17 Best Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Books

Updated: Jan 13

Giving up alcohol can be so hard. Even if you feel like you have people that you can turn to, it’s not always easy.


For example, after a really bad day, sometimes you need a good book to reference and help you recenter.


You can get support and guidance through the books I refer to below.


Over the years, I have referenced many books on sobriety, and I’d like to share with you some of my favorites.


I have personally read each one and given you my insights.


Then I’m going to top that off with a section where I try to answer some of your most frequently asked questions on books on sobriety.


Let’s take a look.


Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition: The official "Big Book" from Alcoholic Anonymous




Now, this is one of the Alcoholics Anonymous books that you’re bound to have already heard of, known as their “Big Book”. The first edition of this book was published as far back as 1939, but since then it has been updated and changed. And it’s a bestseller with leading online retailers across several categories.


The book begins by telling the story of Bill W. and Dr Bob, the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, and then it goes on to explain the origins of the movement and just how Alcoholics Anonymous works and helps so many people.


But making those changes to achieve sobriety and live a sober life is a community problem, and not something you have to face alone. This is why the book not only tells the story of the founders but also goes on to share the stories of 40 other members of Alcoholic Anonymous.


What I love about this book is that, while it acknowledges that the road can be really tough at times, the overall story remains one of hope and perseverance.


The Appendices of the book are particularly valuable. They discuss the AA tradition and the 12 concepts, as well as the medical and religious views on AA.


Despite being called the Big Book, it’s only 332 pages long, making it about the same size as a typical paperback novel. There’s enough information, stories, and guidance in there for it to take several hours to read, but not so much that it will take you months to get through.


It’s available in several different formats, including paperback, hardback, Kindle e-book, and an audiobook. And it’s very reasonably priced, too.


All versions of the Big Book have gone down particularly well with those who’ve bought and read them, and you’ll often find that it always has a full 5-star rating with customers, regardless of how many thousands of people bothered to leave a rating or review.


Pros

  • Official Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous

  • It has helped millions of people find sobriety

  • Features true stories from over 40 sufferers

  • Available in different formats, inc. audiobook

  • It’s received phenomenal ratings and reviews

Cons

  • Sometimes in meetings, specific pages of this book are referred to, but these won’t automatically come up on your Kindle copy unless you set it up that way


Emotional Sobriety: The Next Frontier




Now, this has certainly proved to be a popular sobriety book.


It’s a bestseller with the leading online retailers and has received hundreds of positive reader ratings on Amazon, where despite so many individual customer ratings, the average rating still comes in at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.


This is an anthology. It is a collection of carefully selected entries from the Grapevine, the international journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, across several decades.


These stories are all about what your inner life is like when you give up alcohol. For recovering alcohol addicts, facing your thoughts and emotions without the aid of alcohol can be a very daunting process.


And Bill W., one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous describes this “emotional sobriety” as the next frontier.


These stories come from men and women alike, and they can teach practiced methods of dealing with your life and your emotions.


For me, this is one of the more enlightening anthologies from the AA Grapevine, and I’m definitely going to be coming back to it again whenever I need a little more inspiration to pull me through.


It’s a fairly quick read at just 108 pages long, but its true value goes beyond words. I just wish there was an audiobook version of this book.


Pros

  • Excellent feedback from readers

  • Spans the best of the AA Grapevine

  • It focuses on emotional sobriety

  • Teaches how to live without alcohol

  • Enlightening and inspiring to read

  • It’s quick to read at just 108 pages


Cons

  • Not available in hardback

  • Not available as an audiobook


Living With Sobriety: Another Beginning




Now, this may be a relatively old book on sobriety, having been published as far back as June of 1979. But it has certainly stood the test of time and features important insights that remain relevant through the ages.


It isn’t strictly speaking an AA book, but it comes from Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, and it’s an author that I can really put my trust in. More on that in my buying guide later.


Now this book isn’t aimed at the alcoholic per se, but rather it’s aimed at family members of recovering alcoholics. Because let’s be honest, they’re sharing your ordeal side by side with you.


