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- Best for rational emotive behavior therapy: When AA Doesn’t Work For You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol
- Best for beginners to sobriety: Living Sober
- Best for historical information: The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking
- Best for women: Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
- Best for raw honesty: So Sad Today: Personal Essays
- Best memoir: A Drinking Life
- Best for encouragement: Dry: A Memoir
- Best for people living with generational addiction: Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism
- Best for scientific knowledge: Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism
- Best for self-help: This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life
- Best for teen readers: You’d Be Home Now
- Best for family members: I Love You, More: Short Stories of Addiction, Recovery, and Loss From the Family’s Perspective
- Best for friends of people in recovery: Understanding and Helping an Addict
- Best for parents: Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction
- Best for parents of young children: Addie’s Mom Isn’t Home Anymore
Addiction, also known as a severe form of substance use disorder (SUD), can have ongoing effects on your life and well-being — before and during treatment and recovery. Addiction is defined by repeatedly using a substance or returning to a behavior despite its negative consequences, often due to an inability to stop.
If you experience addiction yourself, reading about other peoples’ experiences can help you feel less alone, remind you addiction isn’t your fault, and give you hope for the future. They could even offer some insight into recovery approaches you haven’t yet tried. Along with support from a healthcare professional, coping tools like apps, podcasts, and books may offer some benefits.
If it’s your loved one who lives with addiction, books on the topic may help you better understand the challenges of living with this mental health condition. For example, books can shed some light on experiences common with addiction and offer guidance on ways to support your loved one.
Below, you’ll find our top 15 picks for the best books about addiction in 2022 — for people living with addiction and for those who love them.
Addiction can be a tough subject to tackle, especially with empathy. That makes it important for authors of books about addiction and recovery to have the credentials needed to do it justice.
We’ve included books written by people who have experienced addiction themselves and professionals who have experience treating SUDs, addiction, and working with people in recovery.
We also opted for books that do a good job exploring the complexities of substance use and addiction in a reader-friendly way. Most people found these books easy to read and understand, according to their reviews.
- $ = under $10
- $$ = $10–$15
- $$$ = over $15
You can find many of these books in hardcover, paperback, or e-book formats, but our pricing reflects the price of the paperback version, where available.
Best for rational emotive behavior therapy
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: people who don’t find Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helpful
A therapy approach called rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) can help people living with alcohol use disorder and alcohol addiction, according to Albert Ellis, who pioneered REBT in the 1950s.
In his book, “When AA Doesn’t Work For You,” Ellis explains that people living with alcohol addiction experience irrational thoughts and beliefs that can make it difficult to stop drinking alcohol.
AA does, in fact, help many people in recovery — but it’s not right for everyone. And according to Ellis, REBT offers an alternative by teaching people new methods to challenge unwanted or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and replace them with more helpful ones.
- non-religious background
- easy read
- many readers found it helpful
- some readers say it’s too similar to AA books
Best for beginners to sobriety
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: people starting out with sobriety
“Living Sober” is an anonymous volume designed to provide people living with addiction helpful tools for day-to-day life.
This book doesn’t merely focus on avoiding alcohol or drugs. In fact, it says this is only the first step. Real recovery comes in the days and weeks following, as you work to maintain sobriety, no matter what life throws your way.
Many reviewers found it a helpful tool in their recovery journey, and some people say it works well as a supplement to other AA books.
- outlines the basic information from AA
- quick read at 70 pages long
- available for free on the AA website under “Literature”
- offers more of a general overview than a plan to achieve sobriety
Best for historical information
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: history buffs
In “The Trip to Echo Spring,” author Olivia Laing delves into the lives of several prolific writers and their relationships with alcohol.
Laing discusses F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others, exploring the links between these writers’ creativity and their alcohol use. In particular, she dispels the myth that alcohol is somehow responsible for their genius.
- based off stories of historical authors
- provides a deeper level of understanding of addiction
- reviewers say it’s a slow read
Best for women
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: women living with addiction
People drink alcohol for many different reasons. For Sarah Hepola, drinking offered a way to find courage and adventure. But her drinking usually ended in blackouts.
