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Recommendations: Books about Addiction and Recovery

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Ever since I’ve been sober, I’ve been drawn to books about people’s sobriety experiences. It could be essays, poetry, or even—in one case—a memoir set in the apocalypse.

I love to read about how people came to recovery and what they learned. It reminds me both that everyone’s sobriety experience is unique, and that certain aspects of addiction and recovery are universal.

In case you are like me and want to read every recovery book ever written, here are some recommendations.

“The Recovering” by Leslie Jamison

Jamison is a master of synthesizing research and personal experience. In “The Recovering,” she covers a wide range of addiction topics, including her own story. 

She confronts the myth that creativity flourishes in active addiction. She talks about her own experience getting sober as a creative person. She discusses the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. She explores the differences in the way society treats people with Substance Use Disorders depending on their race, socioeconomic status, gender and other categories.

The book is over 500 pages, and I read it in one week. Jamison shows that, in her words, “stories about getting better could really be as compelling as stories about falling apart.”

“Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar


This is a book of poetry about, among other things, alcoholism and recovery. Many of the poems have titles like “Portrait of the Alcoholic with Withdrawal” or “Portrait of the Alcoholic Three Weeks Sober.” The book captures the surreal quality of a life constantly under the influence of substances. It also powerfully captures the sense of longing that so many people try to blunt with alcohol or drugs, only to have it become all-consuming.

“Black Wave” by Michelle Tea

Michelle Tea is the main character of her book “Black Wave,” and the book is about her life. But it’s set soon before the apocalypse. 

When Michelle becomes aware that the world will end soon, she decides to turn her life around and get sober. So basically, the impending apocalypse is the only thing that inspires Michelle to enter recovery—which is sometimes how it feels. 

While the book has the fictional conceit of the apocalypse, Tea creates a realistic portrayal of the feelings that often arise in early sobriety. It’s a really intriguing story, and a unique lens through which to look at addiction and recovery.

“Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City” by Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn never had much of a relationship with his father. When he was in his 20’s and working at a homeless shelter, his very drunk father showed up in need of a place to stay. His dad had been experiencing homelessness for years, due to problems related to alcohol addiction. 

Flynn details his own issues with alcohol, and his eventual recovery. These experiences form a sort of backdrop for stories about his father’s struggles. It’s a compelling portrait of a strained relationship between two people who have grappled with the same thing, but lived very different lives.

“The Night of the Gun” by David Carr

David Carr was a successful journalist. He was also struggling with addiction to alcohol and cocaine. When he got sober, he realized there were a lot of nights he barely remembered, including one that involved an altercation and a gun. In “Night of the Gun,” Carr treats his own life like he would any journalistic subject: he interviews sources. 

The book is an incredible examination of a life, told not only by the person who lived it, but also by the people who were cognizant enough to remember it.

There is Help at Amatus Recovery Centers

Struggling with an addiction? At Amatus Recovery Centers across the country, we provide individualized treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Many of our staff have been where you are, and know how hard it is. No one should have to go at it alone. 

At every Amatus Recovery Center, you will feel safe and cared for during treatment, and you will be given the tools you’ll need to succeed in long-term recovery. Call 833-216-3079 now to start building a life in recovery.