The best books about heroin and heroin addiction

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

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The Big Fix

By Tracey Helton Mitchell,

Book cover of The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin

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.

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.

I wrote...

The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

By James Brown,

Book cover of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir

What is my book about?

Plagued by the suicides of both his siblings, and heir to alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, and economic ruin, James Brown lived a life clouded by addiction, broken promises, and despair.

In The Los Angeles Diaries, he reveals his struggle for survival, mining his past to present the inspiring story of his redemption. Harrowing and brutally honest, this memoir is the chronicle of a man on a collision course with life, who ultimately finds the strength and courage to conquer his demons and believe once more.

Safe and Sound

By Lindy Zart,

Book cover of Safe and Sound

When I first started reading I stumbled into this story about loss, love, and longing. I was amazed how the characters were able to survive through their ordeals and yet come out stronger with love and happiness on the other side. The emotion is real, and the imagery of a broken, yet strong heroin is phenomenal. I read this story more than five years ago but it’s one of the first I recommend to anyone looking for an exceptional storyline. Lola and Jack met under the most unfortunate circumstances, but together they manage to get through everything thrown against them.

Who am I?

I’m an avid reader by day and a passionate writer by night. I found myself writing the stories I couldn’t seem to find. This topic is one I know from first-hand experience. I’ve dealt with drug abuse and domestic abuse in my family from a young age and although painful to speak about it’s helped shape my career and help my readers find healing through my characters. I want my readers to be pulled in by a work of fiction while still having the knowledge that for me, it wasn’t. Abuse comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes, and I’ve realized it’s not forever. Even in the worst storms, the sun will always shine. 

I wrote...

Promise Me Always

By B.K. Leigh,

Book cover of Promise Me Always

What is my book about?

We made a pact, a promise all those years ago. He would be my protector and I would be his. We were only kids, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would love him for the rest of my life. He came into my life like a storm and left just as fast. I was beaten and bruised when he found me. Alone and broken when he left. 

A girl's journey from abuse to new love, and the boy who helped her heal.

How to Stop Time

By Ann Marlowe,

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

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.

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.)

I wrote...

In Pillness and in Health: A memoir

By Henriette Ivanans,

Book cover of In Pillness and in Health: A memoir

What is my book about?

What if your husband gave you a kidney and you drank beer with your painkillers the next day? Meet Henriette and Kevin. As newlyweds, they move to LA to conquer Hollywood. When the dream fades, Henriette finds a secret life in Pills. Diagnosed with a rejecting kidney transplant, her part-time narcotic trysts explode into a full-blown pharmaceutical affair. One backstabbing day, Pills lead her to her first overdose. Shattered, Kevin talks the ER out of a psychiatric hold. Kevin believes donating his kidney will save his wife’s life and heal their marriage. But is it too late? Their story shines new light in the dark corners of addiction and codependency, as we wonder how many devastating diseases can one marriage survive?

Sugar Man's Daughter

By Lucy Crowe,

Book cover of Sugar Man's Daughter

Sugar Man’s Daughter follows Nicola’s journey as she tries to escape her demons by returning to her childhood roots. It’s mysterious and dark; the characters are vivid and perfectly flawed; it sucks you in and keeps you turning the page. Sugar Man’s Daughter is an introspective piece that examines the dysfunction created in the wake of illegal drugs and corruption.

Who am I?

As a kindergarten teacher and a mother of three boys, I live at the intersection of weird and wonderful, so I expect nothing less from my library. Indie authors offer unique points of view, aren’t afraid to break the rules, and are motivated by their passion for the craft of writing. I'm drawn to those writers who let the voices in their heads lead the way, creating characters you become invested in from page one. I love writing around my characters, because once I have them developed, the books tend to write themselves. Some of my best storylines are ones where my characters took over and led me in weird and wonderful directions.

I wrote...


By Audra Middleton,

Book cover of Hitchhiker

What is my book about?

Supernatural abilities haunt her. Brainiac students taunt her. The FBI "Freak Squad" wants her. Will she abandon her extra sensory talents in favor of freedom, or will she hone them to help catch crooks?

Former army brat, Ainsley Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it’s among the freaks. This small-town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel what other people are experiencing, and now the FBI’s freak squad wants to use her “human bug” abilities to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsley temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworker’s paranoid delusions.

The Waste Lands

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III

Another ultimate post-apocalyptic quest novel is The Stand, one of King’s most read (and longest) books, but I was more heavily influenced by (and love more) The Waste Lands (book 3 of The Dark Tower series). This is because the latter focuses less on the how of the collapse than the aftermath. King’s casual prose and quick, realistic dialogue have always been an inspiration in my writing. The found family connection between Roland, Eddie, Susanna, and Jake is at the heart of The Waste Lands. It is palpable and endearing, and something I strove to emulate with Delia, Gennero, Perth, and Mort in my own novel. There is an allusion to The Waste Lands in my book that big fans of The Dark Tower will catch.  

Who am I?

