100 books like The Chemical Carousel

By Dirk Hanson,

Here are 100 books that The Chemical Carousel fans have personally recommended if you like The Chemical Carousel. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Under the Influence: A Life-Saving Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcholism

James Brown Author Of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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 is one of the first books I read when I realized that I had a serious problem with drinking. Not only did it help me better understand my addiction from a genetic, scientific point-of-view, it also helped me diagnose myself as an alcoholic. Written for the lay-reader, it’s short, packed with hard facts and eye-opening studies about alcoholism. It’s a classic. And it’s also inspiring when it comes to recovery and treatment. I’ve recommended it dozens of times to people who’ve asked me where they could find out more about alcoholism, if not for themselves, then for those they love who have a serious drinking problem.

By James R. Milam, Katherine Ketcham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Influence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The now-classic guide to alcoholism returns with new, enlightening research that confirms the revolutionary ideas first trailblazed by this book in a time when such theories were unheard of—now featuring a new foreword, new resources, and the same reliable insights and easy-to-read style.

“This book is truly informative, powerful, and an invaluable resource on overcoming alcoholism.”—Angela Diaz, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
 
Ten of millions of Americans suffer from alcoholism, yet most people still wrongly believe that alcoholism is a psychological or moral problem that can be “cured” once the purported underlying psychological problems or moral failings of the alcoholic are addressed.…


Book cover of The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin

James Brown Author Of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Another underrated and underread book, this memoir traces one woman’s descent into heroin hell and, ultimately, her recovery and redemption. I’ve known many heroin addicts in my day, and I hate to say it, especially publicly, but very few have been able to turn their lives around. Mitchell is one of the exceptions, and she sets a wonderful example for others to follow and not lose hope. Many memoirists simply make a record of their lives, or, worse, glorify their drug addiction, but not Hanson. Her book is one of insight and soul-searching into the madness of addiction. She pulls no punches about the ugliness of the addict’s life, yet at the same time, she offers hope to the most seemingly hopeless among us. At the heart of this book is a powerful message of recovery by someone, who by all accounts, should be dead.

By Tracey Helton Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After surviving nearly a decade of heroin abuse and hard living on the streets of San Francisco's Tenderloin District, Tracey Helton Mitchell decided to get clean for good.

With raw honesty and a poignant perspective on life that only comes from starting at rock bottom, Tracey tells her story of transformation from homeless heroin addict to stable mother of three-and the hard work and hard lessons that got her there. Rather than dwelling on the pain of addiction, The Big Fix focuses on her journey of recovery and rebuilding her life, while exposing the failings of the American rehab system…


Book cover of Under the Influence: The Literature of Addiction

James Brown Author Of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Using short stories, essays, and memoir selections from such authors as Poe, Tolstoy, Dorthey Parker, and Cheever, this book is an anthology of literature on addiction. Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat,” captures the madness that comes of alcoholism. Tolstoy’s essay offers sage advice about the nature of addiction. A lesser-known but standout story by Donna Steiner, “Sleeping with Alcohol,” teaches us what it’s like to be in love with an alcoholic and watching that person self-destruct. I’m a professor of English, and I used this book in a class I taught called “The Literature of Addiction,” alongside Dirk Hanson’s The Chemical Carousel as a primer for better understanding addiction before launching into stories, essays, and memoirs about it. The short stories in Under the Influence: The Literature of Addiction are entertaining as well as enlightening, and its other selections are just as informative as the books I previously mentioned.

By Rebecca Shannonhouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Influence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on two centuries of important literary and historical writings, Rebecca Shannonhouse has shaped a remarkable collection of works that are, in turn, tragic, compelling, hilarious, and enlightening. Together, these selections comprise a profound and truthful portrait of the life experience known as addiction.

Under the Influence offers classic selections from fiction, memoirs, and essays by authors such as Tolstoy, Cheever, Parker, and Poe. Also included are topical gems by writers who illuminate the causes, dangers, pleasures, and public perceptions surrounding people consumed by excessive use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Recent provocative works by Abraham Verghese, the Barthelme brothers,…


Book cover of Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book

Christopher Dale Author Of Better Halves: Rebuilding a Post-Addiction Marriage

From my list on couples recovering from addiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a husband, father, writer, and recovering addict – and not necessarily in that order. Early in my marriage, I became a full-blown, low-bottom cocaine addict. While it wasn’t surprising that active addiction nearly led to divorce, my wife and I were baffled and discouraged when my newfound sobriety brought its own existential marital issues. Frustratingly, there was a dearth of resources for couples in recovery, especially compared to the ample support available to recovering addicts. As an avid freelance writer, I decided to add to this sparse genre by sharing our struggles, setbacks, and successes en route to a happy, secure marriage. 

