The best books about addiction

4 authors have picked their favorite books about addiction and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Hustle

Hustle

By Tom Pitts,

Why 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…
From the list:

The best books for what addiction is really like (no punches pulled ed)

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

The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction

By Dirk Hanson,

Why 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.
From the list:

The best books on addiction and recovery from someone who has been there

Book cover of Under the Influence: The Literature of Addiction

Under the Influence: The Literature of Addiction

By Rebecca Shannonhouse,

Why 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…
From the list:

The best books on addiction and recovery from someone who has been there

Book cover of Don't Make Me Stop This Car!

Don't Make Me Stop This Car!

By Ali Stroker,

Why this book?

No list of books for Dads would be complete without this one from my buddy, Al Roker. In Don’t Make Me Stop This Car, Al looks at the highs and lows of being a parent. Not only does it have his classic Roker charm and sense of humor, but he also writes about his experiences with infertility treatments and adoption. It’s become a favorite because he’s been a great friend and mentor to me. 

From the list:

The best books for families dealing with addiction

Book cover of Wasting Talent

Wasting Talent

By Ryan Leone,

Why this book?

This one hurts. Because when I was asked to write this list, Ryan’s book immediately came to mind. Part fiction, part memoir, all hell, Wasted Talent might be the most aptly titled book ever. See, Ryan, who was an amazing writer, talent, and friend, died last week. I don’t know what of. I’m not gonna speculate. But he was in his thirties and wasn’t hit by a car. Over the last few years, Ryan and I weren’t in touch as much, though I did put money on his books when he returned to prison. Ryan’s life and work are a…

From the list:

The best books for what addiction is really like (no punches pulled ed)

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

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

By James R. Milam, Katherine Ketcham,

Why 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…
From the list:

The best books on addiction and recovery from someone who has been there

Book cover of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

By Sarah Hepola,

Why this book?

This book does an excellent job describing what it’s like to feel “less than.” For me, that is the crux of my drinking. I truly appreciate that Hepola addresses sexuality patterns for many women alcoholics. It’s difficult to portray this in a way that is understandable but does not excuse the behavior nor shame it. This story is not glamorized and I appreciate that. 

From the list:

The best books portraying addiction and family dysfunction with honesty, compassion, and humor

Book cover of Portrait of Our Marriage

Portrait of Our Marriage

By Martha Emms,

Why this book?

Because it is another ‘Faction’ novel. Martha found the inspiration to write this book from dreams, from watching a TV show featuring Oprah Winfrey interviewing various men suffering from an addiction to pornography, and from information given to her by 8 wives whose marriages were affected by their husbands’ addictions. Addiction to porn is a very real problem in these modern times.
From the list:

The best indie faction novels

Book cover of Days of Wine and Roses

Days of Wine and Roses

By J.P. Miller,

Why this book?

The most valuable lesson I received is that sometimes you have to let loved ones make bad choices. There’s nothing you can do beyond prayer and hope.

This book and the movie portray the good in people who do bad or stupid things. You end up loving the characters no matter how bad their choices. Sadly, many can relate to the story through family, friends, or even themself. The characters are believable and I would wager the author based the story on real life. It’s also an excellent book for anyone needing an introduction to recovery programs like Alanon, ACOA,…

From the list:

The best books portraying addiction and family dysfunction with honesty, compassion, and humor

Book cover of Some Things That Meant the World to Me

Some Things That Meant the World to Me

By Joshua Mohr,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books for what addiction is really like (no punches pulled ed)

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