I’ve clocked so many hours on Fallout 3 and New Vegas (and, less so, on Fallout 4) that it’s disgusting, but my real love of wastelands began with T.S. Eliot. His poem (The Waste Land), with its evocative imagery, fascinated me in university. While not about a literal wasteland, it inspired me to seek out stories of that vein. I even have a tattoo with a line from it! What Branches Grow was the focus of my grad certificate in creative writing and has won two awards. I am a book reviewer, writer at, and the author of the Burnt Ship space opera trilogy. 

I wrote...

What Branches Grow

By T.S. Beier,

Book cover of What Branches Grow

What is my book about?

Thirty-five years ago, the world was ravaged by war. Delia, driven from her home in Savannah by loss, travels north in search of a future. Gennero is tortured by his violent past and devotion to his hometown. Ordered to apprehend Delia, he follows her into the post-apocalyptic landscape. The wasteland is rife with dangers for those seeking to traverse it: homicidal raiders, dictatorial leaders, mutated humans, and increasingly violent and hungry wildlife.

An adventure with no-holds-barred action, strange towns, a slow-burn love story, moments of introspection, a Millennial in his 60s, and a survivalist pug, What Branches Grow is an unflinching depiction of life after civilization, where, above all else, trust is the hardest thing to achieve and give.


By William S. Burroughs,

Book cover of Junky: The Definitive Text of "Junk"

When I read Junky, I could hear the soundtrack of Low Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, followed by the extended guitar solo on the live version of Heroin. This is Burroughs using a straightforward narrative before he decided to cut up everything and destroy the notion that there was any purpose to a beginning, middle, and end (see Naked Lunch and beyond!). Junky pulses with the desperation of an addict’s life in post-war New York and drifting down south to places like New Orleans and Mexico City. It’s a unique insight into a drug-infested lifestyle, before drugs became a fashionable accessory. It has authenticity dripping through it and is a testament to Burroughs own addiction, which at one point caused his father to collect him and move him back to live with his parents (just like Lou Reed did before he went on to ‘make…

Who am I?

I was educated in the so-called ‘university of life’, before eventually going to a few proper universities, and returning to live in my old hometown in Essex—after spending far too long making loud music and a nuisance of myself in South London. My literary references are eclectic, but I thought I would focus my book recommendations on the anti-hero who comes from the world of French and American dirty realism. It should alert the reader to the kind of novels I write, although they're highly structured crime thrillers, with a heavy dose of very dry, sardonic sense of humor. Finally, the sequel to my latest novel should be ready for publication in 2023.

I wrote...

The Dead Hand of Dominique

By Simon Marlowe,

Book cover of The Dead Hand of Dominique

What is my book about?

The novel is narrated by a young career villain Steven Mason, who lives on a run-down housing estate along the fringes of London and Essex. He is tasked by his gangland boss (nicknamed Grandad) to track down his missing girlfriend Dominique. However, Steven knows things are not going to be simple when he discovers a frozen hand in Mickey Finn's old fridge. Steven then travels up to London with his mate Anthony (a junkie artist who Grandad uses to launder money), to begin the search for Dominique. As Steven speaks to people connected with her, he begins to uncover a plot that is about revenge, money, power, and control. And it all centers on the dead hand, what is on the dead hand, and if it is Dominique’s.

The Rising

By Brian Keene,

Book cover of The Rising

The Rising is, in my opinion, required zombie plague novel reading in that it touches on a bit of everything! An interesting source story for the plague, zombie animals, a multi-state trek, family bonds, bag guys, even intelligent zombies. Though many of us don’t enjoy that last aspect, it makes for many especially high-tension moments. Keene has a few other books I also really loved. Read this one if you want some crazy situations that will stay with you for years after you’ve read them. I’ll never forget the zoo.

Who am I?

I am a quiet horror and apocalyptic fiction author with a love for all Horror, but I started with zombies. I have eight published books (three of which are zombie apocalypse novels) and short stories in a handful of zombie anthologies. My favorite movies (Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Rammbock: Berlin Undead) populate the zombie subgenre. I’ve participated in several zombie walks, written a zombie song and made a music video for it, and done zombie wound special effects makeup. Several of my plague short stories have won awards, including one about Norwegian sea zombies and another about a child-stealing plague.

I wrote...

Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse

By Michelle Kilmer,

Book cover of Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse

What is my book about?

Ian Ward can’t tell you what it’s like to survive a zombie apocalypse because he is dying in one. From a closet in a second-floor bedroom of an abandoned house, he recounts his tale of “survival” in a backwards journey through the poor choices that put him there.

In an undead world, death is only one mistake away. Mistakes I Made During the Zombie Apocalypse is the anti-survival guide that just might keep you alive.

Boy Swallows Universe

By Trent Dalton,

Book cover of Boy Swallows Universe

Equal parts quirky, literary, humorous, and touching, Dalton’s debut novel won him a record four Australian Book Industry Awards in 2019, and it’s not hard to see why. Boy Swallows Universe follows the ups and downs of teen protagonist Eli’s descent into a world of drug-lords and prison barons, all while caring for his messed-up parents and mute brother and seeing the world in a uniquely beautiful way. Ex-journalist Dalton’s prose will sometimes take your breath away in this modern classic about life in the far-outer suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, where a ‘normal’ life seems simultaneously too far away and too close for comfort.