Christopher's book list on couples recovering from addiction

Christopher Dale Why did Christopher love this book?

You can’t stay married if you’re dead. Don’t die. Read this book. 

There’s a reason TIME Magazine included the central text of the world’s most prolific recovery organization on its list of Best 100 Nonfiction Books of All Time: the book that gave AA its name likely has saved more lives than any other singular narrative in the past century.

AA not really for you? Reading Alcoholics Anonymous does not mean joining Alcoholics Anonymous. The themes co-authors Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith discuss – and the Twelve Steps of Recovery in particular – have near-universal relevance to anyone attempting to break the grip of alcohol or drugs.

More than eight decades after its publication, the book offers timeless truths that captivate addicts via ironclad identification. 

By Bill W.,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Alcoholics Anonymous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many thousands have benefited from "The Big Book" and its simple but profound explanation of the doctrines behind Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. This original 1939 edition outlines the famous 12 steps, and offers counsel for those who wish to join the program but doubt the existence of a higher power. It also contains encouraging personal stories, in which AA members relate their experiences with alcohol and how they found the path to sobriety.
"The Big Book" has gone through numerous editions and remains the most widely used resource for recovering…


Book cover of Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery

Michelle Brafman Author Of Swimming with Ghosts

From my list on addiction and transcending painful legacies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve collected family stories. My late grandmother told me that I had “nose trouble.” I can’t help it. I’m fascinated by the psychic ghosts that both haunt us and light us up. In researching my most recent novel about the generational ripples of family addiction, I read more than 50 books and talked with dozens of addicts in various stages of recovery. All my books, though, feature humans who seek to mend ruptures of the soul and in turn liberate themselves from the troubles that define them. These are my favorite stories to read and to tell. 

Michelle's book list on addiction and transcending painful legacies

Michelle Brafman Why did Michelle love this book?

I’d read about the demise of Bill Clegg, the handsome, superstar New York agent who struggled with alcoholism and crack addiction, and I held my breath while I devoured his memoir about his harrowing quest to complete 90 sober days.

The specifics of his raw and beautifully written story convey the universal truth that recovery from any challenge is not a straight line. Relapses happen, sometimes to the people who are throwing out the lifelines.

Among other things, this is a narrative about the healing and redemptive properties of connection, community, and storytelling. So much wisdom and humility in this brave and vital book.  

By Bill Clegg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The goal is ninety. Just ninety clean and sober days to loosen the hold of the addiction that caused Bill Clegg to lose everything. With six weeks of his most recent rehab behind him he returns to New York and attends two or three meetings each day. It is in these refuges that he befriends essential allies including Polly, who struggles daily with her own cycle of recovery and relapse, and the seemingly unshakably sober Asa.

At first, the support is not enough: Clegg relapses with only three days left. Written with uncompromised immediacy, Ninety Days begins where Portrait of…


Book cover of The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease

Lauren Aguirre Author Of The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind How We Remember

From my list on the mind, memory, and medical science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author, science journalist, and storyteller. I worked for the PBS science series NOVA for many years, producing documentaries, podcasts, digital video series, and interactive games on everything from asteroids to human origins to art restoration. But I am particularly fascinated by strange brains, which is why I wrote my first book, The Memory Thief. I am currently at work on a second book about a different neurological disorder. 

Lauren's book list on the mind, memory, and medical science

Lauren Aguirre Why did Lauren love this book?

What if addiction isn’t a chronic relapsing disease, as described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse? What if a better way to think about it is as a type of learning disorder? Neuroscientist and author Marc Lewis, himself a recovering addict, makes his compelling argument through the stories of five people suffering from substance use disorders. This insightful book left me believing that the attempt to fit addiction into rigid categories does a disservice to the complexity of this condition.

By Marc Lewis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the "disease model" of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery.The psychiatric establishment and rehab industry in the Western world have branded addiction a brain disease, based on evidence that brains change with drug use. But in The Biology of Desire , cognitive neuroscientist and former addict Marc Lewis makes a convincing case that addiction is not a disease, and shows why the disease model has become an obstacle to healing.Lewis reveals addiction as an unintended consequence of…


Book cover of Permanent Midnight: A Memoir

Joe Clifford Author Of Junkie Love: A Story of Recovery and Redemption

From my list on what addiction is really like, no punches pulled.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a mystery writer and teacher now. Back then, I spent 10 years homeless and addicted on the streets of San Francisco. I could always return to Mom in CT and get put in a cushy rehab. Until I couldn't. And then she was dying, and my younger brother was addicted and soon he'd be dead too. It got scary at the end because I wasn't just some white suburban kid playing a scumbag junkie. I was a scumbag junkie. But why do I have a passion for the topic? I guess it's because it isn't all bad. I know that sounds weird, but being homeless and addicted has moments of beauty and joy too. 

