sober reading

ok, you know, i’m not a big fan of sober books. I find them to be too much “drunkalogue” and not enough “here’s how good life can be afterwards.”

but as I (perhaps) embark on writing something myself, i figure i should make up a sober reading list for the summer and check out some of what’s out there. since i’ve ready (literally) none of it. I want to make sure my book is different. or better. or that it can bring a little bit of sunshine.

can you recommend a sober book you liked? i know you’ve read 10-20 of them 🙂 which ones did you like (and why).

and also, importantly, which ones did you NOT like, and why.

you can be anonymous here. don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. not everyone will like everything.

I’ve read: Jason Vale / Allen Carr (very good, with reservations), Augusten Burrough’s Dry (very good), and Lit by Mary Karr (too much of a drunkalogue for me). And maybe I read Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story, or i’ve mixed it up with Mary Karr’s book (no strong impression, clearly). That’s it, that’s my total list so far. So I need your advice. What say you? What should I read because it’s good. and what should I read so that i know what bad looks like?


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism by George McGovern

    The tragic reality of alcohol’s destruction. A heartbreaking, yet eye-opening, story.

  • No one else has mentioned this one so I will:
    Sober for Good: New Solutions for Drinking Problems — Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded by Anne Fletcher. That is hands down my favorite sober book b/c she presents the MANY ways people do it, what they gain, how they don’t need to “hit bottom” before taking control, how it can take a few tries, etc. VERY good and well-researched, using the examples of many people’s experience (all who have 5+ years of sobriety I believe). I think you would like it.

  • a few years ago I read Dairy of an Alcoholic Housewife by Brenda Wilhelmson and LOVED it. An honest and real read. Able to relate to her. I highly recommend this book.

  • Blackout by Sarah Hepola, just published, is the best book I’ve read about drinking and recovery. Incredibly well-written and candid and real.

  • I haven’t read it yet, but I am hearing good things about Sarah Hepola’s new book Blackout.

    Also I think I only saw one or two people recommend Sacha Scoblic’s Unwasted, but it’s a good one. She writes with a sense of humor and it is an easy read.

  • I read Jason Vale’s book two years ago and stayed sober for 9 months after. The message in my mind from this book that it is my mind not by body that wanted a drink. I didn’t last, there were no tools in the tool box to deal with the ups and downs of life. It was more sheer will power that I stayed sober and when the going got tough the will power was not enough. In retrospect being sober this time for almost 190 days with you Belle, thought patters have changed, behaviours have changed, I give myself treats, there are now tools in the tool box to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life. I am glad I read this book, but it did not have a lasting effect for me and I can see why now. Through your journey Belle you have developed some amazing tools and ways of thinking that you share with us and are working for me. We need the tools to be able to fight off and put the wolf to sleep. Can’t wait to read the book.

    • I agree so much Summer walking. It’s the tools that keep us sober. Like you, i read Jason Vale and Allen Carr. I even did an Allen Carr ‘How to stop drinking’ workshop. It was a good start but the effect didn’t last. Belle’s tools and emails have all meant that I am fast approaching one year! How many sleeps until we can buy the book Belle??

  • I highly recommend Guts by Kristen Johnston. Kristen was in the TV show Third Rock from the Sun. She was addicted to Vicodin as well as alcohol and her story is so moving. Kristen is so witty and I laughed throughout her story, and cried too. She is very involved in changing the negative social stigma of addiction. Try to get the audio version since she reads her own story and has a great gritty voice.
    I have read many of the books mentioned and feel like I came away with a little nugget from most of them.
    The two books I didn’t like were Empowering Your Sober Self by Martin Nicolaus who spent the majority of time trying to prove why AA doesn’t work and Life Ring is better. I felt triggery reading Being Sober by Harry Haroutunian, who gave me the impression it was the AA way or the highway.