Who am I?

I’m an author, poet, and editor who works in natural history and social history publishing by day, explaining the unique flora and fauna, culture, and spirit of this ancient continent. By night, I moonlight as a fiction author, writing whatever takes my fancy. Seeing Australia and understanding Australia aren’t always the same thing in a country with unforgiving stony desert at its heart, more venomous creepy-crawlies than you can ‘poke a stick at’ (but please don’t!), the oldest living culture in the world, and a complex history. So, here are my recommendations for novels that travel deep into the Australian spirit.

I wrote...

What the Sea Wants

By Karin Cox,

Book cover of What the Sea Wants

What is my book about?

Juliette Brewer can’t face the truth. Ash Gordon can’t bear another lie. A passion for surfing brings them together, but will the sea, with all its sorrows, tear them apart? Be swept away by this contemporary Australian surf romance with all the depth of the Pacific.

“I want to live my life in this book and I know I'll be happy. It's realistic and fun and loving and all I hope for. Karin Cox, you rock!" Linda, Kalpa's Book Blog

Winter Counts

By David Heska Wanbli Weiden,

Book cover of Winter Counts

Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is the rez’s vigilante justice seeker when the feds, the tribal cops, and state cops can’t get their…together. Wounded Horse takes charge and sets things right. This is Heska Wanbli’s first novel and he too, is doing things right. Winter Counts was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an Indie Next pick, a Best Book of 2020 by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Amazon, NPR, and ten other publications. The book was an Amazon Best Mystery and Thriller of the year, Best Noir Fiction, and Best Debut of the Year as well as a Notable Selection for Best Crime Novel by CrimeReads. A must-read and then eagerly await Heska Wanbli’s second book. 

Who am I?

As an Anishinaabe writer, my award-winning/nominated books, Murder on the Red River and Girl Gone Missing, feature Cash Blackbear; a young, Native woman, who solves crimes for the county sheriff. Oprah Magazine 2020 listed me as a Native American Author to read. I received Minnesota's 2020 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. My script, Say Their Names, had a staged reading with Out of Hand Theater, Atlanta, 2021. Vazquez and I received the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship for work with incarcerated women. I have been a friend, colleague, and peer with the authors recommended. We might currently be a small crew writing but we are a mighty, award-winning crew.

I wrote...

Girl Gone Missing

By Marcie R. Rendon,

Book cover of Girl Gone Missing

What is my book about?

Bored by her freshman classes at Moorhead State College, Renee “Cash” Blackbear just wants to play pool, learn judo, chain-smoke, and be left alone. But after one of Cash’s classmates vanishes without a trace, Cash, whose dreams have revealed dangerous realities in the past, can’t stop envisioning terrified girls begging for help. Things become even more intense when an unexpected houseguest appears: a brother she didn’t even know was alive, from whom she was separated when they were taken from the Ojibwe White Earth Reservation as children and forced into foster care.

When Sheriff Wheaton, her guardian and friend, asks for Cash’s help with the case of the missing girl, she must override her apprehension about leaving her hometown in order to discover the truth about the girl’s whereabouts.


By Tim Kelsey,

Book cover of Dervish: Travels in Modern Turkey

Dervish was published more than twenty years ago, but the Turks about whom Kelsey writes, archaeologists (and others) in search of the Ark, human rights activists, famous pop stars both straight and transsexual, Kurdish insurgents, desperately poor villagers and aspiring politicians, are still in existence today. Kelsey captures the contradictions inherent to life in modern Turkey, revealing a people as diverse as its varied geographical regions.

Who am I?

I’m a Sydney, Australia born sociologist and writer and back in 1990 I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. After three months in the country I was hooked. I now live in Istanbul and write about the people, culture, and history. Using my less than perfect Turkish language skills I uncover the everyday extraordinary of life in modern Istanbul and throughout the country, even though it means I’ve accidentally asked a random stranger to give me a hug and left a butcher convinced I think Turkish sheep are born with their heads on upside down.

I wrote...

Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries

By Lisa Morrow,

Book cover of Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries

What is my book about?

At first, I only travelled across the vast expanses of Turkey as a visitor, but then I began to stay for longer and longer periods of time. The initial glimpses of a culture less western than eastern were replaced by an awareness that Turkey is at times both and yet something more. These experiences became a metaphor for an inner journey from the known to the unknown and back. The uncompromising nature of Turkish culture and society meant I had to accept what I saw without changing it. In so doing I started to question who I was and look for an alternative way of being.

Exploring Turkish Landscapes builds on my first collection of stories, Inside Out In Istanbul. This latest collection offers a much more personal insight into Turkish traditions and beliefs, and also takes readers on an emotional journey as I rediscover myself.

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