100 books like Forces of Habit

By David T. Courtwright,

Here are 100 books that Forces of Habit fans have personally recommended if you like Forces of Habit. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

Russell C. Crandall Author Of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

From my list on what the war on drugs is really about.

Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 

Russell's book list on what the war on drugs is really about

Russell C. Crandall Why did Russell love this book?

Reding’s book on the methamphetamine epidemic in small-town Ohio is distressing but essential. He is exceptional in showing rather than telling how meth is in so many ways the Great American Drug. It makes you work even more maniacally, for one. And the hollowing out of Middle America makes the drug’s proactive nature even more attractive in these forgotten towns and cities. It is painful that the meth scourge might have eased but, as is so often the case, other destructive substances have quickly replaced it. 

By Nick Reding,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Methland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize
Winner of the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

Named a best book of the year by:
the Los Angeles Times
the San Francisco Chronicle
the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch
the Chicago Tribune
the Seattle Times

"A stunning look at a problem that has dire consequences for our country.”-New York Post

The dramatic story of Methamphetamine as it comes to the American Heartland-a timely, moving, account of one community's attempt to confront the epidemic and see their way to a brighter future.

The bestselling book that launched meth back into…


Book cover of Kings of Cocaine: Inside the Medellín Cartel, an Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money, and International Corruption

Russell C. Crandall Author Of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

From my list on what the war on drugs is really about.

Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 

Russell's book list on what the war on drugs is really about

Russell C. Crandall Why did Russell love this book?

Decades before Netflix’s hit series Narcos, Gugliotta and Leen turned their prize-winning series of articles in The Miami Herald into a highly original book, Kings of Cocaine. What astounds me is how well the author’s uncovering the psychopathic violence, unimaginable profits, and political and social corruption of the Colombian cocaine trade. And this rot and bloodshed were not just occurring in the less developed Colombia but right inside Ronald Reagan’s America. 

By Guy Gugliotta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kings of Cocaine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the story of the most successful cocaine dealers in the world: Pablo Escobar Gaviria, Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez, Carlos Lehder Rivas and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. In the 1980s they controlled more than fifty percent of the cocaine flowing into the United States. The cocaine trade is capitalism on overdrive -- supply meeting demand on exponential levels. Here you'll find the story of how the modern cocaine business started and how it turned a rag tag group of hippies and sociopaths into regal kings as they stumbled from small-time suitcase smuggling to levels of unimaginable sophistication and daring.…


Book cover of El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency

Russell C. Crandall Author Of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

From my list on what the war on drugs is really about.

Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 

Russell's book list on what the war on drugs is really about

Russell C. Crandall Why did Russell love this book?

A work of intrepid journalism and sizzling writing, Grillo’s El Narco is the result of upwards of a decade following the mercurial, terrifying evolution of Mexico’s drug cartels. I’ve taught this book to my Davidson College students studying Latin American politics and they repeatedly tell me that it is their favorite book they tackle in the course. 

By Ioan Grillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked El Narco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'War' is no exaggeration in discussing the bloodshed that has terrorized Mexico in the past decades. As rival cartels battle for control of a billion-dollar drug trade, the body count- 23,000 dead in five years - and sheer horror beggar the imagination of journalistic witnesses. Cartel gunmen have shot up schools and rehabilitation centers, and murdered the entire families of those who defy them. Reformers and law enforcement officials have been gunned down within hours of taking office. Headless corpses are dumped on streets to intimidate rivals, and severed heads are rolled onto dancefloors as messages to would-be opponents. And…


Book cover of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

Russell C. Crandall Author Of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

From my list on what the war on drugs is really about.

Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 

Russell's book list on what the war on drugs is really about

Russell C. Crandall Why did Russell love this book?

Hari’s Chasing the Scream is not an exhaustively researched book but it still merits listing given how viscerally the author addresses the history of the global war on drugs in the light of his own personal addiction. Hari shines in his depiction of circa 1930s U.S. Drug Cop #1, Henry J. Anslinger, who, among other dubious endeavors, sought to throw the book at jazz singer Billie Holiday, who also happened to be a heroin addict.  

By Johann Hari,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Chasing the Scream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestseller

What if everything you think you know about addiction is wrong? Johann Hari's journey into the heart of the war on drugs led him to ask this question--and to write the book that gave rise to his viral TED talk, viewed more than 62 million times, and inspired the feature film The United States vs. Billie Holiday and the documentary series The Fix.

One of Johann Hari's earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of his relatives and not being able to. As he grew older, he realized he had addiction in his…


Book cover of Lithium for Medea

María Amparo Escandón Author Of L.A. Weather

From my list on changing your perception of Los Angeles.

Who am I?