In “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget,” Hepola takes readers on her journey through alcohol addiction and recovery. She found that alcohol didn’t make her life better — it drained her. But in recovery, she says, she discovered her true self.
- people found her writing enjoyable, engaging, and touching
- incorporates humor
- some reviewers found it overly long
Best for raw honesty
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: all adults
Writer Melissa Broder became known through her Twitter account @sosadtoday. She used this account to anonymously share her experiences with anxiety, addiction, and low self-esteem. In “So Sad Today,” she expands on her tweets, giving readers insight into the challenges she faced through personal essays.
This volume doesn’t just speak to people living with anxiety and addiction. It may resonate with anyone who acknowledges that life isn’t always happiness and joy.
- poetic perspective
- many people enjoyed the dark humor and raw honesty
- helps readers feel less alone
- some readers found the sexual content too graphic
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: people who appreciate truthful, real-life stories
Looking back at a life of drinking alcohol may feel tough, but many people in recovery from alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction also find it therapeutic.
Pete Hamill grew up in Brooklyn with parents who immigrated to the United States. His father also experienced alcohol addiction, which helped shape his view that drinking was a manly thing to do, and early in life, he began drinking alcohol himself.
“A Drinking Life,” written 20 years after Hamill took his last drink, explores how drinking in his early years affected his life trajectory.
- national bestseller
- in-depth, emotional read about the effects of alcohol
- some readers say the book moves slowly and doesn’t provide enough details
Best for encouragement
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: people searching for a funny, yet empowering, book
Writer Augusten Burroughs sought help for alcohol addiction when he felt he had no other option. In his case, alcohol use had started to affect his work, and his employers strongly urged him to enter rehab.
In “Dry,” Burroughs recounts his alcohol use, time in rehab, and the obstacles he faced coming out as sober.
- readers say they feel like the author is an old friend
- humorous read
- many readers had a hard time with the unfocused narrative
Best for people living with generational addiction
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: fans of Martha Grimes’ books
In “Double Double,” mystery writer Martha Grimes and her son, Ken, share their experiences with alcohol addiction.
As two memoirs in one, this book offers two very unique journeys and insights into living with severe alcohol use disorder. Both Grimes and her son spent time in 12-step programs and outpatient facilities, but they have their own perspectives on what makes recovery work.
- shares two stories in one
- many readers found the memoirs engaging and helpful
- may appeal to readers with a family history of addiction
- some readers found the dual perspectives hard to follow
Best for scientific knowledge
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: family members of people experiencing addiction
Perhaps one of the greatest myths surrounding addiction is the notion that you can overcome it with sheer determination alone.
If you’ve wondered why your loved one can’t simply stop drinking alcohol or using other substances, “Under the Influence” may be worth a read.
In this book, authors James Robert Milam and Katherine Ketcham break down common myths about alcohol addiction and explain some of the biological processes and pathways toward recovery. They also offer tips to support loved ones and ways to tell if you or someone you love may have alcohol use disorder.
Readers overwhelmingly praise this book as a helpful resource.
- clearly explains the biological factors in play
- helps break down guilt and shame around alcohol addiction
- helps family and friends understand addiction isn’t a choice
- not a self-help book or a recovery book
Best for self-help
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: daily drinkers
Annie Grace left her career as a marketing professional in order to share her journey with alcohol addiction. The result is “This Naked Mind,” a guide to help people living with alcohol addiction to discover other things that make them happy besides drinking alcohol.
Grace analyzes how addiction happens and dissects the relationship between drinking and pleasure, assuring readers that recovery isn’t just a difficult process — it’s a path to happiness.
- helps readers work through mental reasoning to manage cravings
- readers report high success rates
- contains much of the same information as other recovery books
- several reviewers say the book contains inaccuracies and claims unsupported by research
Best for teen readers
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: readers who prefer fiction
Written by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Glasgow, this novel tells the story of a girl trying to navigate life after a tragedy triggered by her brother’s opioid use.
Readers call the book “heartbreaking” and “haunting.” Many reviewers who have family members living with opioid addiction say the story is realistic and relatable.
