80 books like Wasting Talent

By Ryan Leone,

Here are 80 books that Wasting Talent fans have personally recommended if you like Wasting Talent. 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 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.

Who am I?

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 Hustle

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

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

Who am I?

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 brilliance of Hustle is the way it juxtaposes the everyday addict's life. Sure, there's the big crime and action, bad guys, car chases. Again, that part fiction. But Hustle lives and breathes in between. In the minutia. Of the doldrums of, as Lou Reed once so eloquently sang, waiting for the man. It's the quiet moments and small conversations between Big Rich and Donny, where we see their humanity. As warped and twisted as the world may be around them, they never lose that appeal: being victims of the human condition. And like I said, living this life with Tom (the drug part), I can honestly say it was those little conversations that give you something to laugh about and a little hope to hold onto. 

By Tom Pitts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they’ve chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer’s. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney’s life and Dustin has plans for the old man. The lawyer calls upon an old biker for help…


Book cover of Orangutan: 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.

Who am I?

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?

Orangutan is a working-class opus. Broderick excels in his display of the grind and how some men can weather and accept, as the Boss sings, dying little by little, piece by piece, and how others need more help to make it through the day. The most compelling part of Broderick's writing is the way he is able to delineate between the haves and have-nots. And, no, I don't mean money. Some men can drink a six-pack on the weekend, even do some blow. They'll be fine. Others? Like Colin? A shot is too much of an allure. Not just to get drunk, wasted, blotto. It goes way deeper. It's a form of wakeful suicide. You get through the day. You get your paycheck. You survive. But the price is not living.

By Colin Broderick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Few people who have been slave to an addiction as vicious, as destructive, and as unrelenting as Colin Broderick's have lived to tell their tale. Fewer still have emerged from the darkest depths of alcoholism—from the perpetual fistfights and muggings, car crashes and blackouts—to tell the harrowing truth about the modern Irish immigrant experience.

Orangutan is the story of a generation of young men and women in search of identity in a foreign land, both in love with and at odds with the country they've made their home. So much more than just another memoir about battling addiction, Orangutan is…


Book cover of Some Things That Meant the World to Me

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

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

Who am I?

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?

I’m starting to feel bad it’s all dudes (and white dudes) on my list, but I think that, despite the fact that these days I only read women-written domestic psychological thrillers (they’re just better at it), when I first got straight I sought out others just like me. I didn’t think recovery was possible. Josh’s book is as harrowing and poignant and gorgeously written as they come. I mean, I think Oprah picked it for a book of the month. What more can you ask for?

Some Things That Meant the World to Me is gritty with plenty of down and dirty. But at the center of Josh’s (and his stand-in Rhonda's) story is a poet's heart (as well as a love letter to my city too, San Francisco).

By Joshua Mohr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Some Things That Meant the World to Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#8 of 10 Terrific Reads of 2009. "Charles Bukowski will dig the grit in this seedy novel, a poetic rendering of postmodern San Francisco." -O, The Oprah Magazine

A Best Book of the Year -The Nervous Breakdown

"Where Michel Gondry would go if he went down a few too many miles of bad desert road." -The Collagist

"Mohr's prose roams with chimerical liquidity. The magic of this book is a disturbing, hallucinogenic magic." -Boston's Weekly Dig

Following a 30-year-old man named Rhonda suffering from depersonalization, Some Things That Meant the World to Me is a gritty and beautiful work that…


Book cover of Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me

Carol Weis Author Of Stumbling Home: Life Before and After That Last Drink

From my list on addiction memoirs I wish I had when I got sober.

Who am I?

I come from a family of “functional” alcoholics, where feelings were never discussed and drinking was the way to solve (or more likely avoid or cause) problems. After 25 years of abusing alcohol (and drugs), I finally got sober. And for the first time ever, I started writing, because all those feelings I pushed down wanted a voice. All that childhood trauma needed more than AA and talk therapy to heal.  So I gifted those feelings with written words, as did the writers I mention in my list. Recovery is something to pass on and telling our stories is another healing way to do it.

Carol's book list on addiction memoirs I wish I had when I got sober

Carol Weis Why did Carol love this book?

I worked with Erin on a deeply personal essay when she was an editor at Ravishly and was so excited when her memoir was published. Though we used different drugs and came from different backgrounds, our stories were similar, as are most addicts. We use to get rid of the pain, the shame, the anxiety/depression, whatever ails us. We find reprieve through our addictions, but find a loving life in recovery. 

By Erin Khar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“This is a story she needed to tell; and the rest of the country needs to listen.”
— New York Times Book Review

“This vital memoir will change how we look at the opioid crisis and how the media talks about it. A deeply moving and emotional read, STRUNG OUT challenges our preconceived ideas of what addiction looks like.”
—Stephanie Land, New York Times bestselling author of Maid

In this deeply personal and illuminating memoir about her fifteen-year struggle with heroin, Khar sheds profound light on the opioid crisis and gives a voice to the over two million people in…


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.

Who am I?

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 Infinite Jest

Norman Farb Author Of Better in Every Sense: How the New Science of Sensation Can Help You Reclaim Your Life

From my list on overcoming stress and getting unstuck in life.

Who am I?

I am a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who studies the social neuroscience of the self and human emotion, with a focus on how biases in self-representation shape emotional reactions that determine well-being. I am particularly interested in how cognitive training practices such as mindfulness meditation and yoga foster resilience against stress, reducing vulnerability to disorders such as depression. I’ve always wished we had better ways of communicating fascinating and important discoveries in neuroscience and mental health to a wider audience, so we combined our teaching experience in the fields of mindfulness, yoga, sports, and clinical psychology to write this book.

Norman's book list on overcoming stress and getting unstuck in life

Norman Farb Why did Norman love this book?