I am a creature of habitat. I can’t help but connect with my environment in every possible way. It’s physical, emotional. I spent the first 23 years of my life in Mexico City. Leaving was heart-wrenching, but the promise to fulfill a dream drew me to Los Angeles. During the next four decades I became a student of Los Angeles and the Latino community that populates it. I agree with Randy Newman: I love L.A. 

María's book list on changing your perception of Los Angeles

María Amparo Escandón Why did María love this book?

Kate Braverman lived in Los Angeles for years and set many of her stories in this city, like Frantic Transmissions To And From Los Angeles or Palm Latitudes. In Lithium for Medea, Braverman tells the sad and dark story of Rose and her dysfunctional family, a love-hate relationship with her mother, her dying father, and drugs, lots of them. It is a disturbing, cruel, and irreverently poetic story. I survived her writing workshop in the early nineties. A harsh and not very sympathetic teacher, Kate taught me the weight of words and I thank her for that. My copies of her books are yellow from the excessive use of my highlighter. If you enjoy reading poetic prose, Kate Braverman is the master to go to.

By Kate Braverman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lithium for Medea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lithium for Medea is as much a tale of addiction—to sex, drugs, and dysfunctional family chains—as it is one of mothers and daughters, their mutual rebellion and unconscious mimicry. Here is the story according to Rose—the daughter of a narcissistic, emotionally crippled mother and a father who shadowboxes with death in hospital corridors—as she slips deeply and dangerously into the lair of a cocaine-fed artist in the bohemian squalor of Venice. Lithium for Medea sears us with Rose’s breathless, fierce, visceral flight—like a drug that leaves one’s perceptions forever altered.


Book cover of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction

James Brown Author Of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

From my list on addiction and recovery from someone who has been there.

Who am I?

I took my first hit of marijuana when I was 9. I had my first drink at 12 and my first shot of heroin at 14.  My brother and sister were also alcoholics and ended up taking their own lives. I abused drugs and alcohol for over 30 years, and after many failed attempts to turn my life around, I now have 15 years of continuous sobriety. I’ve also read almost ninety books on the topic of substance abuse and have written several myself about my personal struggles to get clean and sober and stay that way.  Addiction, sadly, is a subject I know all too well.

James' book list on addiction and recovery from someone who has been there

James Brown Why did James love this book?

This book also deals with addiction science, and Hanson is a gifted writer who’s able to express complex ideas in simple, straightforward language. And he also devotes a good deal of time to the care and healing aspects of substance abuse. It takes one to know one, as the saying goes, and Mr. Hanson knows from personal experience and extensive investigative research what it’s like to struggle with addiction. Underrated and underread, this book is right up there with the best on the subjects of addiction and recovery.

By Dirk Hanson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chemical Carousel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An in-depth look at addiction science and medical treatments for drug abuse.


Book cover of Woman of Substances: A Journey Into Drugs, Alcohol and Treatment

Marilyn Davis Author Of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate

From my list on memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction.

Who am I?

I used my first chemicals at age nine. Why? To change the way I felt about myself and my life. It was the beginning of using externals to fix an internal problem. A 74-year old Native American found me at ten months in recovery. He showed me a path to follow, including opening a house of healing for other women. His teachings, spiritual principles, and a lot of work helped me achieve 32 years in recovery.

Marilyn's book list on memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction

Marilyn Davis Why did Marilyn love this book?

Journalist Jenny Valentish knows treatment, AA, and the pathways to addiction and recovery. It’s brutally honest, and her story reads like so many others – some who didn’t make it to recovery. She further educates the reader with research and a better understanding of the psychology and physiology that drive female addiction with humor and exceptional insight.

By Jenny Valentish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woman of Substances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist Jenny Valentish takes a gendered look at drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way. Mining the expertise of 35 leading researchers, clinicians and psychiatrists, she explores the early predictors of addictive behaviour, such as trauma, temperament and impulsivity.

Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours - such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex - are interchangeable with problematic substance use. From her childhood in suburban Slough to her chaotic formative years in the London music scene, we follow her journey to Australia, where she experiences firsthand treatment facilities and AA groups,…


Book cover of Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

Katherine Ketcham Author Of Under the Influence: A Life-Saving Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcholism

From my list on addiction, recovery, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Who am I?

Katherine Ketcham is the coauthor of 17 books about alcoholism/addiction, recovery, spirituality, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and empathy. She is also the author of the memoir, The Only Life I Could Save. She recently updated and revised her first book, Under the Influence: A Life-Saving Guide to the Myths & Realities of Alcoholism, for a 40th anniversary edition (published in September 2021 by Penguin Random House).  A dedicated photographer, columnist, and storyteller, she isn't sure what her 70s have in store for her but she's saving 12 hours of every day for her husband, three children, two grandchildren, extended family, and friends.  Books, walks, golf, yoga, gardening, story-collecting, daydreaming, and a good night's sleep should fill up the rest.