Or at least they’re trying to. And the journey can often be as long and as bumpy for them as it is for you. Just they’re looking at it from a different perspective.


What I love about this book is just how quick it is to read. You can read it while you’re in a waiting room, waiting for an appointment.


Or you could read the whole thing while commuting on public transport. And because it’s such a short book, you can read it time and again, or while you’re trying to get to sleep.


But despite its few pages, it manages to fit in a lot of important topics on the subject of living with sobriety. These are as follows:

  1. Accepting Changes

  2. Courage

  3. Resentments

  4. Disappointments

  5. Communication

  6. Happiness

It may be short for sure, but it sure does cover all the important things for family members to think about when dealing with their beloved sufferer.


It explains why a recovering alcoholic may need help to start over, and it talks about finding ways to let go of the past and focus instead on finding happiness in the here and now.


It’s available to read as a paperback. I believe there may also be audio versions, but I fear these may be cassette tape-based.


There aren’t a whole lot of reader reviews around for it on the retailer's websites, but I’m pleased to report that when I wrote this article more than 80% of those who bought through Amazon.com left a full 5-star rating.


Pros

  • Provides help for family members

  • From the Al-Anon Family Group

  • Excellent feedback from readers

  • A book that’s stood the test of time

  • It’s about finding happiness again

  • It’s quick to read at just 52 pages

Cons

  • You could argue that it’s expensive for such a short book

  • Some sellers like to overcharge for this book, so be sure to check that you’re happy with the price before you buy

Daily Reflections




Now, what I love about this particular book is how it provides you with readings for every single day of the year, one day and one page at a time. And so, with this book at hand, you can have inspiration to get you through


Each page begins with a poignant quote that’s taken from the Alcoholics Anonymous literature. And this is followed by a moment’s reflection from an AA member.


And this is great, because no matter where you are in the program, there’s so much to be gained simply from seeing said quote through someone else’s eyes.


Sure, the quotes can be great in and of themselves, but sometimes you need a little more insight just to nudge your perspective to a healthier or a more informed or enlightened perspective.


The book focuses on the 3 legacies, namely recovery, unity and service. And it covers those topics that recovering alcoholics tend to deal with every day, such as losing or finding faith in the system and finding the willingness to stick to the steps and trust in the path they lead.


It even covers making amends, which is something many recovering alcoholics often feel the need to do. And the book helps provide the inspiration and strength to do so, knowing that you’re certainly not alone in what you’re going through.


You can use the quotes and the accompanying reflections to ponder over the course of each day, or if you find them particularly poignant or uncomfortable, you can discuss it with your sponsor, or bring it up in your group for a more multifaceted discussion.


(If you want to buy it as a paperback, used or new, you need to head to “Other Sellers” once you reach the product page.)


Pros

  • Quotes & reflections for every day of the year

  • It expands further on previous AA literature

  • It’s also available as an audiobook!

Cons

  • It’s relatively expensive to buy as a hardback book


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions




This book is basically a super concise summary of the AA’s 12 steps and 12 traditions, written in plain English, basically just laying out the core principles that members can use to help them recover.


And it also explains how the fellowship functions, and this makes it a great book to read for those who are yet to join Alcoholics Anonymous, but are considering joining, and would prefer to learn a little more about the organization before they actually go in and commit and tell their story.


It’s simple and straightforward, and sometimes that’s just all you need. It may have originally been published in 1952, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just as relevant today.


Now, there are a couple of things I really love about this book. First off, I love that it’s in large print, because it means that I don’t have to look everywhere for my reading glasses to read it.


And I love just how slim the paperback version is. It’s only a mere 192 pages in length, which makes for a considerably thinner tome than your standard paperback novel. Perfect for slipping in your purse or backpack.


It’s received phenomenal customer ratings and reviews on Amazon, where it has earned a full five stars out of 5, even after well over 1,000 individual customer ratings.


