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Top Ten Addiction Recovery Books

Written by Laura Herrmann, MA | Updated on Jan 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by Dr. Patrick J. Gallus, DO

In our latest blog for National Recovery Month we’ve selected our top ten recovery-related books that can help you, or your loved one, on their recovery journey.

Why Read a Recovery-Related Book?

Books are a powerful resource for people in recovery. Not just memoirs of people getting sober — although these can be great! — but also educational books about different concepts of addiction and different coping strategies. Recovery-related books can actually help the reader to strengthen their recovery by providing:

  • Motivation to find and stay on the recovery journey
  • Identification that you are not alone in recovery
  • Lessons about how others have overcome relapse
  • New skills and tools to learn to help maintain recovery and cope with life and its challenges

Here is the thing about recovery: it is a life-long practice that will evolve over time. Like any other long-term lifestyle, it will require a life-long exploration of what works to maintain recovery and what helps us to live a healthy lifestyle.

Many people in recovery find that they are hungry for information and once they start reading they can’t get enough of it! What’s clear from the plethora of recovery literature out there is that there is something for everyone. Knowledge and tools are a great defense against returning to use.

We hope you enjoy our top ten list of recovery books as much as we have.

Top 10 Addiction Recovery Books

drink: the intimate relationship between women and alcohol book cover1. Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (2014) by Ann Dowsett Johnston

This book is an incredible combination of in-depth research and memoir. Ann delivers a groundbreaking examination of the shocking epidemic threatening women: the rise of risky drinking. In this captivating book you can’t help but feel drawn into Ann’s journey of addiction but also feel a sense of injustice about the long-lasting effects of using alcohol to cope.

Ann has recently obtained her MSW from Smith College and is now a licensed social worker with a private practice. She also teaches others through her writing group — called Writing Your Recovery — to tell their stories.


Unbroken Brain2. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction (2017) by Maia Szalavitz.

This book offers a radical perspective that substance use disorder is a learning disorder. Maia argues — through her personal story, as well a distillation of 25 years of science — that understanding addiction this way will help to untangle debates over addiction treatment, prevention, and policy.

The book is a fascinating exploration of how addictive traits fall on a spectrum, and how they can be a normal response to an extreme situation.



Laura McKowen we are the luckiest3. We Are The Luckiest (2020) by Laura McKowen (Bonus: patients visiting our detox centers will see a copy of this book on our shelves, courtesy of Laura’s publishers).

Laura suggests turns the idea that sobriety is a consolation prize on its head by suggesting that we’re the lucky ones! She writes that she was lucky to find her feelings, lucky to accept the invitation to wake up to her life: “those of us who answer the invitation to wake up, whatever our invitation, are really the luckiest of all.”

Through the telling of her personal story, Laura addresses topics we face in recovery, like AA, and other people’s drinking. This is a great read!


Quit Like A Woman4. Quit Like a Woman (2019) by Holly Whitaker

Holly is a trailblazer in the recovery space. When she found recovery, Holly didn’t like the options available so she created her own pathway: Tempest (formerly Hip Sobriety).

In this incredible book, Holly examines the insidious role alcohol plays in our culture, points out the patriarchal tenets of AA, and highlights the manipulative ways that alcohol marketers are targeting women.

Through her own story and a significant amount of research, Holly helps you to question why you would even want to drink.


Love Yourself Sober5. Love Your Sober Self (2020) by Mandy Manners and Kate Baily.

Just recently released, this book is for busy moms wanting to live a sober life. Mandy and Kate ask readers some fundamental questions about drinking culture:

        • Are you sick of thinking about drinking?
        • Have you tried to cut down or stop, but can’t?
        • Do you want to learn to love to be sober?

Their book breaks down into four easy to digest parts for those who are sober curious and those who are already sober. It is packed full of helpful tools and guidance.


In the realm of hungry ghosts6. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (2010) by Gabor Maté.

Maté is an addiction specialist having served the addiction recovery community for over two decades as a medical doctor. In his fascinating book, Maté gives an insight into the much misunderstood field of substance use disorders, highlighting in particular those who have struggled with the depths of addiction in Vancouver’s skid row.

