The most recommended books about heroin and heroin addiction

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to heroin and heroin addiction, and here are their favorite heroin books.
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Book cover of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad

Mary Rizzo Author Of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and the Wire

From my list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix.

Who am I?

As a cultural historian of 20th century America, I’m fascinated by how culture is used to rebel against the status quo and how the status quo fights back. In my first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, I looked at greasers, hippies, and white hip hop lovers to understand how they used style and fashion to push back against being white and middle class. In Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire, I went beyond looking at how individuals shape their identity to thinking about how artists and city leaders shape the identity of a place. Can artists counter the efforts of cities to create sanitized images of themselves?

Mary's book list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix

Mary Rizzo Why did Mary love this book?

In The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets, David Simon, also an author of nonfiction books about Baltimore, depicted Baltimore cops as Sisyphean figures trying to fight an endless wave of crime and failing. Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg tell a much less positive story about the police. They examine an elite unit called the Gun Trace Task Force which became, under its leader Wayne Jenkins, a criminal syndicate. Using their badges as weapons, these police officers robbed drug dealers of tens of thousands of dollars, planted weapons and evidence, and terrorized Black Baltimore residents.

As media pundits were wringing their hands about whether Baltimore’s people had gone out of control when they rioted after Freddie Gray’s death, we learn that these cops were literally robbing prescription drugs to sell them on the street. Even if you’re suspicious about the role of police in inner-city communities, this book…

By Baynard Woods, Brandon Soderberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Got a Monster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The explosive true story of America's most corrupt police unit, the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), which terrorized the city of Baltimore for half a decade.

When Baltimore police sergeant Wayne Jenkins said he had a monster, he meant he had found a big-time drug dealer―one that he wanted to rob. This is the story of Jenkins and the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), a super group of dirty detectives who exploited some of America’s greatest problems: guns, drugs, toxic masculinity, and hypersegregation.

In the upside-down world of the GTTF, cops were robbers and drug dealers were the perfect victims,…


Book cover of Christiane F.: Autobiography of a Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict

Tom Hansen Author Of American Junkie

From my list on drug addicts and lost souls.

Who am I?

I've always been interested in books about lost souls and broken people. Before I got clean it was the story of my life and they’re stories that continue to resonate with lots of readers. I think my being drawn to those kinds of stories was a reaction to the stories I read and tv and movies I saw growing up. The image-conscious suburban American Dream stuff. I grew up without all those illusions and naturally gravitated to gritty realism because it mirrored my experience. My book is less interested in the day-to-day mechanics of the lives of drug addicts and lost souls, but rather how they came to be what they are. 

Tom's book list on drug addicts and lost souls

Tom Hansen Why did Tom love this book?

In the 70’s, two journalists from a prominent Berlin newspaper went to Zoo Station, a section of the city where hookers and junkies hung out where they met Christiane F. Over months they documented her story and helped her get it into book form. It’s a typical tale, abusive and/or indifferent parents, marijuana at 12, heroin addict and prostitute by 13. Her story is compellingly told and more tragic than most as we get to know the other 13-year-old boys and girls she hangs out with who also sell themselves for their next fix. The original mass market paperback came out in 1982 and was never reissued. Used copies are over $100. Fortunately, a new translation came out a few years ago under the title Zoo Station a memoir by Christane F that is readily available. 

By Christiane F., Susanne Flatauer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1 POCKET-SIZE SOFTCOVER BOOK


Book cover of A Thistle in the Mist

Lynelle Clark Author Of Love at War: A Love Story

From my list on provoking plotlines.

Who am I?

I am a very realistic person, curious by nature, who loves a good thrill. A good twist—no matter the genre—that has all the above recommendations captures my attention. A feel-good chick flick or book does nothing for my curious side but adds a twist or two and you have me hooked. Love at war is that kind of book. It has a few twists that touch on important topics and leave you with a few thoughts to think about afterward. Life is not only marshmallows and sprinklers. Life is real and I like my books like that, too. Therefore, I call myself a multi-genre author. I don’t want to be bound by one genre.

Lynelle's book list on provoking plotlines

Lynelle Clark Why did Lynelle love this book?

I absolutely loved this book based on true events. Don’t be fooled by the name either. This is intense as it gets. A historical thriller slash romance that made you wonder how much the heroin can endure. Believe me, you are in for a ride. 

So much heartache poured from the pages, and you keep on reading in the hopes that love will conquer, and the evil will be stopped. Every character's persona was well developed and got under your skin as you became part of their lives and struggles. One of my favorites and a book I would read again.

By Megan Denby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thistle in the Mist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meara isn’t thinking about Death when she kisses her mother good-bye, but hours later she is as her fingers slide into the back of Mother’s shattered skull. Meara thinks her world has ended. She has no idea… Ebullient and feisty, Meara MacDonald lives an idyllic life on the mist-enfolded Isle of Skye, dreaming of the day she will wed her heart, the gallant Duncan MacLeod. Fate, however, has other plans and when Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Sloan arrive, Meara’s family is taken, one-by-one, for reasons she discovers are both personal and nefarious. Unable to rein in her spirit or her…


Book cover of How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z

Henriette Ivanans Author Of In Pillness and in Health: A memoir

From my list on getting inside the addict’s mind.