This book may seem out of place in a list of psychologically-minded self-help recommendations. And it is long, and hard to read. Don’t even get me started on the use of end-notes in a work of fiction. But it is quite simply one of the best books written in the past 100 years and it is all about people who have gotten stuck, trapped by habit or circumstance, and are yearning for a way to find meaning in life.

To me, this book is a self help book because it is written so powerfully (in a not-so-distance fictional future) that as the characters are inevitably transformed and sometimes freed from their assumed destinies, Wallace somehow illustrates how we too can be transformed in our daily routines and interactions by finding moments of clarity and meaning right where we are, rather than being saved by some outside force that promises liberation…

By David Foster Wallace,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Infinite Jest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A writer of virtuostic talents who can seemingly do anything' New York Times

'Wallace is a superb comedian of culture . . . his exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight' James Wood, Guardian

'He induces the kind of laughter which, when read in bed with a sleeping partner, wakes said sleeping partner up . . . He's damn good' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

'One of the best books about addiction and recovery to appear in recent memory' Sunday Times

Somewhere in the not-so-distant future the residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the…


Book cover of Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food Addiction

Vera Tarman, MD Author Of Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction

From my list on capturing sugar and food addiction.

Who am I?

I am an addictions physician with a passion for the field of food addiction. I have spoken, taught, and written about this subject for over 15 years. I am the author of Food Junkies: Recovery from Food Addiction; have a thriving free Facebook group: I'm Sweet Enough: Sugar-Free for Life (which you are invited to join), and a podcast called Food Junkies—to catch up on the latest in the field. I am also a food addict in recovery for over 15 years and have maintained a 100-pound weight loss since then.

Vera's book list on capturing sugar and food addiction

Vera Tarman, MD Why did Vera love this book?

An excellent, well-written memoir of what it is like to be a food addict. Sara Somers tells her story of discovery and how she finds recovery. You really feel the drama of what it is like to eat, to overeat to the point of shame and sickness, and then that is possible to recover from even the worst case. A book to identify and feel inspired to change.

By Sara Somers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For nearly fifty years, Sara Somers suffered from untreated food addiction. In this brutally honest and intimate memoir, Somers offers readers an inside view of a food addict's mind, showcasing her experiences of obsessive cravings, compulsivity, and powerlessness regarding food. Saving Sara chronicles Somers's addiction from childhood to adulthood, beginning with abnormal eating as a nine-year-old. As her addiction progresses in young adulthood, she becomes isolated, masking her shame and self-hatred with drugs and alcohol. Time and again, she rationalizes why this time will be different, only to have her physical cravings lead to ever-worse binges, to see her promises…


Book cover of Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel

Harry Schaumburg Author Of Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships

From my list on to survive and recover from marital unfaithfulness.

Who am I?

When writing about sexuality it is important to me to write about true intimacy. Especially for those who have broken their wedding vows and for those who have been betrayed, who still long for real intimacy with spiritual and sexual maturity. My book, False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction (1992), was the first Christian book published on the subject of sexual addiction. I have for over thirty years counseled 1000s of sexually broken people from all across the U.S. who came to see me for a week of intensive counseling. I have taught on the subject of sexuality in all fifty states as well as over twenty foreign countries. No subject is more important to our spiritual maturity and sexual maturity.

Harry's book list on to survive and recover from marital unfaithfulness

Harry Schaumburg Why did Harry love this book?

After 30 years of counseling and 1000s of people in bondage to various sexual behaviors, I take a minority view, and do not believe that addiction, and sexual addiction in particular, is a disease; it is a bondage to sin. This book, I believe helps supports that view. I find in counseling, that when you deal with the sin problem as sin, not just a behavior problem, which is a symptom of sin, lives are radically changed. I could give hundreds of examples, but one that stands out was a sexual predator who seduced 100s of women, but after a radical heart change, his marriage survived and he went on to minister and help others, rather than to continue to use others.

By Edward T. Welch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Addiction, according to Welch, is when we worship ourselves and our desires instead of the true God.


Book cover of Stash: My Life in Hiding

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Author Of Drunk-ish: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Alcohol

From my list on addiction books that will make you feel less alone.

Who am I?

I'm a memoir writer whose latest book, Drunk-ish, chronicles my experience getting sober. Before quitting drinking and after, I devoured all the "quit lit" books I could get my hands on despite not being entirely convinced I had an issue. I read to bond and identify with the authors, and the books I'm recommending are a few of my very favorites on the topic of addiction. On my podcast, "For Crying Out Loud," I often share about quitting drinking and addiction in general, and when I do, I find those are some of the most popular episodes. If you're sober, thinking about quitting, or even just like reading books about messed-up boozers, these books are for you.

Stefanie's book list on addiction books that will make you feel less alone

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Why did Stefanie love this book?

This book is about a mother’s struggles with Ambien addiction. This is another hugely relatable book that shows that regardless of how you present on the outside (Laura’s kids were in fancy private school, she lived in a massive house, and she was married to a big-time studio executive), your insides can be falling apart.

This book is beautifully written and painfully honest, which is a combination I can get behind.

By Laura Cathcart Robbins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“An irresistibly delicious story.” —Holly Whitaker, New York Times bestselling author

A propulsive and vivid memoir—in the vein of Drinking: A Love Story and Somebody’s Daughter—about the journey to sobriety and self-love amidst addiction, privilege, racism, and self-sabotage from the host of the popular podcast The Only One in the Room.

After years of hiding her addiction from everyone—from stockpiling pills in her Louboutins to elaborately scheduling withdrawals between PTA meetings, baby showers, and tennis matches—Laura Cathcart Robbins settles into a complicated purgatory.

She learns the hard way that privilege doesn’t protect you from pain. Facing divorce, the possibility of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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