Pros

  • Covers 12 steps & traditions

  • Explains how the AA works

  • Large print for easier reading

  • Narrow tome for easy storage

  • Phenomenal customer ratings

Cons

  • Not available as an audiobook or as an ebook for your Kindle (app)

  • The hardback version is ridiculously expensive if you buy it directly from Amazon

Living Sober




Now, this particular book happens to be a bestseller with the leading online retailers, in not one, not two, but three different product categories. Namely, in Twelve-Step Programs (Books), in Drug Dependency Recovery Books, and in Alcoholism Recovery Books.


Moreover, it has also received a staggering 2,500 individual customer ratings on Amazon, but has still managed to maintain a full 5 star average customer rating. And to me that really speaks volumes about just how helpful it can be for those who, as the title says, are aiming to live sober.


As you may already know, being a recovering alcoholic is not just about the journey to become sober once more. It goes beyond that.


Once you have reached sobriety, the trick is to stay in that state and remain there. No matter how many times you get tempted to pop in a bar, or purchase a small bottle or two.


And you know what? It’s not just about the drink. Living sober generally means doing a lot of other things differently. Because at that point you’ve realized that the answer to your issues, whatever they may be, actually does not come in a bottle.


And that is what this book is for. It offers real world advice on staying sober. There are a total of 31 chapters to help guide you through the difficulties of living sober, culminating in “Finding your own way” and let me tell you this is such an empowering message.


I absolutely recommend this book to anyone trying to stay sober. It’s kinda like a bible, but without the mixed messaging.


Pros

  • Bestseller with phenomenal customer ratings

  • Focuses on real world advice for staying sober

Cons

  • Not available as an audiobook, as a hardback, or as an ebook for your Kindle (app)


As Bill Sees It: The A.A. Way of Life




The star feature of this book is that it features selected writings written by the Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W.


It contains writings that were not included in the main book, the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, that we discussed earlier. Which makes it an excellent addition to have once you’ve also purchased the Big Book.


In my view, this book serves to paint a fuller picture of what was actually going on in Bill W.’s mind when he began not only his own personal journey into recovery but brings with it also his reflections on the AA group as a whole, and getting through our mutual journeys as a community.


The number of pages matches that of a normal paperback novel, and it’s not just a rehash of what is written in the Big Book, but is full to the brim with unique writings and reflections from the man himself.


It’s very illuminating and adds to the backstory of Bill W. that you may have already gleaned from elsewhere.


And I just love how this book is structured. The table of contents outlines the broader themes of the book, including ways of dealing with uncomfortable emotions without having to turn to alcohol, which never accomplishes anything anyway.


It’s kinda about learning how to live as a sober person, which is just what you need when you feel like you can’t even remember what that was like.


Anyway, the chapters break the book up into clearly identifiable sections, and within each chapter, each subtopic is displayed on just one page.


So you can go through the book one step at a time, just like with AA itself. It’s perfect as a reference book, you can just look up what you’re going through and see what Bill W has to say about it.


It’s a popular book for bringing to meetings, where people like to read aloud from it, and then a discussion will build around it as people react to what Bill W has to say.


Pros

  • Fuller picture of Bill W’s personal story

  • Offers important reflections one page at a time

  • Excellent talking points for AA meetings

Cons

  • The print is rather small

  • Not available as an audiobook or as an ebook for your Kindle (app)


Came to Believe




This book is all about the spiritual side of recovery from alcohol addiction. It contains brief writings from over 75 individual AA members where they describe how they came to believe in a power greater than themselves, and how that helped them pull through and gave them a strength they didn’t know they had.


It isn’t preachy, and it’s not trying to sell Christianity or any other specific religion. What it does is tell several short but true stories about how belief in a greater power can and does lift your spirit as you learn to believe there’s a higher power and that, even if it doesn’t always seem like it, this greater power is on your side.


Sometimes you just need to take a step back, take a breather and re-examine your life as it stands, and start to trust in God’s plan for you. (You don’t have to refer to the higher power as God.)


And that is where this book comes in. Alcoholism, and trying to fight it, can really test your faith to its limits. But with a book like this one, you can be encouraged by true stories by real people just like you.


Belief in a higher power is an important part of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and admittedly it’s something that a lot of people struggle with.


