44 Books to Read During Recovery

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September is National Recovery Month. It’s a thirty-day period when we take time to recognize and advocate for people in recovery, people working in recovery, and the friends, families, and loved ones of people in recovery and people working in recovery.

This year the theme of Recovery Month is “Recovery is for Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community.” To learn more about Recovery Month, please navigate to the blog section of our website and read this article:

Recovery Month 2023: Recovery is for Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community

In that article, we bring awareness to a variety of issues, including the opioid crisis, increases in mental health and co-occurring disorders, and overdose. In fact, we just observed another awareness day. Please read this article:

International Overdose Awareness Day: August 31st, 2023

To continue raising awareness about substance use disorder (SUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) and our brave, heroic peers in recovery, we compiled a list of books for people in recovery to read. This extensive list covers three categories:

  1. Memoirs, biographies, and similar books.
  2. Self-Help type books.
  3. Recovery workbooks and How-To type manuals
  4. Recovery books written for the LGBTQIA+ community
  5. Mindfulness-themed recovery books.

Before we share these books, though, we need to offer a disclaimer about the first – and largest – category of books: the memoirs. Unfortunately, even the best-intentioned memoirs often glorify the past drug and alcohol use of the authors or the subjects of the books. We understand: our country has an unusual relationship with stories about drug use and drunkenness. While we condemn self-destructive excess, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognize that at the same time, people love reading those stories – especially when they’re about celebrity actors, musicians, or other public figures.

Therefore, if reading first person triggers you and increases your chance of relapse, we advise skipping the first 20 books we share below. Seriously: avoid them, and go straight to the self-help, how-to, and mindfulness books.

Memoirs, Biographies, and Family Stories: First and Second-Hand Accounts of Recovery

Disclaimers and trigger warnings apply!

  1. Strung Out: 1 Last Hit & Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me

    by Erin Khar. This first-person account of heroin addiction is important reading for anyone interested in the opioid crisis, and how it’s possible to go from a life of privilege and ease – good schools, good grades, great neighborhood – to a fifteen year experience with chronic opioid use disorder.

  2. Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy

    by Eilene Zimmerman. The title says it all. This book chronicles the experiences of a woman who discovered her ex-husband – wealthy, powerful, successful – hid an escalating addiction that began with prescription pills and ended with drugs like cocaine, illicit opioids, and amphetamines.

  3. BACK ON TRACKmarks: From Hopeless to Dopeless

    by Matt Peterson. This is a story of triumph over addiction. The author describes his journey into heroin addiction, then his journey out: he’s now healthy, happy, employed, married, and the proud father of four children.

  4. Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles

    by Gabrielle Bernstein. For people in recovery who gravitate towards spirituality and the work of authors like Brene Brown and Marianne Williamson, this book offers an approach to recovery that emphasizes breaking out of old, fearful ways of thinking and embracing joy in life.

  5. Scar Tissue

    by Anthony Kiedis & Larry Sloman. Famous front man of the music group The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Keidis opens up about marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and his journey toward sustainable sobriety. This includes a frank and honest discussion about relapse, which Anthony experienced, and how to rediscover recovery after relapse.

  6. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

    by David Shef. This is essential reading for the parent of any child who develops a substance use disorder. Watching someone you love go from a vibrant, thriving life to addiction, jail, and homelessness is both instructive and frightening: it can happen to any of us, including those we love and cherish the most.

  7. A Million Little Pieces

    by James Frey. This firsthand account of addiction and entering treatment is required reading for anyone interested in what it’s like to go from near-death, to alive and well and living in recovery.

  8. A Happier Hour

    by Rebecca Weller. This is an interesting book: a health coach takes three months to re-evaluate her relationship with drinking, which had escalated from social drinking to disordered drinking. What she learns about finding joy – without drinking – changed her life.

  9. Drinking: A Love Story

    by Caroline Knapp. In this book, the author describes her path from high school drinking, to drinking while at an Ivy League college, to drinking while a successful editor and journalist. This is a classic tale of a double life: from the outside, she looked perfectly put together, but inside, in her own words, she was “drinking herself into oblivion.”

  10. High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addict’s Double Life

    by Tiffany Jenkins. This national bestseller chronicles another double life, like the previous book on this list. Tiffany Jenkins goes from high school cheer captain to withdrawing from opioids on the cold floor of a jail cell to a life in recovery – and takes the reader along for the ride.

  11. Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir

    by Lisa Smith. Author Lisa Smith writes in detail about being addicted to alcohol and cocaine, while at the same time keeping up the façade of a successful, high-end New York lawyer. She describes her journey from self-medicating with alcohol and drugs in a way that’s honest, funny, and inspiring.

  12. Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism

    by George McGovern. Former Senator and Presidential candidate George McGovern offers a sad account of his daughter’s experience with depression and alcohol use disorder, which ended when, in December 1994, she walked out of a bar in Madison, Wisconsin, fell asleep in a snowbank, and never woke up.

