1. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell’s The Man with a Thousand Faces was really important to me in my early sobriety. It showed me that my problems weren’t that special, that I was dealing with problems as old as humanity. It also helped me understand how spiritual concepts work without deities. The problem is, the book is really dry and dull. Check out The Power of Myth, which is much more accessible, and if you’re really into it, check out his other works.
2. Post Office by Charles Bukowski
Finding a job while newly sober can be difficult. You will likely find a bad one. So here’s the best bad-job novel ever: Post Office. The bonus is it’s written from a drunk’s point of view, so you should relate. It’s easy to read and you’ll finish it quickly.
3. Mad Dog Black Lady by Wanda Coleman
Wanda Coleman’s book is my companion when I’m feeling low as can be. When sadness hits you in the face like a wet towel, this is the book you want. It’s gotten me through breakups, job loss, evictions, and quitting smoking.
4. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
I read Story, not to mention all the Syd Field screenwriting books, newly sober. I had bought them drunk while actually working on a screenplay that I thought I would sell and afford me a sweet rehab like Promises, where I would write my next screenplay and network it with the drugged-out celebrities. That didn’t happen, but something else did: I got a lot of indirect life advice from these books. When Field or McKee talked about characters’ lives, I thought of my own. When he talked about plot, I thought of my life choices.
5. Herzog on Herzog by Paul Cronin and Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog has created his own system of symbolism and mythology and philosophy in his life, some of which you can garner from his films. The rest will become plain to you in this book of interviews.
6. Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Can’t afford a sweet rehab? You should read about one. Dry is my favorite book on the subject.
7. Kasher in the Rye
You should read a crappy childhood book. Moshe’s book stands out in that he takes blame for his part in a lot of the shit he endured. He doesn’t claim to be an innocent victim. It’s a rare, truthful look at the poor choices of a troubled youth.
8. 86’d by Dan Fante
I hate to pick just one Dan Fante book. All of them are good. No one writes about blackouts like this guy. No one better documents so precisely the self-sabotage of the alcoholic.
9. Godspeed by Lynn Breedlove
There have been a lot of books about meth, but Breedlove’s book really nails it. I don’t know why, but I really liked reading strung-out stories when I was quitting. It’s dyke messengers, strippers, and a San Francisco that has mostly disappeared.
10. Ant Farm
This is the funniest book I’ve ever read. The stories are short, and they’re easy to read. Great for a quick blast of funny when you’re on that emotional roller coaster of new sobriety.
11. The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley and Tanner Colby
I’ve read a lot of books by comedians, about stand-up, and from Saturday Night Live Alumni. There are a lot of great ones. I’m picking this one in particular because it’s a great example of how your drug and alcohol use affects other people even when you think it’s your business and doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself.
12. The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Jim Carroll was a junkie in NYC back when that was cool. The entries start off lighthearted and easy to read, and become darker and more complex as the book goes. The stories range from hilarious mix-ups to the lowest of life’s moments. As far as drunkalogues are concerned, this is the best of the bunch. It may even inspire you to write your own.
Bucky Sinister is the author of four books of poetry and two self-help books, Get Up and Still Standing. These titles are about finding ways to make 12 step recovery work for people who have a hard time with the basic concepts. He appears in a weekly comedy show in San Francisco called The Business. Follow him on Twitter.