But if you read this book with an open mind, you too can achieve a level of faith that will see you through all the turbulence of not only your recovery, but also your journey through remaining sober.


Pros

  • Tells over 75 short true stories from AA members

  • Boosts your faith in a higher power

  • Also available as a Kindle ebook

Cons

  • Not available in hardback or as an audiobook


The Language of the Heart: Bill W.'s Grapevine Writings




This book comes directly from the brain of Bill W, the famous co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a collection of more than 150 individual articles taken from the magazine Grapevine, through which Bill W was a prolific contributor.


Here, in Bill’s own words, he describes his initial inspirations for what became the Twelve Traditions, together with the painstaking process of trial and error that resulted in AA's spiritual principles of recovery, unity, and service.


In this heartfelt journey, Bill discusses his personal battles with chronic depression, all-night drinking sprees, his own spirituality, and a vivid description of how he came to organize those all important 12 steps.


These articles span a 26-year period from 1944 through to 1970, so you can examine how Bill’s thought process changed over time.


The decision of which articles were selected for this book seems to be based on only including articles that are particularly poignant and uplifting. And it offers deep insights on emotional sobriety through its open examination of Bill W’s personal struggles.


Pros

  • Features over 150 articles

  • Discusses Bill’s personal battles

  • Describes the beginnings of AA

  • Articles chosen to inspire readers

Cons

  • Not available as an audiobook or as an ebook for your Kindle (app)


Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: a Brief History of AA




Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Alcoholics Anonymous. This book chronicles the journey of the two co-founders as they form a vision for AA, and the trial and error period whereby the founders put feelers out about how best to proceed with their vision, and how they responded.


The book was printed in 1967, so it spans a wide date range, covering the very beginnings up until the AA’s current format, with it’s 12 steps and traditions. Much of the writing comes directly from the great Bill W himself, so you get the story directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak.


It’s a coming of age story, whereby the vision for AA is tried and tested and sees challenge after challenge, all of which is eventually overcome. I have to admit, it’s quite inspiring to look back and marvel at just how far the movement has come.


Pros

  • Brief history of Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Just inspiring!

Cons

  • Customer reviews are very positive but don’t give much away about the nature of the content

  • Only available as a hardcover, no audiobook, paperback, or ebook


Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers - A biography with recollections of the early A.A. in the Midwest




This is a great book for anyone wanting to learn more about the very beginnings of the early AA. It’s written as an early biography from the point of view of Dr Bob, AKA Robert Holbrook Smith, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.


It’s very refreshing to read a history of the beginnings of AA written from another perspective, since most AA history books are taken from Bill W’s point of view rather than from Dr Bob’s.


It’s very readable, and very well written, and it documents an interesting and exciting time as the AA is founded and starts to take off.


Pros

  • Early biography of Dr Bob Smith

  • Documents early days of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Very readable, and very well written

Cons

  • Only available as a hardcover, no audiobook, paperback, or ebook


'Pass It On': The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A. A. Message Reached the World




The Alcoholics Anonymous phenomenon may have started small, with just two co-founders, but it soon became a global, worldwide phenomenon. And you have to admit that’s quite something to achieve.


And this is what is documented in this particular book. Bear in mind that all this happened well before the era of the internet and social media, so getting the message out there about how the AA can help fellow alcoholics was quite a feat. But they did it!


There were times when the Alcoholics Anonymous movement needed rescuing, and this book tells of how Bill W saved it again and again.


This is quite a large book of over 400 pages, and as you may imagine from the size of the tome, it does go into some detail. Nothing is held back. It even includes accounts of Bill W using LSD and the founders using ouija boards.


It’s a great book for those who are passionate about Alcoholics Anonymous history because it features photos and such, and really brings the topic to life.


Pros

  • Also available as an ebook for Kindle

  • A no-holes-barred account of the growth of AA

  • Shows how easy it can be to change the world

Cons

  • Not available as an audiobook or paperback


Experience, Strength and Hope: Stories from the First Three Editions of Alcoholics Anonymous




As co-founder Bill W was keenly aware, personal stories are a key feature for any book pertaining to recovery from alcohol addiction. It is only through learning what someone in a similar situation to ourselves has been through, that we can find the confidence to follow suit.