Who am I?

I am a two-time kidney-transplanted author and occasional actor. Born in Toronto, LA-raised and currently living in Winnipeg with my husband, Kevin, I love dogs, books, and being sober. When my father died of alcoholism at 38, I did not understand it was a disease. 11 years ago, my addiction escalated to the point of overdose during the year my husband gave me a kidney. When I went into rehab, writing became vital to my healing, and my memoir was born. I am passionate about enlightening readers to the world of chronic illness and pain and the spiritual component to recovery. (Warning: I will interrupt you mid-sentence if I see a dog.)

Henriette's book list on getting inside the addict’s mind

Henriette Ivanans Why did Henriette love this book?

The book pushed all my buttons. Marlowe has brief-ish relationship with heroin in NYC in the ’90s and apparently, can “just stop.” Her studied reflections on heroin and its culture are cemented in absolute resistance to the idea that addiction is a disease. For me, this is a dangerous concept that makes me cringe, as much of her book did. But her resolute intelligence and ego make for fascinating reading. With a frown, I reflected on phrases like, “Living in an eternal present is not good for us, no matter how much we want it.” Her book reminded me of the many ways people define addiction. It inspired me to get crystal clear on my viewpoint before I took pen to page.

By Ann Marlowe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Stop Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a coolly dispassionate voice, Ann Marlowe has created a mock dictionary in order to dissect her addiction to - and her eventual rejection of - heroin. Each entry, varying from the anecdotal to the analytical, describes the allure and the degradation of the drug, set against the story of her own life. Without glamorizing it, she explores the seduction of the drug and honestly reveals heroin's temporary deep satisfaction, before finally casting the drug aside as a failed, even abusive, lover, a negligent spouse, a one-way ultimately doomed relationship. Her journey through heroin is a cerebral tale grounded in…


Book cover of The Patrick Melrose Novels

Trish MacEnulty Author Of The Hummingbird Kiss: My Life as an Addict in the 1970s

From my list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups.

Who am I?

I am a recovered (not “recovering”) addict and writer. These days I write historical fiction because I enjoy an escape from present-day reality, and research is fun. But I started writing as a way to make sense of my chaotic world and in hopes of healing myself. Something was broken inside me, and I didn’t know how to fix it. So I wrote about the shadowy realms of my life and kept on writing until somehow I was able to let go of the past and create a different life, one which would not land me upside down in a ditch with my neck broken and my tires spinning. 

Trish's book list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups

Trish MacEnulty Why did Trish love this book?

Of this set of books, the first two are my faves. Who needs horror when it’s right here in St. Aubyn’s horrific childhood with his creepy father?

It becomes perfectly understandable why the young Edward dove into a life of utter self-destruction. When he becomes a drug addict, his sheer self-obliteration reaches epic proportions. I have to admit, I was awed. It’s not so much the stories of his sick father and oblivious mother or his gleeful romp through degradation that compelled me to keep reading. It’s the writing. These are the best descriptions of drug use that I’ve ever come across.

The writing reminded me of my favorite movie, Trainspotting, which managed to visually convey the effects of heroin addiction in a similar way. 

By Edward St Aubyn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Filmed for Sky Atlantic, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, The Patrick Melrose Novels is the complete collection of Edward St Aubyn's award-winning novels of childhood trauma and aristocratic decandence. This Picador Classics edition features an introduction by Zadie Smith.

Patrick slid back down in his chair and sprawled in front of the view. He noticed how his tears cooled as they ran down his cheeks. Washed eyes and a tired and empty feeling. Was that what other people meant by peaceful?

Collected here together in a single volume are the complete Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn, Never Mind, Bad News,…


Book cover of Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction

Trish MacEnulty Author Of The Hummingbird Kiss: My Life as an Addict in the 1970s

From my list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups.

Who am I?

I am a recovered (not “recovering”) addict and writer. These days I write historical fiction because I enjoy an escape from present-day reality, and research is fun. But I started writing as a way to make sense of my chaotic world and in hopes of healing myself. Something was broken inside me, and I didn’t know how to fix it. So I wrote about the shadowy realms of my life and kept on writing until somehow I was able to let go of the past and create a different life, one which would not land me upside down in a ditch with my neck broken and my tires spinning. 

Trish's book list on memoirs about or by addicts, drunks, and f#@k ups

Trish MacEnulty Why did Trish love this book?

The horror and the humor! This book reminded me of just how absurd the life of an addict is. I found myself laughing out loud at unexpected turns. Of course, we’re talking very dark humor.

The story of his obsession with Candy also reminded me of my own doomed love affairs, the sick love that often mingles with addiction. I’ll never forget the story of his cats, though. Davies’ observations on the behavior of his cats are as compelling (and horrible) as his observations of the behavior of addicts.

All addiction stories are sad in their own way, but as comic John Mulaney has shown, they can also be hysterically funny. And Candy proves it. 

