Orange's Top Ten Reading Lists

Top Ten Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous Books

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?     Charles Bufe
    See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731, 1998.
    ISBN: 1-884365-12-4
    Dewey: 362.29286 B929a 1998
    This book is an eye-opener. One of the first to tell the truth about A.A..
    (This is the second edition; it has noticeably more information than the first edition. The first edition is: ISBN 0-9613289-3-2, printed in 1991.)
    This book is now free on the Internet, at:
    (And you can also get Ken Ragge's books, The Real AA, and More Revealed, there.)

  2. A History of Addiction & Recovery in the United States, Michael Lemanski
    See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731, 2001.
    ISBN: 1-884365-26-4
    Dewey: 362.29180973 or 362.2918 L547h
    Also from See Sharp Press, another excellent critical analysis of the whole recovery industry, including A.A., treatment centers, and "codependency therapy".
    Quotes: Mental health in A.A.

  3. Addiction, Change & Choice; The New View of Alcoholism     Vince Fox, M.Ed. CRREd.
    See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731, 1993.
    ISBN: 0-9613289-7-5
    Dewey: 362.29286i FOX
    And yet another great book from the See Sharp Press. Fox covers:
    1. Heavy Drinking: Its Historical Context
    2. Alcoholism: Definitions & Opinions
    3. Polarization: Us vs. Them
    4. The Objective: Personal Autonomy
    5. Alcoholics Anonymous: Essence & Functions
    6. Alcoholics Anonymous: Effectiveness
    7. The Forces & Directions of Change
    8. The Independent Self-Help Programs
    9. Rational Recovery Systems Network
    10. Traditional Recovery Management
    11. Nontraditional Recovery Management
    12. Noninstitutional Recovery
    13. ...and more...
    One of the things I like best is how Fox stresses just how damaging and dangerous it is for A.A. and N.A. to teach addicts that they are powerless over alcohol or their addiction, and have no choice in the matter. That is a ready-made rationalization for a drunkard to have another drink, or a doper to shoot up again. And that is what the steppers do. Fox also does a good job of criticizing the arrogant "My way or the highway" attitude of self-righteous A.A. and N.A. sponsors.

  4. Resisting 12-Twelve Step Coercion: How to Fight Forced Participitation in AA, NA, or 12-Step Treatment     Stanton Peele and Charles Bufe with Archie Brodsky
    See Sharp Press, Tucson, AZ, 2000.
    ISBN: 1-884365-17-5
    More truth from the See Sharp Press — how to resist being coerced into the 12-Step cult.
    This book is now available for free download at:

  5. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps     Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph.D.
    Harper Perennial, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York, 1992.
    ISBN 0-06-055263-8 and ISBN 0-06-096518-5 (pbk.)
    LC: RC533 .K365 1992
    LCCN: 90-56435
    Dewey: 616.86'06—dc20 or 616.8606 K19m
    This book is excellent. It definitely ends up in the Top 10 List of books that you must read if you are thinking about quitting (or perhaps if a loved one is trying to quit, or needs to quit).
    She covers addiction and alcoholism from a lot of different viewpoints, including the need for improved nutrition and getting off of other addictions like nicotine, caffeine, or TV.
    She is about the only one who addresses the issue of the narcissism inherent in A.A., which it got from the champion narcissist, Bill Wilson. (Pages 153-154.) She is also the only one to talk about Candida Albicans, a potentially-devastating yeast infection, in connection with alcoholism. Something that A.A. all too often fails to consider is that people kill their pain with alcohol because they are sick and in pain, not because they are sinful. Ms. Kasl has the brains to realize this.
    She also covers recovery from the woman's viewpoint better than anybody else I've seen. This book is simply Must reading for women alcoholics and addicts.
    She also has a good take on the inherently-patriarchal attitudes of A.A., and the fallacies of codependency. An example of her perceptiveness: As a counselor and therapist who has had to repair a lot of refugees from A.A. and 12-Step programs, she has a lot to say about things like
    "How to violate other people's boundaries with:"
    • Slogans (Tell somebody whose mother just died: "God never gives you more than you can handle. Don't feel sorry for yourself. Get outside of yourself. Stuff your feelings. Don't dredge up the past. Take responsibility. Get off the pity pot. Let Go and Let God.")
    • Giving unsolicited advice.
    • Hugging members of the group without permission.
    • Assuming friendship on the part of another member.
    • Not accepting a member's saying "no" to phone calls, socializing, and so on.
    • Trying to get a new member to talk.
    • Preaching.
    • Flirting with a group member.
    • Seducing a group member.
    • Telling sexist or racist jokes.
    • Bringing sex into the conversation.
    • Coming to group with the intent of finding a date rather than a sincere interest in personal growth.
    • Disclosing lots of personal information without taking time to create a friendship or find out if the person wants to listen to you.
    (Pages 218-222 and 239-240.)