Maté puts forth a philosophy throughout the book that argues addiction is not a discreet phenomenon confined to the weak-willed, rather it is a condition as a result of a complex interplay between the person’s history, emotional and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction.


The biology of desire7. The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease (2016) by Marc Lewis PhD

Neuroscientist Marc Lewis uses the true stories of five people who have journeyed throughout addiction and explains why the disease model of addiction is wrong. He instead illuminates a path of recovery that reveals addiction is an unintended consequence of the brain seeking pleasure and relief in a world that isn’t cooperating.

Lewis provides an insight into how treatment can be retooled to achieve lasting recovery.

A truly fascinating read.


Strung Out by Erin Khar8. Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me (2020) by Erin Khar

New York Times review described Erin’s book as “A story she needed to tell and the rest of the country needs to listen.”

Erin’s book is a very moving memoir of her journey to the depths of addiction — a 15 year struggle with heroin. This memoir is insightful, tragic, but also uplifting and motivating. It shows you that anyone can recover.

Patients visiting our centers will be able to read a copy of Erin’s book that she generously donated.


My fair junkie9. My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean by Amy Dresner

Amy brings darkness, hilarity, and a brutal honesty to sharing a story of addiction. She talks about her 20-year battle with sex, drugs, and alcohol, and what happens when she finally emerges on the other side having found recovery.

What’s brilliant about her book isn’t just her honesty, it is how she normalizes the reality of the depths of addiction: that it can often end in stays in psychiatric facilities, bankruptcy, and the criminal justice system. Addiction is anything but glamorous but Amy shows her journey that recovery is a life worth living.


drinking: a love story10. Drinking: A Love Story (1997) by Caroline Knapp

While this is an older memoir, it is still one of the most popular. In her book, Caroline shares the reality that, like many of us, she started drinking in her teens and continued throughout her award-winning career as an editor and columnist.

While on the outside she appeared functioning, behind closed doors she was drinking herself into oblivion. Another brutally honest memoir, this one will have you ride the waves of her love story with alcohol but ultimately how she conquered it.


blackout sarah hepola11. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (2016) by Sarah Hepola

In her memoir, Sarah provides a deeply honest, and sometimes hilarious, insight into her journey of sobriety — a life she never wanted.

As someone who described alcohol as “the gasoline of all adventure” Hepola spent her evenings at parties and dark bars staying until the last call. While she thought drinking this way represented freedom, there was ultimately a price. Sarah shares the startling consequences of drinking to that magnitude, but also the unexpected adventure of a sober life.


girl walks out of a bar12. Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir (2016) by Lisa Smith

Leading recovery memoirist and author of numerous New York Times best-selling books, Anna David describes Lisa’s memoir as “Raw, naked and unflinching, Girl Walks Out of A Bar catapults the reader into the sordid, desperate reality of high-functioning addiction: the booze, the coke, the lies; the denial, the depression, the blackouts. All are on full display as New York lawyer Lisa Smith loses herself in a deep and all-too-human descent into perpetual numbing. A chilling, cautionary tale.”

Lisa’s book is a candid look at alcohol use disorder, with the message that addiction affects people in all walks of life.


We realize we added an extra couple of books — think of it as a bonus. It was so hard to condense the list just to 12 page turners!

At Gallus Medical Detox, we believe there is dignity in healing. If you, or your loved one, is struggling with addiction there’s no better time to seek help. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432

Laura Herrmann, MA

Laura is the Chief Outreach and Marketing Officer at Gallus Medical Detox, she has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare marketing field in digital, social, product marketing, strategy and sales leadership. Her passion for those struggling and recovering from substance use disorder and mental health as well as advocacy for patient empowerment has driven her career and continues to be the motivation to work within the best treatment options to help those struggling. With a Master’s Degree from Tufts School of Medicine and Emerson College in Health Communication, Laura has continued to find excitement and challenge in her chosen field. She is also the Board President, BarZero and Board Member of the Colorado Professional Liaison Association.

Last medically reviewed on September 05, 2020

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If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
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