By Luke Davies,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Candy is beside me, drenched in sweat. She's breathing gently, long slow breaths. I imagine her soul going in and out: wanting to leave, wanting to come back, wanting to leave, wanting to come back. The day will soon harden into what we need to do. But for now we have each other. . . ."

He met Candy amid a lush Sydney summer. Gorgeous, sexy, free-spirited Candy. They fell in love fast, lots of laughter and lust, the days melting warmly into each other. He never planned to give her a habit. But she wanted a taste. And wasn't…


Book cover of Boy Swallows Universe

Victoria Golden Author Of A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir

From Victoria's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Story teller Book fav swapper Movie buff A writer’s daughter Escapee from Beverly Hills

Victoria's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Victoria Golden Why did Victoria love this book?

Here’s another tantalizing underdog story, this time about a 12-year-old boy coming of age under impossible circumstances, and he does it with such innocence and goodness and almost poetic thoughtfulness that you can’t help but love him.

Our young hero is Australian. His task: Save his mother from disaster, face off against a powerful and violent drug dealer, and find his way into a career in journalism, all the while relying for friendship and advice on an escaped convict.

Dalton’s novel is thrilling, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all at once.

By Trent Dalton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The most extraordinary writer - a rare talent' Nikki Gemmell

An utterly wonderful novel of love, crime, magic, fate and coming of age from one of Australia's most exciting new writers.

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way - not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary…


Book cover of Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom

Kathryn E. Livingston Author Of Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman's Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace

From my list on yoga memoirs to inspire you on your path.

Who am I?

Nearly 20 years ago, I awkwardly stumbled into a yoga class after a therapist informed me that I needed to do something about my anxiety issues (“Take your pick,” she said, “I’ll prescribe pills or you can try yoga.”) From the very first class, I was drawn not only to the physical practice, but to the sense that yoga could lead me deeper into my own heart and soul. I wrote a memoir about my journey—and about how yoga helped me later face and conquer breast cancer. I now teach yoga, and I love reading about how yoga changes lives—as it almost always does. 

Kathryn's book list on yoga memoirs to inspire you on your path

Kathryn E. Livingston Why did Kathryn love this book?

I really liked this book because beautiful, blonde, former model Saidman Yee (wife of the popular yoga teacher Rodney Yee) seems so perfect on the outside that one couldn’t imagine she’d ever have had a notable problem—let alone a seizure disorder or substance abuse issues. Growing up in Indiana, one of seven kids, the author ended up posing for glamour shots and making a name for herself in the fashion world. But inside she experienced anxiety and fear of failure. Saidman Yee’s vulnerability and authenticity shine in this candid story of how yoga helped her go within and honor her true self. Wonderful yoga sequences designed by Saidman Yee are included.

By Colleen Saidman Yee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The very first time Saidman Yee took a yoga class, she left feeling inexplicably different-something inside had shifted. She felt alive-so alive that yoga became the center of her life, helping her come to terms with her insecurities and find her true identity and voice. From learning to cope with a frightening seizure disorder to navigating marriages and divorces to becoming a mother, finding the right life partner, and grieving a beloved parent, Saidman Yee has been through it all-and has found that yoga holds the answers to life's greatest challenges.

Approachable, sympathetic, funny, and candid, Saidman Yee shares personal…


Book cover of Jesus' Son

Michael Keenan Gutierrez Author Of The Swill

From my list on bars where I'd like to get a drink.

Who am I?

I loved bars before I could drink. Maybe it was a steady diet of Cheers reruns as a child. Or perhaps it was growing up in Los Angeles, a city without a center, a city of cars, a city that seemed—at least when I was a child—to lack real community. Bars, in my imagination, provided that. So when I started actually finding myself in bars—and often working in them—I also found myself writing fiction, and those bars ended up in that fiction. In each of my novels, a bar is a gathering place for those wanting a church sans theology, a place, where, yes, everyone knows your name.  

Michael's book list on bars where I'd like to get a drink

Michael Keenan Gutierrez Why did Michael love this book?

On any given day, this is my favorite book with one of my favorite bars, The Vine, a dive that Johnson describes as “like a railroad club car that had somehow run itself off the tracks into a swamp of time where it awaited the blows of the wrecking ball.” Is it a nice place? No. Would you take a date here? Not if you wanted them to respect you. Could you find yourself in mortal danger? Absolutely. But amongst the addicts and runaways, the small-time crooks and ne’er do wells, you’ll find moments of beauty that transcend the pain of everyday life, becoming, in its best moments, like reading scripture.

By Denis Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Jesus' Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jesus' Son is a visionary chronicle of dreamers, addicts, and lost souls. These stories tell of spiralling grief and transcendence, of rock bottom and redemption, of getting lost and found and lost again. The narrator of these interlinked stories is a young, unnamed man, reeling from his addiction to heroin and alcohol, his mind at once clouded and made brilliantly lucid by these drugs. In the course of his adventures, he meets an assortment of people, who seem as alienated and confused as he; sinners, misfits, the lost, the damned, the desperate and the forgotten. Our of their bleak, seemingly…


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.

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?

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…