    Her list of the characteristics of unhealthy groups is:

    1. The group discourages or blocks outside involvement.
    2. The group limits or discourages access to reading material or other forms of personal growth.
    3. Expression of dissension is punished, squelched, or strongly discouraged.
    4. The group becomes grandiose in its self-definition — "Ours is the one way, the road to salvation."
    5. People get locked into stereotyped roles.
    6. The group becomes paranoid about outsiders or those who question the norm.
    7. People talk like robots.
    8. In-group jargon predominates in conversations.
    9. The group exerts pressure on people to stay.
    10. People use the group for sexual needs.
    11. The group is unable to reflect on itself, its history, and its values from a broad perspective.
    (Pages 294-297.)

  6. When AA Doesn't Work for You, Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol     Albert Ellis, Ph.D., and Emmett Velten, Ph.D.
    Barricade Books, Inc., New York, NY, 1992.
    ISBN 0-942637-53-4
    Dewey call number 362.2928 E47w
    This is a lot of good sensible advice. Dr. Ellis is the creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which is the foundation of SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training). — And he's also the founder of SMART. If you are looking for some realistic, rational, non-superstitious, common-sense, help in quitting drinking, definitely read this book. It includes chapters on:
    • "But therapy doesn't work!"
    • Denial.
    • How to stop self-defeating BS (stinking thinking).
    • How to change your stinking thinking.
    • Integrating rational ideas into your self-help work.
    • Other cognitive or thinking techniques of RET.
    • How to get in touch with your feelings.
    • Relapse prevention.
    • and more...

    More on REBT:
    [email protected] == Albert Ellis
    The SMART web site:

  7. How Alcoholics Anonymous Failed Me; My Personal Journey to Sobriety Through Self-Empowerment     Marianne Gilliam
    Eagle Brook, an Imprint of William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1998.
    ISBN 0-688-15587-1
    LC: HV5293.G55A3 1998
    LCCN: 97-37092
    Dewey: 362.29286'092—dc21 or 362.2928 G481h 1998
    In spite of its negative title, this is actually a very positive book. This is one of the best-looking "alternatives to A.A." kind of books that I've seen (from my biased viewpoint, of course). It definitely contains a very strong flavor of spirituality, but without the cult religion aspect. This is a good "something" for those who try to take the middle road, for those who try to be spiritual but sensible, for those who want something other than either atheism or blind faith in cult religion.
    For example:
    ...the Love that binds the Universe together gently encourages me to go even where there is intolerance, hatred, and anger. For Love wisely knows that to go there in peace and acceptance will literally transform these negative traits into Love itself.
          There can only be duality of good and evil, right and wrong, love and fear at the lower levels of awareness. For at the highest levels, there is only Love. Love sends itself out and returns to itself. All the world is a journey in which love seeks to go where it is not and heal itself. We can each do this individually with our own lives and our own physical bodies. To go where love is not, fully supported by the Universe, we heal.
    Bill Wilson had a bad habit of accusing everyone who didn't buy his peculiar Buchmanite religious beliefs of being an atheist. This book is a good answer to that.
    It also contains chapters on Food and Cigarettes, Fear and Dependency, The Nature of Addiction, The Role of Ritual, Pleasure and Guilt, Finding My Inner God, and much more.
    If you are looking for an alternative to the A.A. philosophy, then definitely check this book out.