And this is what this particular book sets out to achieve. And in my view it does so very effectively. It’s very inspiring.


It features the stories of 56 AA members, showcasing how they overcame their personal trials. It teaches the reader that there is always hope and that you can find the strength to believe in a higher power, and have faith in your future.


Due to regular editing of different editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, you are unlikely to find these particular stories in whatever edition of the Big Book you’re able to get your hands on. But in my view, they offer just as much value as the stories that are included in the Big Book.


These stories are raw and relatable, and don’t go out of fashion.


Pros

  • Also available as an ebook for Kindle

  • Features the stories of 56 AA members

  • Stories that you won’t find anywhere else

  • The book inspires both hope and strength

Cons

  • Not available as an audiobook or paperback


Alcoholics Anonymous: The Original Text of the Life-Changing Landmark




This is a great book for serious book collectors. It’s a special 75th anniversary edition of the original text of the Alcoholics Anonymous main book. A book that has sparked a worldwide movement and has changed millions of lives.


The hardcover version of this book arrives carefully shrink-wrapped in a 100% vegan leather-style hardback casing and is slipped into an O-card, much like the book’s original 1939 jacket.


It is a thick and comprehensive tome of 480 pages. And it includes not only the original 1939 text, but as a special bonus, also features the Alcoholics Anonymous article in the 1941 Saturday Evening Post, which is said to have done as much as the book to introduce the AA program to millions of people throughout the US.


For an ardent follower of the AA program, this is such an important and worthy book.


And the other great thing about this book is that it’s also available as an audiobook, which means that you can listen to it on your commute or just about anywhere.


Pros

  • 75th anniversary edition of the original 1939 text

  • Features the famous Saturday Evening Post article

  • It will arrive in excellent condition with vegan-leather casing

  • It’s also available as an audiobook

  • It’s also available as an ebook for Kindle

Cons

  • Not available as a paperback


Drop the Rock--The Ripple Effect: Using Step 10 to Work Steps 6 and 7 Every Day




This book is intended as a sequel to a previous book by the same author, entitled “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects”. This first book, published in 1999, was basically intended as a resource for working through two of the most challenging steps in the twelve-step program, namely steps 6 and 7.


It’s about learning to fully surrender your character defects, so that you can make amends with those you have hurt. Because it is only through doing this that you can reach later steps in the journey.


This second book does exactly as it says, it’s about using step 10 to work through steps 6 and 7 on a daily basis as the need arises. Step 10 is about continuing to take personal inventory, so that you can acknowledge when you are wrong.


Because it is only after this juncture that you are truly in a position to be ready for God to remove your defects of character (step 6) and then ask God for your shortcomings to be removed (step 7).


This is important for living a life free of emotions such as fear and resentment, and for instead reaching a life filled with serenity and gratitude.


What I like about this book is that it's a short but powerful read, and it provides multiple perspectives from people who are working successfully through the 12 steps.


Pros

  • It’s also available as an ebook for Kindle

  • Excellent follow-up to “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects”

  • A short but powerful read that really packs a punch

  • Tackles some of the more difficult parts of the 12 steps

Cons

  • Not available in hardback or as an audiobook

  • I would recommend reading “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects” first


A New Pair of Glasses




To be perfectly honest, when reading around alcoholism recovery, I tend to be more drawn to AA approved literature. But this is the book that effectively changed my mind about that. It’s an excellent piece of writing. And I can’t for the life of me see why it can’t be AA approved.


It’s written by one Charles A. Chamberlain (who has since passed, RIP) who was a known friend of co-founder Bill W. And I just love the way he gets his message across.


The humor in it really adds to the story, and makes it not only well worth reading from a self-help perspective, but also something of a joy to read.


The author is very charismatic, and his writing style is in line with that of an enthusiastic speaker at an AA meeting.


And he teaches not only how to be sober, but also how to be both sober and happy. He has a down to earth tone, which makes the story super relatable and yet at the same time very inspiring.


