Because it’s so entangled with the human condition, stories about addiction cross virtually every genre of literature, from fiction to memoir to self-help and, yes, even science-fiction fantasy. Most recently, writer Suzanne Collins included an alcoholic character, Haymitch Abernathy, in her young adult series “The Hunger Games.”
- The Anatomy of Addiction
- The Big Book of AA
- Night of the Gun
- The Couch of Willingness
- Memoirs of an Addicted Brain
- Recover to Live
- Beautiful Boy
- Drinking: A Love Story
Discovering the top best books about drug addiction was a journey through countless journals. The disease of addiction does not discriminate. Anyone, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status, can develop a crippling dependency to drugs or alcohol that devastates their lives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s 2014 survey reported an estimated 21.5 million American adults with a diagnosable substance use disorder. The actual number, which is difficult to know, is likely higher.
Considering that addiction is fraught with physical and emotional pain, the cause of so much personal and professional drama and so rewarding to overcome, it’s no wonder writers pen books about it. Here are 10 top books about alcoholism and drug addiction.
- The Anatomy of Addiction – Written by Dr. Akikur Mohammad, renowned psychiatrist and owner of Inspire Malibu treatment center, it is the state-of-the-art masterpiece about the causes and modern treatment methods for alcoholism and addiction.
- Night of the Gun – A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life (2008) – a popular columnist for the New York Times, author David Carr didn’t have to look any farther than himself for this memoir of addiction and, ultimately, sobriety. Reviewer Bruce Handy wrote, “What Carr excels at, where his gifts as a journalist shine, is explaining how an addict’s life works, the economics of it, the ad-hoc social web, the quotidian feel of the thing.”
- The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous – The Story of how Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, aka The Big Book (1939) – this seminal text, written by Bill W., laid out the 12 Step method to recovering from alcoholism. It’s among the bestsellers of all times, having sold more than 30 million copies and included on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Books list.
- The Couch of Willingness – in this unique exploration biographical and autobiographical exploration of alcoholism, authors Maureen Palmer and Michael Pond tell Pond’s story of succumbing to addiction after 20 years as a therapist helping patients battle their damaging dependencies.
- Memoirs of an Addicted Brain – Author Marc Lewis, a practicing developmental psychologist and neuroscientist applies the scientific method to his former life as an avid user of many different illegal drugs. Reviewer Sally Satel writes in the Wall Street Journal, “Foremost, his story illustrates the paradox of addiction: that even though the brain is changed by drugs the brain owner is not helpless.”
- Recover to Live – Writer Christopher Kennedy Lawford, in recovery for 25 years himself, compiles more than a 100 interviews with the worlds leading experts on addiction to readers determine whether or not their individual habits are crossing the line into dependency and addiction. Lawford is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Symptoms of Withdrawal and Moments of Clarity.
- Junkie – Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict (1953) – originally published under the pseudonym William Lee, this hard scrabble, autobiographical novel is by William S. Burroughs. Harvard educated and heir to a vast fortune, Burroughs is arguably the first of the addiction-memoir authors. According to one reviewer, “Junky reads like a field guide to the American underground,” which is why, perhaps, the novel has remained in print for 63 years.
- Beautiful Boy – This gripping autobiography flips the addiction perspective. Written by David Sheff and based on a 2005 article he wrote in New York Times Magazine called “My Addicted Son,” Beautiful Boy is about his son’s methamphetamine addiction and the chaotic impact it has on the entire family. What makes this book unique is that his son, Nic, followed his father’s book up with his own.
- Tweak – Growing Up On Methamphetamines (2009) – making the New York Times memoir bestseller list, author Nic Sheff details his early descent into addiction in a style that Common Sense Media describes as “both raw and gripping,” adding that, “Readers will certainly get a sense of what it means to be an addict through this honest portrayal.”
- Drinking: A Love Story – Atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks and weeks, this enthralling and poignant memoir is made all the more tragic since the author, Caroline Knapp, died only eight years later, at the age of 42, from complications related to lung cancer. An Ivy League graduate and award-winning journalist, Knapp relays the story of how, in her own words, she was a “high-functioning alcoholic.” Her obituary says that the book “was praised by critics for it’s painful honesty in describing the grip of addiction and the difficulty overcoming it.”