  8. Coming Clean; Overcoming Addiction Without Treatment     Robert Granfield and William Cloud
    New York University Press, New York and London, 1999
    ISBN: 0-8147-1581-8 (cloth: alk. paper), ISBN: 0-8147-1582-6 (pbk.: alk. paper)
    LC: HV4998.G73 1999
    Dewey: 616.8606—dc21 or 616.8606 G756c 1999
    LCCN: 99-6526
    An excellent book that tells it straight. Dispenses with the myths about recovery, the disease theory, and the slogans about "Nobody can do it alone", and describes how a lot of people do in fact recover from addictions on their own, without treatment.

  9. AA Horror Stories     Rebecca Fransway, 2000.
    See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731
    ISBN 1-884365-24-8
    Dewey call number 362.2918 T971 2000
    This book will curl your hair. One fair-minded 12-Stepper suggested that every new member should be issued copies of both the Big Book and this book when he or she walks in the door, to tell the newcomers about both the good and bad things that could happen to them in "the rooms." One of the most disturbing repeated themes is women who were the victims of rape or thirteenth-stepping being told to just shut up and find their part in it and go make some coffee, and to not harbor any resentments against their attackers.

    Note: The Orange Papers has ended up with its own long list of A.A. horror stories, too, here: A.A. Horror Stories.

  10. Addiction is a Choice     Jeffrey A. Schaler.
    Open Court Publishing Company, 2000. phone: 1-800-815-2280
    ISBN 0-8126-9403-1 hardcover, 0-8126-9404-1 paperback.
    Dewey call number 362.29 S297a 2000
    Quite good. This book makes a good case for the standard ideas of addiction and the A.A. idea of "powerlessness over alcohol" being myths. Must reading for anyone wishing to be well-informed in the alcoholism or addiction fields.
    Also see Dr. Schaler's web site, here.

  11. The Truth About Addiction and Recovery; The Life Process Program for Outgrowing Destructive Habits     Stanton Peele, Ph.D. and Archie Brodsky with Mary Arnold
    Simon and Schuster, New York, 1991.
    ISBN 0-671-66901-X
    Dewey: 616.8522 P374t or 616.85227 P44 1991
    LC: RC533.P33 1991
    LCCN: 90-27678
    Stanton Peele was one of the pioneers in exposing the disease theory of alcoholism as a cult myth. Another voice of sanity in the vast wasteland. Includes: Addiction is not a disease — Skills for Taking Control of Your Life — Changing Communities, Changing Lives.
    1. Why It Doesn't Make Sense to Call Addiction a "Disease".
    2. Are People Born Alcoholics?
    3. Which Is the Most Addictive Drug of All?
    4. Smoking: The Toughest Habit to Lick?
    5. Obesity: Are People Biologically Programmed to Be Fat?
    6. Addictions to Gambling, Shopping, and Exercise: How We Evade Moral Responsibility
    7. Love, Sex, and Codependence: Overcoming Trauma
    8. The Life Process Program
    9. Quitting as Life Process
    10. Are You an Addict? Assessing Addiction in the Life Process Program
    11. Assessing Your Values: Knowing What Is Important to You
    12. Accessing Your Resources: What Do You have That You Can Count On?
    13. I'm Not the Person I Want To Be: How People Carry Out Plans to Change
    14. Changing the Behavior: That Obscure Object of Desire
    15. Life Skills: If You Don't Have Them, Get Them
    16. Integrating Change Into Your Life: Groups and Your Social World
    17. Kids Have To Be Made Into Addicts: You Can Prevent Addiction
    18. Where the Solutions Lie: Re-establishing Communal Ties
    19. A Road Map: Where We've Been and Where You Need to Go

  12. "Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict" by Stanton Peele and Ilse Thompson.
    I haven't seen this yet, but already, I know that is going to be good because everything by Stanton Peele is good.