It comes from a man who actually walked the walk and finally got where he wanted to be. And it focuses on what the 12-step AA program is really about, specifically forming and building a relationship with your higher power.


Pros

  • Comes from a known friend of Bill W

  • Down to earth yet at the same time enthusiastic

  • Written with humor, making it a more pleasurable read

  • Focuses on building your relationship with your higher power

Cons

  • Only available as a paperback, there’s no hardback, ebook or audiobook


The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life


Well, for this final book in my shortlist, we’re going to go out with a bang. This enduring spiritual classic from Emmet Fox, one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the 20th century, is a practical handbook of spiritual development.


It focuses, as you may have already gathered if you have had a Christian upbringing, on the most famous sermon from Jesus Christ. But Fox effectively turns these important teachings into a “How To” book…


It teaches the reader how to tap into the power of prayer, and how to take a negative attitude and transform it completely to instead be replaced by life-affirming beliefs.


This book explains the true nature of divine wisdom, and how to develop a fully integrated and fully expressed personality, warts and all. And it gives you the tools to claim your divine right to a fully abundant life.


Spirituality, although not necessarily Christianity per se, is a vital element of recovery for anyone wishing to follow the Alcoholics Anonymous program. And this is where this book really comes into play. And you don’t have to be a practicing Christian in order to gain and learn from it.


Pros

  • Teaches how to tap into the power of prayer

  • Teaches transformation of negative attitude

  • Imbues reader with life-affirming beliefs

  • Explains the true nature of divine wisdom

  • Teaches how to develop a fully integrated personality

  • Helps you claim your right to the life you truly deserve

  • It’s also available as an audiobook and as an ebook for Kindle

Cons

  • Relatively expensive, but absolutely worth the money


Buying Guide


As promised, here’s your guide to choosing a book on sobriety.


Author


For my shortlist of books, I was careful only to select those written by Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon. This is because these groups really speak to me and what I’m about. They’re true to my own philosophy and way of thinking.


Format


I don’t believe paperbacks are ever going to go completely out of fashion, and I made a point of choosing books that are available in paperback.


But the trend for e-books has really taken off, and I get why some people may prefer an ebook to a paperback. They’re more discreet, no one can see your book cover and be able to tell what it is you’re reading. And they’re often cheaper than paperbacks too.


But not everyone likes to read, which is why I made a point of including at least one book in my shortlist that’s also available as an audiobook. It's my number one pick, the Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, the official "Big Book" from Alcoholic Anonymous.


That way you can listen to what the book has to say while fixing dinner or doing whatever.


Customer Ratings and Reviews


The potency and effectiveness of a book on sobriety can be measured by just how well readers respond to it.


In putting together my shortlist, I looked out for books that had decent customer ratings and reviews on the online retailer websites and were pleasantly surprised by just how well these books went down with readers.


Retailer


Bestselling sobriety books such as the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book" are readily available in all the good bookstores.


But the more obscure and less well-known hidden gems of sobriety books aren’t quite as easy to get hold of.


However, all of the sobriety books that made my shortlist are all available on Amazon, and at very reasonable prices, too. And I’d go so far as to say that the Big Book is available at a bargain price.


Answers To Your Most Frequently Asked Questions


What Is The Best Book On Stopping Drinking?


If you only buy one book on stopping drinking, it should be the official Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous.


And the reason I recommend this book so strongly is because of the sheer number of people who it has helped - literally millions of people.


I like to take my copy to meetings with me so that when people are reading excerpts, I can read along with them. I often make pencil notes as I go along, and turn the corners of certain pages over so I can visit them again and again.


It’s also one of the longer books around alcohol addiction recovery and sobriety, so I would argue that it works out better value for money than the other books.


And I like how it shines a spotlight on the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, so we can learn about their individual journeys too.


What I love about it is how it’s all true, real-life stories. Learning how others have gone through what you’re going through teaches you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you’re not going through it alone, and you have a whole community here beside you.


It teaches that by following 12 steps, no matter how big the steps may seem at first, you can change your life and be the person you’ve always wanted to be - without alcohol.