- powerful perspective on opioid addiction
- great for a younger audience
- reviewers say it’s a slow read at first
Best for family members
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: family members of people living with addiction
This book includes three fictional short stories that aim to help readers better understand the perspectives of people living with severe substance use disorders.
The author, Blake E. Cohen, is a certified addictions professional in recovery from addiction. He wrote this book to offer insight into what it’s like to live with addiction for family members and other loved ones. The book also touches on the far-reaching effects of this mental health condition.
Readers say it’s a quick and easy read, despite the heavy subject matter, and many people found it both touching and useful.
- author has experienced addiction but also has professional experience
- may help family members feel less alone
- includes discussion questions to help start conversations
- a few readers say the stories lack depth
Best for friends of people in recovery
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: anyone who wants to support someone in recovery
It can sometimes feel challenging to help a person living with addiction, especially if they don’t seem to want your support. In some cases, you might find yourself doing everything you can to help them, even if that means your own needs don’t get met.
But it’s possible to help your friend or loved one and still maintain your boundaries, and this book, written by addiction psychology expert Dr. Andrew Proulx, offers a starting place.
Proulx, in recovery from addiction himself, explains the ongoing effects substances can have on the brain, and offers guidance on how to best support a loved one in recovery without compromising your own needs and emotional well-being.
Readers say this book flows nicely and makes an easy read, despite its length. People call it compassionate, informative, and an essential resource.
- readers found it easy to understand and follow
- informative resource written by an expert
- the vast majority of readers found it helpful
- some readers found the chapters repetitive
Best for parents
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: parents, specifically fathers, of someone living with addiction
This book traces the true story of a father’s efforts to help his son, who developed an addiction to crystal meth. In the book, journalist David Sheff considers the choices he’s made as a parent as he explores his love for his son and his attempts to help him navigate recovery.
The memoir offers an in-depth exploration of the complexities of parent-child relationships amid substance use and addiction.
Many readers find the narrative powerful and inspiring and praise Sheff’s writing. Others have a hard time identifying with the family’s privileged lifestyle and Sheff’s approach to parenting.
- a majority of readers praise the writing
- many people say they found this book touching and relatable
- many readers say the narrator came across as self-absorbed and arrogant
Best for parents of young children
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: adults in search of ways to explain addiction to kids
Written by addiction counselor Genia Calvin, this book offers a helpful resource for teaching children about substance use and addiction in a format that’s easy to understand.
Parents and teachers may find this book useful for guiding conversations about addiction and answering kids’ questions about people living with addiction.
- simply and clearly explains addiction
- therapists, foster parents, and teachers say it’s a great resource
- may be harder to find a copy because it’s independently published
|Book||Price||Why we chose it||Key message|
|When AA Doesn’t Work For You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol||$$$||alternative to AA||you still have options if AA doesn’t work for you|
|Living Sober||$||free option||outlines essential AA information|
|The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking||$$$||creative perspective||explains addiction using historical stories|
|Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget||$$||humorous read||relatable insight into sobriety|
|So Sad Today: Personal Essays||$$||raw, truthful exploration of the effects of alcohol addiction||personal essays express that it’s OK to be sad|
|A Drinking Life||$$||descriptive and detailed||offers insight into lifelong effects of alcohol use|
|Dry: A Memoir||$$$||funny, engaging memoir||empowers reader that sobriety is possible|
|Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism||$$||unique, dual-perspective memoir||explores life with addiction from a family’s perspective|
|Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism||$||scientific explanation of alcohol addiction||helps readers understand addiction isn’t a choice|
|This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life||$$$||popular and readable||self-help perspective teaches you to manage cravings|
|You’d Be Home Now||$$$||fiction; engaging for young readers||presents life with addiction in the form of a novel|
|I Love You, More: Short Stories of Addiction, Recovery, and Loss From the Family’s Perspective||$||gives a voice to families||shares multiple perspectives|
|Understanding and Helping an Addict||$$$||brings awareness and understanding to addiction||informative resource|
|Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction||$$||connects with parents of children experiencing addiction||gripping memoir walks through addiction and recovery|
|Addie’s Mom Isn’t Home Anymore||$$$||helps young children understand substance use and recovery||a young girl tries to understand her mother’s addiction|
When it comes to addiction books, you have a lot of options to choose from.