  13. SOS Sobriety, The Proven Alternative to 12-Step Programs     James Christopher
    Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1992.
    ISBN 0-87975-726-4
    Dewey call number 362.2928 C556s
    This book is about Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) a.k.a. "Save Our Selves". SOS is an alternative recovery method for those alcoholics or drug addicts who are uncomfortable with the pseudo-spiritual and superstitious content of widely available 12-Step programs. SOS takes a reasonable, secular approach to recovery and maintains that sobriety is a separate issue from religion or spirituality. SOS credits the individual for achieving and maintaining his or her own sobriety, without reliance on any "Higher Power." SOS respects recovery in any form regardless of the path by which it is achieved. It is not opposed to or in competition with any other recovery programs.
          Especially check out the interview with Dr. Kenneth Blum, titled "The Fickle Gene". Dr. Blum discovered one of the genes that appears to contribute to alcoholism, and perhaps also a tendency towards drug addiction.
    The SOS web site is:

  14. The Small Book     Jack Trimpey
    Dell Publishing, 1992
    ISBN 0-440-50725-1
    Dewey call number 362.2918 T831s
    This was one of the original calls to war against the Evil Empire of Alcoholics Anonymous. Note that Jack Trimpey has declared this book obsolete, and says that you should just read the next one, "Rational Recovery." The funny thing is, I don't find it to be obsolete. Trimpey borrowed some techniques from Doctors Maultsby and Ellis like the ABCs of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and did a good job of explaining them. Trimpey did a good job of collecting a variety of tools for quitting drinking and staying quit and working them together into a fair toolkit. This book does what A.A. only claims to do — "give you the tools you will need to maintain sobriety".

  15. Rational Recovery     Jack Trimpey
    Pocket Books, 1996
    ISBN 0-671-52858-0
    Dewey call number 362.2918 T831r
    This is Trimpey's second book about quitting drinking (or other addictions) using rational techniques. He changed his mind about a lot of things and decided that you only need one technique to defeat cravings — the ability to recognize and dispute the Addictive Voice as it cajoles, wheedles, and seduces you into having "just one". This book is worth reading just for the chapter in the back that describes a counselling session where Trimpey exposes "the Beast", the addiction monster that tries to con us into drinking or using again (really, the base brain craving mechanism). Also see the chapter on "Beasts in Love" — "Beasts don't fall in love; they just form partnerships to help feed their appetites." Really must reading.
    Also see the Rational Recovery web site, here.
    Also see The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster, which talks about the same thing.

  16. Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease     Herbert W. Fingarette
    University of California Press, Berkely, Los Angeles, London, 1988.
    ISBN: 0-520-06754-1 (alk. paper)
    LC: HV5292.F56 1988
    LCCN: 87-26692
    Dewey: 362.2928
    This is a landmark book that discusses and reject the idea of alcoholism as a disease. It also examines "treatment" for that non-existent disease, and finds it to be an ineffective fraud.

  17. Controlling Your Drinking: Tools to Make Moderation Work for You     William R. Miller and Ricardo F. Muñoz, PhD
    Prof. William R. Miller, of the Center for Alcohol, Substance Abuse and Addictions, Dept. of Psychology, University of New Mexico, could have written a scholarly tome on alcohol abuse (and in fact, he has written several), but this book is non-technical and is aimed at the layman. That is, it is written in simple, clear, easily-understood language and is intended for someone with a problem controlling their drinking. It is very systematic and complete, and loaded with good advice and working techniques, and should be helpful to anyone who is drinking too much, no matter whether he ends up choosing moderation or complete abstinence. This book will do what A.A. falsely claims to do: Give you the tools you need to stop (or moderate) drinking. This book includes:
    1. Keeping track
    2. Taking charge
    3. Slowing down
    4. Discovering your triggers
    5. Relaxing
    6. Visual techniques for relaxing
    7. Managing anxiety and fear
    8. Coping with negative moods and depression
    9. Managing a positive self-concept
    10. When abstinence seems like the best choice for you

