individual. Before diving into the sea of options, I encourage my clients to research the various genres and to read reviews from others who have navigated the recovery journey.
Again and again, I’ve seen recovery books make a tremendous difference in treatment outcomes, and the recommendations below hail directly from my personal experiences as well as those of my clients. The list below is meant to serve as a starting point only, and by no means encompasses all of the addiction-based literature available:
1. This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
“You will no longer suffer the mental division caused by one side of your brain wanting a drink and the other side feeling like you should cut back.”
Grace offers readers a scientifically-based approach to eliminating the internal battle that so often exhausts addicts. She blends research, humor, and personal experience while highlighting the causes of alcohol abuse versus the symptoms. Grace challenges the cultural pedestal on which alcohol is so often placed and provides viable alternatives to addressing problem drinking.
2. Why You Drink and How to Stop: Journey to Freedom by Veronica Valli
“Remember three things here: It’s a brave person who asks for help, not a weak one. Doing things your way hasn’t worked. It’s important to get the help that is right for you, and to understand the significance of not doing this on your own.”
Valli, a recovered addict and addictions counselor, explores the “WHYs” that so many addicts and their loved ones grapple with. It’s equal emphasis on the physical, psychological, and spiritual components of addiction make it a standout in the available literature. The author presents her research in a highly accessible way as she navigates the underlying issues that lead to problem drinking. The book’s final section proposes realistic treatment solutions that will prove valuable to both addicts and their loved ones.
3. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Recovery by Bert Pluymen
“When I quit drinking eight years ago, my family, friends, and law partners all said: “You don’t have a drinking problem. Why are you stopping?” But they didn’t wake up in my body on a Saturday, when I’d feel horrible.”
Praised heavily by readers who feel they don’t fit the “rock bottom addiction mold,’ Pluymen’s book reminds us that we all deserve to live joyful, balanced, and peaceful lives. Integrating funny anecdotes with useful statistics makes for a fast-paced and highly relatable read.
4. Nutrition to Combat Alcohol Cravings: Super Health After Alcohol Abuse by Catherine Mason Thomas
“This book is about getting the life you want part of which is fueled by the way you approach your inner life and the way you approach nutrition.”
The cravings of early sobriety can prove difficult to combat, and Thomas’ book offers actionable solutions. Her nutritional tips and recipes are presented in accessible terms and can be introduced without the rigidity associated with so many diet plans. Thomas is a sobriety coach and personal trainer whose writing is clearly informed by both her personal experiences and her work with clients.
5. Kick The Drink, Easily by Jason Vale
“If I don’t look after my body, I’ll have nowhere to live.”
Author and health advocate Jason Vale was once a heavy smoker and drinker. His book takes a no-nonsense approach to eliminating alcohol while challenging cultural drinking norms. Coined by countless readers as “eye opening,” Vale upholds a mindset change as the single-most powerful tool in combatting addiction.
6. Lit by Mary Karr
“Drinking to handle the angst of Mother’s drinking–caused by her own angst–means our twin dipsomanias face off like a pair of mirrors, one generation offloading misery to the other through dwindling generations, back through history to when humans first fermented grapes.”
If self-help guides don’t resonate for you, consider diving into Mary Karr’s masterful memoir, Lit. Through gifted prose, Karr carries readers along on her journey through alcoholism and her ultimate resurrection. The gripping story reaches far beyond the prison of alcoholism, capturing truths about life, marriage, and womanhood. Most importantly, though, it’s a story of hope.
7. The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress and Anger that Trigger Addictive Behaviors by Rebecca E. Williams and Julia S. Kraft MA
“This wonderful workbook will help you understand how addictions function as a false remedy for negative feelings. It is packed with stories, metaphors, worksheets, and activities that will teach you how to befriend your mind and use it as a resource for recovery and fulfillment.”
This guide actively engages readers in their recovery through mindfulness strategies, cognitive behavioral techniques, and relatable case studies. Williams and Kraft expertly map the emotional territory of the recovery journey and the result is a tool that proves invaluable for both addicts and treatment professionals.
8. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
“When you quit drinking, you stop waiting.”
Touted by many readers as “life-changing,” Knapp’s memoir of alcohol addiction and recovery is refreshingly honest and engaging. The story seamlessly weaves personal experiences with universal insights regarding the addiction journey. Crediting Pete Hamill’s A Drinking Life with playing a large role in her own recovery, Knapp has irrefutably paid it forward.
9. The Easy Way to Control Drinking by Allen Carr
“You will find no one more willing to help you solve a drinking problem than AA members in recovery. The trouble is that the very cornerstone of AA philosophy is fallacy. AA was created on the premise that there is no cure for alcoholism, let alone an immediate and simple one. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to their advice, but if it contradicts my instructions, don’t follow it.”
Carr unapologetically steers clear of more traditional recovery modalities, while confidently presenting his own approach to addiction. After widespread acclaim (and staggering success numbers) for his book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, Carr went on to create a series of books adopting similar principles. Many problem drinkers credit Carr with their continued sobriety, and consider the book to be a “game-changer” in the addiction journey.
10. Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston
“Suddenly, you realize booze has moved in. He’s in your kitchen. He’s in your bedroom. He’s at your dining table taking up two spaces, crowding out your loved ones … He starts showing you who’s boss. Booze is now calling the shots.”
Johnston likens the boom in female alcoholism to the tobacco love-affair of decades past, and believes it merits a similar public health response. Drink includes stories of women from all walks of life, including the the author herself and is an unflinchingly honest and important read. Highlighting heart-wrenching anecdotes of lives destroyed by alcohol alongside mind-boggling research, Johnston leaves readers with a grave understanding of a growing epidemic.
Countless recovering alcoholics credit books as playing a significant role in their recoveries. Whether you are contemplating treatment, are actively engaged in recovery, or simply seeking resources on a behalf of an addicted loved one, there is no better time than the present to start reading!
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Sobriety Coach, and former alcohol enthusiast living in Florida with her husband and son.