Writing The Big Book


The Creation of A.A.
Author: William H. Schaberg

The definitive history of how the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous was written, edited, and finally brought to press.

It has been over forty 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.

Schaberg’s book – telling a detailed story that begins in October of 1937 (when a book was first proposed) and ends in 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 provide an almost week-by-week account of how the book was slowly put together.    It is a story that unfolds with many unexpected turns and more than a few revealing departures from the hallowed stories so widely circulated by A.A. members in the past.

Writing the Big Book presents a robust and vivid picture of how Alcoholics Anonymous operated and grew in its earliest days 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 supposedly factual stories 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 twentieth century movement of spiritual recovery – actually came into being.

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