  18. Selling Serenity: Life Among the Recovery Stars     Andrew Meacham
    Upton Books, a division of Sirs Mandarin, Inc., Boca Raton, FL, 1999.
    ISBN 0-89777-708-5
    LC: HV5279 .M43 1999
    LCCN: 97-44281
    Dewey: 362.292'0973—dc21 or 362.292 MEACHAM 1999
    This book is a blockbuster. It is must reading for anyone in the alcoholism or addictions treatment or rehabilitation field. It details a lot of the selling of the standard recovery myths, like selling the idea of codependency and turning its treatment into an industry, and "recovering" false memories, and "reparenting", and more. He describes "Codependency" as invent a non-existent disease, and then charge a fortune to treat it. And one chapter title is priceless: The Metastasizing of Metaphor.
    Quotes: here and here. Also see Andrew Meacham's take on Grandchildren of Alcoholics.

  19. SHAM: how the self-help movement made America helpless     Steve Salerno
    Crown Publishers, New York c2005.
    ISBN: 1400054095
    Dewey: 155.2 S163s 2005
    Quite impressive. Leaves you feeling haunted, because the evils and ills that he describes are all around us.
    Contents: Introduction : Hopelessly hooked on help — The culprits — How we got here — wherever here is — False prophets, false profits — Dr. Phil Mcgraw : absolute power — Tony Robbins : leaps (and bounds) of faith — "Ya gotta want it!" — Put me in, coach, I'm ready to pay — Killer performances : the rise of the contrepreneur — The consequences — You are all diseased — Looking for love — on all the wrong bases? — I'm OK, you're — how do you spell OK again? — Patient, heal thyself — Conclusion : a SHAM society.

  20. The Useful Lie, William L. Playfair, M.D. with George Bryson
    Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, A division of Good News Publishers, 1991.
    ISBN 0-89107-637-9
    LC: BV4596.A48P42 1991
    LCCN: 91-21797
    Dewey: 261.83229—dc20
    An interesting exposé of Alcoholics Anonymous, coming from both a scientific and biblical point of view: "The real truth from the Bible and science about addictions and codependence — and how you can be free of them!"
    In spite of its very unusual approach, this book makes a lot of good points, and clearly shows that A.A. dogma is false both from a medical and theological viewpoint, as in:

    The irony of a Twelve Step program customized for Christians is that many who use it believe it is not only effective but Biblical. ... If the original Twelve Step program needs to be "adapted" for Christians, it seems odd to say that it is "Biblically based." What kind of double talk is going on here? Unfortunately, this kind of confusion is characteristic of the literature of "Christianized" recovery programs.
          After all is said and done, Christians do not seem to be making the recovery industry approach more compatible with Biblical Christianity. On the contrary, the recovery industry seems to be influencing the Christian approach.
    The Useful Lie, William L. Playfair, M.D. with George Bryson, pages 84-85, and 185-186 (footnote).

    See: The Heresy Of The Twelve Steps, here and here for more.

  21. More Revealed: A Critical Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps     Ken Ragge, 1992.
    ALERT! Publishing, P.O. Box 50233, Henderson, Nevada 89016-0233
    The first chapter of More Revealed, which specifically covers Frank Buchman and the earliest days of A.A., is available free on the Internet, at
    It is very good; highly recommended.

  22. Relapse Prevention: Maintenance Strategies in the Treatment of Addictive Behaviors     Edited by G. Alan Marlatt and Judith R. Gordon
    The Guilford Press, New York and London, 1985.
    ISBN: 0-89862-009-0
    LC: RC564.R45 1985
    LCCN: 84-19319
    Dewey: 616.8606
    Great stuff. A huge amount of true information about alcoholism and relapse prevention. Rather scholarly and heavy going; written for professional therapists and counselors rather than for the average alcoholic.
    Recommended. Chapters are:
    • Part 1. Relapse Prevention: General Overview
      • Chapter 1. Relapse Prevention: Theoretical and Overview of the Model
      • Chapter 2. Situational Determinants of Relapse and Skill-Training Interviews
      • Chapter 3. Cognitive Factors in the Relapse Process
      • Chapter 4. Cognitive Assessment and Intervention Procedures for Relapse Prevention.
      • Chapter 5. Lifestyle Modification
    • Part 2. Applications with Specific Addictive Behaviors
      • Chapter 6. Alcoholic Relapse Prevention and Intervention: Models and Methods
      • Chapter 7. The Problem Drinker's Project: A Programmatic Application of Social-Learning-Based Treatment
      • Chapter 8. Preventing Relapse in Ex-Smokers: A Self-Management Approach
    G. Alan Marlatt wrote the first five chapters, and a variety of other authorities and experts wrote the following four. The authors are quite specific in their descriptions of tools and techniques that work to help people avoid relapsing, and that is the greatest value of this book (to me, at least).