  13. Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster

    by Kristen Johnston. When we see people on big-time TV shows like 3rd Rock From the Sun, we often assume they’ve made it, they’re happy, and their life is great. This book teaches us that despite outward appearances, TV star Kristen Johnston “…was speeding on the Autobahn to hell, trapped inside a DeLorean with no brakes.”

  14. Dry

    by Augusten Burroughs. This bestselling book about entering rehab and then returning to your same life – but living it without alcohol or drugs – has sold over half a million copies and reached #24 on the New York Times bestseller list.

  15. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

    by Sarah Hepola. Author Sarah Hepola describes what it’s like to give up the one thing she loved the most – drinking – but finding, in the void left behind, her true self.

  16. How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir

    by Cat Marnell. In this book, Cat Marnell – a big name in the New Work fashion industry – describes her journey from Ritalin to Adderall to amphetamines to heroin to “any pill that would help her sleep.” In the end, this book is a true cautionary tale: a google search reveals that since writing this book, Marnell has relapsed and re-entered recovery, which is something many people in recovery can relate to.

  17. Drunk Mom: A Memoir

    by Jowita Bydlowska. Sober for three years, the author relapses shortly after giving birth to her first child. This memoir follows her journey through relapses, binges, blackouts, and finally to sobriety – all while trying to do the best she can for the biggest love of her life: her child.

  18. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

    by Cheryl Strayed. This bestselling story of recovery takes place on the author’s solo trek up the Pacific Coast Trail from Southern California to Oregon and Washington State. Turning to addiction after the death of her mother, during the solitary hike, Cheryl Strayed discovered herself, her recovery, and her will to live. “Wild” is now a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

  19. Chasing the High

    by Kyle Keegan and Howard Moss. This is important reading for any adolescent, or the parent of any adolescent. Author Kyle Keegan and therapist Howard Moss discuss adolescent vulnerability to addiction, the neurobiological effects of adolescent substance use, and how teens and families can work together to help teens navigate high-risk social situations without using drugs or alcohol.

  20. Letting Go of the Thief: “A Ninety Day Journey Inside the Thoughts of an Alcoholic.

    by Pamela D Pesta. Trigger warning: this book is exactly what the title suggests. It’s a visit to the inner thoughts of a person addicted to alcohol. People who’ve experienced addiction will recognize the patterns immediately, and perhaps put the book down and never want to touch it again. Others will look at the pages and say, “Thank god I read this, I’m never going back.” We repeat: trigger warning. On the other hand, this book is excellent for family members, partners, or spouses of people with addiction: it offers a realistic glimpse inside the mind of a person in active addiction.

Recovery-Themed Self-Help Books

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection

    by Brene Brown. Brene Brown is an influential writer whose wisdom and insight can help anyone in recovery find their way to self-acceptance and self-love, two essential prerequisites for recovery. This book focuses on reducing negative self-talk, moving past life-interrupting habits, and finding the courage to accept and love yourself.

  2. You Are a Badass

    by Jen Sincero. The best self-help book for people who literally hate self-help books.

  3. The Untethered Soul

    by Michael A. Singer. This #1 bestseller helps people recognize and remediate negative, habitual thoughts, energies, and patterns of behavior that limit our potential. The skills introduced in this book can be invaluable to people in recovery who connect to self-help philosophies and approaches to self-improvement.

  4. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

    by Maia Szalavitz. This best-selling book introduces the idea that addiction, like learning disorders, exists on a spectrum, and variety of genetic, social, and personal factors contribute to addiction. The author stresses that there is not one single type of addiction, and therefore, there is not one approach to recovery that works for everyone.

  5. Sober For Good.: New Solutions for Drinking Problems — Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded

    by Anne M. Fletcher. This book chronicles the various ways people with drinking problems solve those problems. Some do it with AA, some do it in rehab, and some do it on their own. While we recommend professional support, this book is valuable in that it offers a fresh perspective on the various potential paths out of addiction, toward sustainable recovery.

How-To Manuals and Recovery Workbooks

  1. Being Sober: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting To, Getting Through, and Living in Recovery

    by Dr. Harry Haroutunian, foreword by Steven Tyler. With a celebrity forward from Steven Tyler of the hard-rock band Aerosmith, this book by the Medical Director of The Betty Ford Clinic focuses not only on abstinence, but the concept and importance of emotional sobriety on the recovery journey.

  2. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering A Happy, Healthy, Wealthy Alcohol-Free Life

    by Catherine Gray. This book focuses on the benefits of being sober, and includes both personal anecdotes and input from scientists and addiction experts.

  3. Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery

    by Erica Spiegelman. In this book, the author emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to recovery, with a focus on how personal empowerment and self-actualization support movement and growth toward total health.

  4. Rewired Workbook: A Manual for Addiction Recovery

    by Erica Spiegelman. This workbook helps people in recovery apply principles from the book “Rewired,” above.