Katherine's book list on addiction, recovery, and the triumph of the human spirit

Katherine Ketcham Why did Katherine love this book?

If only.” Sheff‘s book about his meth-addicted son dives deep into the “if only” agonies of parents who question their every action, wondering what they could have done differently, or said (or not said) in a different way to help their children avoid the horrors of drug addiction. I asked the same questions in my book, The Only Life I Could Save, and I came to the same terrifying conclusion: We cannot make the choice of life or death for our children.

My favorite lines: “I am in a silent war against an enemy as pernicious and omnipresent as Evil . . . only Satan himself could have designed a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.”

By David Sheff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beautiful Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

THE NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NOW A MAJOR FILM, STARRING STEVE CARELL AND BAFTA AND GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATED TIMOTHEE CHALAMET

'What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong?'

Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff's journey through his son Nic's addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery.

Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole,…


Book cover of Junk

S.J. Butler Author Of Last Orders

From my list on stories of human adventures written in a captivating style.

Who am I?

Having written in the genre of psychological/crime thriller fiction for some years, I am always drawn to original voices, particularly those who are prepared to go that extra mile to produce something fresh or a concept that hasn’t been touched on before. With this kind of writing, it is quite easy to get pigeonholed, and the author has to be as meticulously authentic as they possibly can. Thinking and then using the absurd in writing is probably the best endorsement for any book; the stranger, the better. In this modern, media-fueled world, you always have to go to different places and ignite new ideas and narratives. 

S.J.'s book list on stories of human adventures written in a captivating style

S.J. Butler Why did S.J. love this book?

This book is a very human story of teenage vulnerability and social instability.

Tense and gritty, this book doesn’t disappoint. Honest in its portrayal of drug misuse and abuse it perhaps isn’t for the faint-hearted. Ideal for those who seek to understand the underbelly of society. Written in a no-nonsense style, this is a novel that naturally flows.

Hard to put down, I read this book in a day. Well written, this is a story where you quickly immerse yourself in the characters who are so unnervingly real.

By Melvin Burgess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Junk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

It was a love story. Me, Gemma and junk. I thought it was going to last forever.

Tar loves Gemma, but Gemma doesn't want to be tied down. She wants to fly. But no one can fly forever. One day, finally, you have to come down. Melvin Burgess' most ambitious and complex novel is a vivid depiction of a group of teenagers in the grip of addiction. Told from multiple viewpoints, Junk is a powerful, unflinching novel about heroin. Once you take a hit, you will never be the same again.

'Everyone should read Junk' The Times


Book cover of Requiem for a Dream

Craig McGuire Author Of Carmine and the 13th Avenue Boys: Surviving Brooklyn's Colombo Mob

From my list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn.

Who am I?

It’s no wonder South Brooklyn, in the latter half of the last century, is the setting for so many remarkable dramas for both page and screen. In fact, when legendary former NYPD Detective Thomas Dades offered to make introductions to a Colombo Crime Family associate who cooperated with the federal government, I leapt at the opportunity. I was born in Greenpoint in 1971 and grew up on 16th Avenue in the heart of Bensonhurst. It’s not just South Brooklyn’s raw, urban chaotic physical setting, but the sheer volatility of this period in time, where so many transformational trends of the larger culture were evident, and some even epi-centered.

Craig's book list on diving deep into the dark side of Brooklyn

Craig McGuire Why did Craig love this book?

Hubert Selby Jr. delivers another dark indictment of life along the outer shores of South Brooklyn, in the form of both this 1978 novel and the grim 2000 film Darren Aronofsky film adaptation (co-written with Selby, with a cameo as prison guard).

The characters of this disturbing drama are as marginalized as the bleak 1970s backdrop they infect. Selby’s prose holds us by the back of the neck as his characters descend down awful spirals of addiction: Sara Goldfarb with her diet pills, and her son Harry, his girlfriend Marion, and his best friend Tyrone, all heroin addicts. Electroconvulsive therapy, reluctant prostitution, and amputation abound, harrowing hallmarks you’d expect from Selby.

For this trip to Coney Island, think more Warriors, less Woody Allen, and buckle up. It’s going to be a spectacularly gruesome ride.

Locations of interest: Coney Island Clam Bar; Brighton Beach Boardwalk; Surf Avenue Second-hand Shops; 3152 Brighton…

By Hubert Selby Jr.,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Requiem for a Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Harry Goldfarb, heroin addict and son of lonely widow Sara, cares only about enjoying the good life with girlfriend Marion and best friend Tyrone C Love, and making the most of all the hash, poppers and dope they can get. Sara Goldfarb sits at home with the TV, dreaming of the life she could have and struggling with her own addictions - food and diet pills. But these four will pay a terrible price for the pleasures they believe they are entitled to. A passionate, heart-breaking tale of the crushing weight of hope and expectation, Requiem for a Dream is…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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