  23. Alternatives For The Problem Drinker; A.A. is not the only way     Ariel Winters; preface by William R. Miller, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology at U. of New Mexico
    Drake Publishers Inc., New York and London, 1978.
    ISBN: 0-8473-1701-3
    LC: RC565.W57 1978
    LCCN: 77-87466
    Dewey: 616.861
    Excellent, recommended. A lot of good, true, information, including information on controlled drinking as opposed to absolute abstinence. Includes chapters on:
    • The Rand Report and the Alcohol War
    • Alcoholics Anonymous: Pros and Cons
    • Treatment Centers: The Old and the New
    • On Psychological Dependence
    • Is There An Alcoholic Personality?
    • On Physiological Craving
    • Alcohol and Drugs: Special Dangers
    • The Nutritional Approach
    • Women and Alcohol: Special Problems
    • Teens and Alcohol: New Trends
    • Behavior Modification
    • Techniques for Solitary Self-Help
    • Self-Help Groups and Inter-Group Dynamics
    • On Mastering a Drinking Problem
    Like Charlotte Kasl, the authoress of this book is a woman who has some special insights into the problem of women and alcoholism. Hence this book is especially recommended for women, but its usefulness is not restricted to just women.

  24. The Culture Of Recovery; Making Sense of the Self-Help Movement in Women's Lives     Elayne Rapping
    Beacon Press, Boston MA, 1996.
    ISBN 0-8070-2716-2
    LC: RC533.R365 1995
    LCCN: 95-14095
    Dewey: 305.42—dc20 or 362.293 R221c
    Good stuff. As the title implies, this book's emphasis is on women's issues, and how a woman has experienced the self-help movement. Particularly read chapter four: "In the Rooms: Learning to Talk the Talk".

    My experiences led me to agree with many professional observers that this classic AA model operates as a cult — a term I use descriptively, not judgementally — and therein lies the secret of its success. It thrives on exclusivity and social isolation, on rote repetitions of scriptural doctrine, and on a blind faith in an omnipotent "leader" and God. It enforces rigid rules of behavior that virtually program one's every move every day, week, and month. Members who do best tend to break ties with former friends and family and relate only to fellow drunks, often attending meetings every day, sometimes even twice a day. By repetition the Steps and Traditions become so ingrained that all casual conversation comes to include key phrases — "I let go and let God" is a common saying, for example — and the idea that one's Higher Power had a role in virtually every positive moment in one's life is taken for granted here. The members who told the most inspiring tales, moreover, were generally the ones whose every moment was coordinated according to the Steps and Traditions and meeting schedules. Many members speak often of giving up old haunts and friends to stick "close to home" as one put it, and the conversation of members tends to revolve so thoroughly around ideas and activities of recovery that it is probably a relief to old friends when they drift away. There are alcohol-free social clubs where members meet in many cities, and many members carry around AA literature and turn to it whenever they find themselves with nothing to do, for fear that they will return to old habits if they relax. "I read the Big Book (the basic text, written by Bill W.) every day, every time I start to feel nervous," one man told me. "It saved me the other day, when I ran into an old drinking buddy on the subway. He took one look at it and split." I had no doubt.
    — page 98.