  • I personally needed shocking. I couldn’t absorb enough stories of the varying levels of destruction and havoc this drug wreaks. In all genre, drunkalogue to science, as long as the author has something AUTHENTIC to say. But I also craved hope and I still am fiercely interested in the ‘why’ of it all. Allen Carr was the first book I found and read, hoping like hell there was going to be a ‘happy’ ending. I re-read many sections of his book over time. Jason Vale’s book didn’t ring so true for me and his style of writing was difficult to truly like, but he made some interesting and valid points. I could write an essay here, to cut it short, some others outside of the ones you mentioned, in no particular order – ‘Last Call – A Memoir’ Nancy Carter, ‘The Happiness Trap’ Russ Harris, ‘The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism’ Abram Hoffer, ‘Sober Truths – The Making of an Honest Woman’ Jill Kelly, ‘Dying to Survive: Surviving Drug Addiction” Rachael Keogh, ‘Staying Sober’ Binki Laidler, ‘Memoirs aren’t Fairytales’ Marni Mann, ‘Saturation: A Memoir’ Jennifer Place, ‘High Sobriety:my year without booze’ Jill Stark, ‘The Sober Revolution’ Lucy Rocca, ‘Why you drink and how to stop: journey to freedom’ Veronica Valli.
    But i can’t wait to read YOUR book, with all your belle-isms and your unique perspective. I wouldn’t spend too much time looking at others – that’s called DISTRACTION Belle, and I’m sure your Editor would disapprove 🙂

    • Last sentences of AM, I totally agree with! Thank you all for the recommendations! Didn’t know most of the titles. Thanx and happy sober day!

  • Why you drink and how to stop by Veronica valli gave good practical instruction about alcohol abuse and how to overcome it but was serious. It was a good place to start.
    Just reading Mrs D now and I can’t put it down. The struggle she felt is exactly as I feel and I am willing her to keep going. It is light in nature but in no way makes light of the difficulty of stopping drinking alcohol.
    Did not like the one by the man whose wife was into horses and they got divorced. He kept going on about it being mind over matter and he seemed to feel sorry for himself. Called something like being sober is awful. The problem is once I start a sober book I have to read it all or it is bad karma!!!
    Can’t wait for your book!! Xx

  • I read a good book by Jean Kirkpatrick of WFS. I loved it because she was a hot mess and it made me feel so much better about my drinking. I could never sink THAT low. Who do I think I’m fooling!

  • I agree about a lot of sober books having a bit much of the recounting drunken stories for my liking, when instead I’d like more about the positives of life afterwards. I liked Rachel Black’s book ‘Sober is the New Black’, and Mrs D’s book. Andy McIntyre’s book ‘Last Orders – A Drinker’s Guide to Sobriety’ is fascinating. He gives up booze for a year to raise money in his father’s memory for MND (ALS) and initially sets out (as a young music executive who previously by his own admission drank extremely heavily)to see what sober pursuits are available in London, sample them and basically make it through the year without drinking, but it turned out to be so much more than that for him and I found it very inspiring and thought-provoking with lots and lots about the positives of a sober life.

  • Hi Belle,

    I’ve read loads of sober books. They have helped me through wobbles. I’ve enjoyed fiction books very much ‘The Good House’ by Ann Leary and ‘All Fall down’ by Jennifer Weiner but not Delia Galton’s books. I liked ‘The Good House’ because the main character seemed very real. She only stopped drinking when she was ready and not when her daughters sent her to rehab. I didn’t like Jason Vale because I thought he ripped off Allen Carr’s book, which I did like. It resonated with me about alcohol being a poison and a drug. I got bogged down in Caroline Knapp’s book ‘Drinking, a Love Story’ and never finished it. Didn’t like ‘The Sober Revolution’ at all as I couldn’t identify with the women who were interviewed. I am not interested in reading stories about how much the person drank and how many black outs they had etc. I am interested in life after booze and how to go about having that kind of good life. What I love about your writing is how you talk about sober treats and being kind and easy on ourselves and lots of humour and trying new things like running. I don’t like loads of science and shock horror stories of how much we drink as a society.

    Hope that helps. I can’t wait for your book. xx

  • Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott
    Drinking A Love Story Carolina Knapp
    DRY Augusten Burroughs
    Alcoholics Anonymous the Big Book all the stories …

    loved them all …

  • I am reading Sober Identity by Lisa Neumann. I am going through it slowly, and aside from your blog and emails, this has helped me most. I’ve read lots of books, the Jason vale one I liked simply because it helped me see alcohol for what it truly is for the first time, and also gave me the idea that I do indeed have the power not to drink it. Seven Days Sober by Meredith Bell was helpful-it got me thinking, Allen Carr-no, Her Best Kept Secret-nope-terrible book. seven weeks to sobriety was interesting, deals with physiological side of addiction and offers lots of info about repairing our bodies through nutrition. Hope this gives you some ideas:)

  • Drinking: A Love Story, I read it years ago and it made me think I probably have a serious issue myself. I recently listened to the audio version and absolutely loved it; the narrator is excellent.