  5. Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions

    by Russell Brand. While this book may also fall under the memoirs or biographies category, the author includes a wealth of insight and practical tips that make this book more than a simple personal story: Russel Brand is not only hilarious, but he uses his humor to help people make connections that can help them manage their recovery journey.

  6. Addiction Recovery Manual

    by E. Allen Griggs, M.D. This book is ideal for people in recovery who’ve never heard of the medical model addiction. Dr. Griggs explains that the disordered use of substances is not a moral failure, but rather a medical disease.

  7. The Recovery Book: Answers to All Your Questions About Addiction and Alcoholism and Finding Health and Happiness in Sobriety

    by Al J. Mooney M.D, Catherine Dold, Howard Eisenberg, Foreword by Harry Haroutunian M.D. With a foreword from the Medical Director of the Betty Ford Clinic – possibly the most influential rehab center, ever – this book takes the reader step-by-step through the recovery journey, with helpful facts and tips along the way. After the AA Big Book, many recovery professionals consider this a “Recovery Bible.”

LGBTQI+-Themed Recovery Books

  1. A Doctor’s Confession

    by Michael Fredericks, MD and Susan M. Silver. In this personal account of recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs, the author dives right into an honest discussion the gay party scene in the 1980s, and describes his transformation from closeted to out, and from addiction to health and recovery.

  2. Gay Men and Substance Abuse

    by Michael Shelton, M.S., CAC. This book addresses a wide range of topics directly relevant to gay men in recovery. From coming out to family, to leaving the club scene behind, to reconnecting to family, author Michael Shelton offers a much-needed resource for gay men, which can help not only the men in recovery, but also help their partners and family members understand what they’re going through.

  3. Addiction and Recovery in Gay and Lesbian Persons

    by Robert J Kus, Ph.D. This book is geared toward clinicians working with LGBTQIA+ populations in recovery. Therefore, the language is dry and academic. However, for anyone in recovery with a science background, or who loves the brass tacks and facts, this book is essential.

  4. Fundamentals of LGBT Substance Use Disorders: Multiple Identities, Multiple Challenges

    by Michael Shelton Dana Finnegan, Emily Mcnally. This is also a book for clinicians, but focuses on the trauma-informed aspect of care that’s relevant to many members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

  5. Accepting Ourselves and Others: A Journey into Recovery from Addictive and Compulsive Behaviors

    by Sheppard B Kominars Ph.D., Kathryn D. Kominars Ph.D. Upon initial publication in 1989, this was the first book to openly address and discuss the need for tailored substance use treatment for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It focuses on the unique needs of being a member of the sexual minority in 12-step groups and formal treatment milieu, with helpful tips for both people in recovery and clinicians working with LGBTQIA+ patients.

  6. Sober & Out: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender AA Members Share Their Experience, Strength and Hope

    by AA Grapevine. This is a collection of stories and essays from the official AA Journal, The Grapevine. The contents revolve around questions of LGBTQIA+ identity in the recovery journey, and offer a template for managing the recovery journey while simultaneously managing life as an out, proud, and sober member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Mindfulness-Themed Recovery Books

  1. Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction

    by Dr. Thomas Bien and Beverly Bien. This book offers helpful tips to apply the practice of mindfulness during recovery, with a focus on ten mindful doorways to recovery.

  2. The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A Practical Guide to Regaining Control Over Your Life

    by Dr. Lawrence Peltz. An experienced addiction physician explains how mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an important tool that can help support recovery.

  3. The Essential Guidebook to Mindfulness in Recovery: The Essence of Mindfulness

    by John Bruna. In this book, Buddhist monk John Bruna introduces the seven skills of mindfulness in recovery: values, attention, wisdom, equanimity, compassion, loving-kindness, and action.

  4. One Mindful Day at a Time: 365 Meditations for Living in the Now

    by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt. This book introduces the concept of mindfulness in recovery. It includes daily thoughts/mantras/affirmations to help people in recovery focus on cultivating peace and wellbeing.

  5. The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction

    by Dr. Rebecca E. Williams and Julie S. Kraft. This award-winning book helps people in recovery apply mindfulness concepts to relationships, daily stress, workplace issues, self-care, and relapse prevention. This book includes exercises from evidence-based psychotherapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

  6. Mindfulness Skills Workbook for Addiction: Practical Meditations and Exercises to Change Addictive Behaviors

    by Morgan Fitzgerald. This simple, accessible book includes exercises that help people in recovery use mindfulness. It teaches how to recognize and manage triggers. It shares exercises to reduce stress, as well as exercises to foster self-care, empathy, and compassion.

That’s the end of our list.

We have an apology to make. We should have published this list at the beginning of summer. That way, you could have had a nice long summer reading list. Nevertheless, this list should keep you busy well into next year. We’ll revisit the topic, and report on any new books that can help you learn, grow, and thrive in recovery.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.