WRITING THE BIG BOOK

It has been 40 years since Ernie Kurtz wrote Not-God, the last truly professional treatment of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. While many books dealing with A.A. history have been written since then, Writing the Big Book is the first to bring that same kind of exhaustive research, scholarly discipline and informed insight to the subject.

Bill’s book—ranging from October of 1937, when a book was first proposed, to April of 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous was published—is based primarily on the wealth of 1930s documents currently preserved in several A.A. archives. Woven together into an exciting narrative, these real-time documents tell an almost week- by-week story of how the book was created, one that unfolds with many unexpected turns and more than a few revealing departures from the hallowed stories that have been so widely circulated in the past.

Writing the Big Book presents a robust and vivid picture of how early A.A. operated and grew along with a vast amount of previously unreported details about the cast of colorful characters who made that group so successful. Most surprising is the emergence of Bill Wilson’s right-hand man, Hank Parkhurst as the unsung hero in this story. Without Hank there would have been no book, but his unfortunate slip back into drinking just months after it was published resulted in him being almost completely written out of the stories that were told later.

Fast paced, engaging and contrary, Writing the Big Book will decisively change whatever you think you know about early A.A. history and the ways in which this book—so central to the worldwide growth of this important movement of spiritual recovery—actually came into being.

If you have read my husband’s book, Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, you may think as I did, that you have a good understanding of that history. And you would be wrong. Writing the Big Book zeroes in on the first five years in a way that no other history of AA has captured. And these years were critical. Like a good suspense novel, this book captures the day to day struggles these few intrepid men encountered over those years – in the heart of the great depression… How does a bunch of homeless alcoholics start a worldwide movement? Schaberg’s book tells us how they did it, tiny step by tiny step.”

Linda Farris Kurtz
Author of Recovery Groups
Professor Emerita
Eastern Michigan University

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