  • Sacha Scoblic’s book. I think it’s called unwasted. It was good. Worth a read, definitely, because she does describe how sobriety feels, later in the book.

  • I MUST go on record as HATING Jason Vale’s book. It was too repetitive and I felt like he was speaking down to me.

    Drinking: A Love Story was one of the first books that I read long before I knew I had a problem. I just read it because I heard it was good. I LOVED it and passed it on to a friend. She made me realize I had a problem.

    I didn’t like Lit. I think the fact that “David” in her book was David Foster Wallace (whom I love and we all know how his story ended) just pissed me off to no end.

    Loved Dry.

    • I disliked Jason Vale’s book too – for similar reasons. I felt like he was writing for a 12 year old. It was patronising. It also relied to heavily on stigmitising drinking rather than the individual journey I think we all have to sign up for and undertake, using whatever support mechanisms work for us. Alcohol isn’t bad – how I drink it is.

  • I have only read your blog postings and anything on Mrs. D’s blog and then website. I have not wanted to read anything for fear Wolfie would say “see this is too hard” and I would start drinking again. Belle… you and Mrs. D work for me and I am not going to F with that. Now I do want to read Mrs. D’s book but I have not. I may treat myself to that futher down the road. I do want to see what everyone else is reading. It is good information. Thank you Belle. I look forward to your book.

  • I loved Drink. I think she grasps the reality-it has become socially acceptable for women to drink wine alone on their couch to deal with the fact that life is not as good as it “should” be. I thought it was excellent.

    Drinking, a love story was a game changer for me. She draws the reader into her thought process and it was so familiar it was scary. And prompted me to reach out to others.

    I did not like drunk mom. It was too drunkalogue and very sad.

    Mad Ds book is excellent. Mainly because it is a journey of recovery.


    • I need to look into these books. I am, like Belle, not into self-help books, but I am reaching a point that maybe I should read a couple. Great recommendations so far.

  • I read Caroline Knapp during my first 30 days. It bummed me out to find out she had died of lung cancer some years before I read it.

    I have also read:
    Ann Dowsett Johnston, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. Part memoir, part investigative reporting.

    Eric Newhouse, “Alcohol: Cradle to Grave” another investigative piece based on an award-winning series.
    Both are eye-opening in terms of alcohol policy, our boozy culture, and in Johnson’s book, about the specific ways alcoholism is a different animal for most women.

    “Drinking Diaries” edited by Epstein and Gerzberg is full of stories, not necessarily drunk stories, just stories about how drinking (theirs or someone else’s) had shaped their lives.

    “A Drinking Life” by Peter Hamill was good in that is was more a straightforward autobiography about his life from childhood to becoming a recognized author. He didn’t revel in his drunkenness, it was just part of his growing up, part of being an “artist.” Like many, actually most, addicts, he just realized it was time to quit. It was causing him to be someone he didn’t want to be. and he quit on his own, without looking back.”

    Those first 2-3 months I felt I needed to read about alcohol regularly, to help remind me that it had been a very, very long time since I’d actually had “fun” being drunk and I could hear the un-funness of it all expressed in these books even while supposed fun was happening.

  • ‘Drink’ from Ann Dowsett Johnston, didn’t like it. Jason Vale; never finished it, I don’t know why because it helped me, maybe because Wolfie didn’t like it. Recently I have bought: Sober is the new black (Rachel Black); have not read it yet.

      • I read this book and really liked it. I read it early in my process, so appreciated the statistics and descriptions of her early experiences. There weren’t that many descriptions – nor were they ‘really bad’ – but they were honest. It also appealed to me because she’s a professional, high functioning woman like me (sounds up myself I know – but she works a high output job AND drinks heavily – it’s a genre many of us relate to).

      • For me, there was no authentic spirit in the book and that was, I guess, because of the style. But maybe I am the only one in the world who has this opinion about this book. You have a nice, lively, style and please be yourself. Your unique voice is more than enough to make it a success as your blog etc. already is.

  • I’m currently reading “Last Drink to LA” by John Sutherland. To be honest I’m struggling with it a bit – he seems very sneering and dismissive of many things and people. But I have a way to go yet so perhaps I will mellow in my opinion!