Joe's book list on what addiction is really like, no punches pulled

Joe Clifford Why did Joe love this book?

The gold standard of recovery books. I found this gem literally in the gutter when I was homeless. Changed my life by showing me if I could get my shit together, I, too, could write a book about my experience, and, in the process, maybe help someone else who was suffering as well.

By Jerry Stahl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jerry Stahl's seminal memoir of drug addiction and a career in Hollywood, Permanent Midnight is a classic along the lines of Hubert Selby, Jr.'s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Illuminating the self-loathing and self-destruction of an addict's inner life, Permanent Midnight follows Stahl through the dregs of addiction and into sobriety. In 1998, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Maria Bello starred in a film version of Permanent Midnight to much acclaim. Nic Sheff, author of Tweak, writes the introduction to this edition.


Book cover of Go Ask Alice

Anna Esaki-Smith Author Of Make College Your Superpower: It's Not Where You Go, It's What You Know

From my list on books for teenagers about stuff parents don’t—or can’t—discuss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I understand how stressful it is to be a teenager today. And we’re talking stress across a variety of fronts, from academics to personal matters and everything in between. In my book on college admissions, I advise high schoolers to use data so they can get the most value from their university education as well as reduce the anxiety of what can be an overwhelming process. In my book recommendations, I’ve chosen novels the teenaged me thought honestly depicted the emotional challenges teenagers face and how those challenges are resolved. Whether it be applying to college or developing relationships, the key is to be authentic in who you are!

Anna's book list on books for teenagers about stuff parents don’t—or can’t—discuss

Anna Esaki-Smith Why did Anna love this book?

I’m sure there’s a lot of research about how people decide what book to read. I picked up this one because the cover was inky black, and the author was only identified as “Anonymous,” a pre-Internet version of clickbait!

However, I wasn’t disappointed as this book starkly chronicled a young woman’s descent into drug use through her diary entries. By reading a book presented in such a personal format, I really felt scared for the writer as she continually put herself in dangerous situations while her life spiraled out of control. I was also fascinated by some of the period details she provided, like detangling her just-shampooed hair with mayonnaise. I even tried that once!

Although “Anonymous” ended up being an adult writer, this book made me understand more about resilience and the power of redemption rather than the dangers of drug addiction, which, frankly, I had already learned in…

By Anonymous,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go Ask Alice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A teen plunges into a downward spiral of addiction in this classic cautionary tale.

January 24th
After you’ve had it, there isn't even life without drugs…

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth—and ultimately her life.

Read her diary.
Enter her world.
You will never forget her.

For thirty-five…


Book cover of The Illusion of a Girl

Bryony Best Author Of The Girl from Pompey: Bloodshed in the Hampshire Cabin

From my list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a wealth of knowledge and experience for living through tragic situations from my young adult life. I have overcome a traumatic childhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental health. I find psychology fascinating; I have personally had many attempts by others to take my life. I have survived violent attacks, stalkers, and abuse. I love thriller books that have psychology embedded alongside many life lessons.  

Bryony's book list on thrillers that aren't predictable or snail-paced

Bryony Best Why did Bryony love this book?

This book is a suspense thriller that has a theme of family drama and substance abuse.

As an advocate for mental health and addiction recovery I found this book a very worthwhile read. I found it hard to put the book down, the depth of the characters and their experiences were fearful. I assume the writer has drawn from personal experience as the storyline is too tragic to be completely fabricated.

The MC lives with her family in a household that walks on eggshells due to an alcoholic father. The story is rich and compelling with a great educational side of it that really does help others to understand issues surrounding alcoholism and mental health. 

By Leeann Werner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perception is king, especially in a small Ohio town. Jessie Taylor seems like a normal 15-year-old girl, but she’s an illusion of what people expect her to be: a good girl, a smart girl, and most importantly, a girl from a respectable family. Her family may appear ordinary, even wholesome, but behind closed doors it’s an alcohol-soaked nightmare without reprieve. Jessie and her brother Brian, struggle bravely together as they fight to survive their violent father. Even the excitement of falling in love for the first time can’t seal the foundational cracks in her psyche. As her home life worsens,…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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,…


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