If you enjoy reading real-life stories, you may want to choose a memoir or biography, which is a non-fiction account of a person’s actual experiences with substance use and addiction. Many memoirs have a story-like narrative format that follows the author through the stages of their life.
If you’d like to stick to facts and scientific explanations about addiction, you may want to consider books written by mental health professionals, doctors, and experts in the field of addiction recovery.
Prefer fiction? You can search for novels that feature substance use and addiction as part of the storyline.
When choosing the right book for you, it may also help to consider things like:
- the length and readability of the book
- the target audience of the book
- whether you’d like to share the book with anyone else, like a partner, child, or other family member
Books can offer a great starting place to learn more about the effects of substance use and addiction. They can also offer guidance as you get started navigating sobriety.
But in some cases, books may not offer the right support. You may want to reach out to a professional substance use or addiction counselor if:
- you’ve tried to quit using a substance but can’t stop on your own
- you keep using a substance even if you don’t like its effects on your life or health
- substance use affects your job, relationships, or daily life
- you feel out of control when it comes to using substances
- you spend a lot of time either using substances, recovering from substance use, or thinking about substance use
To find support, you can:
- do an online search for treatment clinics and recovery specialists in your area
- ask a doctor or other healthcare professional for a referral
- connect with a therapist or psychologist who specializes in treating substance use or addiction
- ask a loved one to help you find support
- call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) free, confidential helpline
The right treatment can make a major difference as you work toward recovery, and it’s never too late — or too early — to seek support.
If you have concerns about a loved one’s substance use, a good first step may involve an open conversation about your worries. You might share what you’ve noticed with your loved one, ask if they’ve considered getting support, and suggest researching treatment options together.
It may also help to spend some time researching substance use and addiction. Getting accurate information about the signs of addiction can help you better understand the condition and recognize that your loved one isn’t making a choice — they have a serious mental health condition.
What’s a good book for someone living with addiction?
The right book for someone experiencing addiction can depend on their unique needs and preferences. For instance, someone who wants a guide to follow may find an AA book helpful. But someone who doesn’t find AA appealing or helpful may prefer a book that explores substance use and addiction from a scientific perspective.
Some people may benefit from knowing they’re not alone, so memoirs may offer inspiration and help them take the first steps toward recovery.
What are the five stages of the addiction cycle?
Substance use treatment and recovery programs might talk about the “five stages” of the addiction cycle.
There’s no standard accepted medical or scientific definition of these five stages, but some experts describe them as a progression that includes:
- first or experimental use
- using the substance regularly
- developing physical dependence, a substance use disorder, or both
- feeling motivated to stop using the substance
- using the substance again after stopping use
What are the four levels of addiction in order?
The “four levels” of addiction are similar to the five stages mentioned above:
- trying the substance for the first time
- continued use
- physical dependence and tolerance
- substance use disorder or addiction
When reading addiction treatment and recovery literature, you’ll often come across different terms that refer to the same general concept. These models aim to help people better understand where they are in the process of substance use and recovery, but again, they generally don’t have a standardized definition.
Keep in mind, too, that whether someone develops addiction depends on many factors, including brain chemistry and genetics. Not everyone who uses a substance or experiences physical dependence will develop an addiction.
How do I know I have an addiction?
You may have an addiction if:
- you have cravings for a substance and have an ongoing need to use it
- everything else in your life comes second to substance use
- you feel unable to stop using the substance, regardless of its effects on your life
It’s important to understand that addiction isn’t a choice — but you can make the choice to get support. Recognizing the signs of addiction in your life offers an important first step to getting help.
If you or a loved one lives with addiction or a less severe substance use disorder, books written by people who’ve experienced similar circumstances can help you feel less alone and remind you that recovery is possible.
They can also offer the hope and motivation you need to take the first steps toward support and treatment.