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For many people in early recovery, the Big Book and its 12 Steps are essential to getting and staying sober. The Big Book acts much like a textbook with “directions on how to stay clean and sober.”
That is how FHE Health Director of Patient Experience Art Jacob put it in a recent interview—and he would know. Jacob has been introducing patients to the Big Book and guiding them through the 12 Steps for decades. If anyone qualifies as an expert on 12-step recovery, it is Jacob.
But if the Big Book is essential reading for anyone new to recovery, it is also not the only 12-step literature out there to support people on their journey toward lasting freedom from addiction. Many recovering addicts are looking for additional reading to supplement the Big Book and provide tips, tools and encouragement on the path to long-term sobriety. Here Jacob was able to offer some recommendations.
Reading on Addiction Treatment vs. Books for Recovery
Generally speaking, 12-step literature is not about addiction treatment, per say. (For more information about the nuts and bolts of addiction treatment, a good starting place may be our page on medication-assisted treatment or this overview of treatment programs.)
Instead, 12-step literature has more to do with the spiritual program for recovery that the Big Book recommends (as opposed to treatments and therapies for drug and alcohol addiction). This spiritual program for recovery is the “solution” to the “problem” of addiction. Here is how Jacob explained it:
AA is not therapy; it’s a spiritual way of life. The 12 Steps were designed for a person to get a new relationship with their God or Higher Power. We don’t want our old relationship. We want a new relationship. In the Big Book, Bill Wilson first identifies what the problem is. The next chapters are about what the solution is and then he lays out a program of action.
In a similar vein, the books that Jacob recommends in the next section are geared for the daily pursuit of recovery. They are meant to be supplemental reading to the Big Book that can further equip you for following the 12 Steps (which are a spiritual discipline and way of life).
A Book List for Addicts, Alcoholics and Addiction
The following book list for addiction, compliments of Jacob, is for recovering addicts who want more tips, tools and guidance for the 12-step journey.
- Daily Reflections – This book of reflections from members of AA is formatted as daily readings, with one reading for each day of the year. In each reading, a member of AA shares their favorite quotation from the Big Book, along with their personal reflections on it. Jacob recommends using Daily Reflections as devotional material and a “good way to start the day.”
- Twenty-Four Hours a Day – This pocket-sized volume, sometimes called “the little black book,” has been around since 1954 and is a spiritual classic. It provides a thought, meditation and prayer for each day of the year and contains the Serenity Prayer, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of AA. The practical application of the spiritual steps and traditions of AA within these pages offers “a quicker dive” into the content of the Big Book, according to Jacob. This is also good morning reading, Jacob said.
- Stools and Bottles – Another popular recovery classic, this book is meant to be used as a companion to the AA program. (And no, the “stool” in the title is not referencing a bar stool; it’s a metaphor for Steps One, Two and Three, each of which is a leg that holds up the seat of an alcoholic, giving them support.) Stools and Bottles offers insights into how to apply the first four steps of AA’s 12-step program. This book may be especially worth a read for those on the verge of relapse, since it contains 31 daily reminders of the problems and afflictions that commonly occur during active addiction.
- The Little Red Book – This book contains a lot of helpful, practical information about early recovery and those first days of sobriety. It also introduces the 12 Steps to newcomers in AA, offers advice about what to look for in a sponsor, discusses in greater depth the 12 Steps—particularly the problem of character defects—and is a good source for AA meeting discussion topics.
- Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects – Steps 6, 7 and 10 are the focus of this engaging read, which is told as a story. Its goal is to help readers learn how to manage their shortcomings and character defects with more grace, humility and gentleness.
- Pass It On – For history buffs and for those in recovery who want to know more about AA and how it started, this book tells the story of AA founder Bill WilsonHow Did AA Begin? A Quick History and how AA became a worldwide movement.
- It Works – How and Why and Step Working Guides – Just as the Big Book is required reading for alcoholics, the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text is essential literature for people in recovery from a drug-addicted lifestyle. But the NABT is not the only resource available. This book, first published in 1993, consists of 24 essays that unpack the spiritual principles of NA’s program of recovery and their practical application. The Step Working Guide is a handbook consisting of “a series of questions that take you through the 12 Steps,” Jacob said.
Other Good Spiritual Reading
Jacob also recommended a couple of titles that are not written for people in recovery per say, but contain applicable spiritual wisdom for the recovery journey:
The Power of Now – Though written for a general audience, the New York Times bestseller contains nuggets of spiritual insight that Jacob said can be very helpful to people in 12-step programs.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Also a New York Times bestseller, this book “has changed so many people’s lives,” according to Jacob. Once again, the emphasis is on simple spiritual truths that can be applied to daily life and can help readers experience greater happiness and freedom.
Many of these titles have been so helpful that they have been read over and over again by people who are now in successful, long-term recovery.