    Since one may never "cross talk" or raise issues not related to one's addiction, or even talk about the addiction itself in terms other than the Steps prescribe, one is forced, in the interest of one's progress out of addiction, to internalize and adopt the "mainstream attitudes" fostered by the program.  ...
            The political ramifications of this tendency to subtly impose a totalizing ideology on members are easy to see.   ...   As in any kind of hegemonic discourse or ritual, the absence of apparent ideology is itself the most powerful kind of ideology, since it can never be acknowledged or questioned. The political implications of this kind of thinking, this kind of process, are apparent and depressing.   ...
            This reactionary tendency of AA is further bolstered by its tendency to exclude contact with all "outsiders" who may indeed have other ideas about what has caused a member's suffering and what might be done to assuage it. One of the characteristics of cults described by Arthur Deikman (1990) is a tendency to "devalue outsiders" and assume "an attitude of righteousness" about one's own customs and beliefs. In AA and (to a lesser degree) other recovery groups, this takes the form of labeling as "in denial" those who question basic tenets.
    — pages 99-100.

    ACOA is the only group I visited in which no response was ever expected of anyone. At times, the silence was so nerve-wracking that I felt all eyes upon me, the ever silent presence, to finally speak.   ...
            The members of my home group were a bizarre lot behaviorally, although, by appearance, they were conventional and respectable.   ...
            Other members of this group — there were about ten women and four men — were apparently even more out of control, unable to handle the emotionally charged, unresolved feelings from childhood, for reasons that were sometimes explained — incest and physical torture — and sometimes hard to figure out at all.
    — page 108.

    And there is much more. Check it out.

  25. Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids     Maia Szalavitz
    Riverhead Books, New York, 2006.
    ISBN: 1-59448-910-6
    LC: HV1431.S97 2006
    Dewey: 362.74'8'0830973—dc22
    A great book. Takes up the thread of the web page Children's Gulags: Child Abuse for Fun and Profit and takes it much further. Includes "boots-on-the-ground" interviews with principle characters in the criminal enterprise called "tough love". This is absolutely must reading for anyone thinking of sending a child to a so-called "tough love" boot camp or "character-building" "disciplinary" "wilderness trek". Your child might die there. Many already have.
    And the harm done often far outweighs any benefits. The liabilities of such programs include children who are scarred for life and spend many years — occasionally the rest of their lives — trying to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. And many children who did not use drugs before being tortured by such a program did afterwards.

  26. For the standard party line about everything, see "The Big Book", really:
    • Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, 1976.
      (written by William G. Wilson, Henry Parkhurst, and 31 or so others; published as 'anonymous.')
      Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York, NY.
      ISBN 0-916856-00-3
      Dewey call number 362.29 A347 1976
    • Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, 2001,     published as "anonymous", but really written by William G. Wilson, Henry Parkhurst, Joe Worth, and many other people.
      Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York, NY, 2001.
      ISBN: 1-893007-16-2
      Dewey: 362.29 A347 2001
    • Note that the earlier editions of the A.A. book are available for free on the Internet. It seems that somebody was too 'sober' to remember to renew the copyright (if the original copyright was even ever valid, which is highly unlikely, because Bill Wilson stole the copyright for himself when the book was really written by more than 30 people).
    • The Big Book is included in this list only for those who want to really see the insanity of Bill Wilson and his Alcoholics Anonymous.

  27. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions         written by William G. Wilson and Tom Powers, published as "anonymous".
    Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York, NY, 2000.
    ISBN 0-916856-06-2 (smaller hard cover edition, 2000)
    ISBN 0-916856-01-1 (larger hard cover edition, 1984)
    Library of Congress catalog card number (LCCN:) 53-5454
    Dewey call number 362.2928 T969 1965
    This is one of the most insane and vicious books around. It is right down there with Mein Kampf as far as its ratio of lies to truth, and hate content, is concerned. It is ostensibly Bill Wilson's explanation of his Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, but it is really something quite dark and evil, Bill Wilson's poisonous contempt for human nature masquerading as spirituality. It was written while Wilson was in the middle of his eleven-year-long bout of deep clinical depression, and it shows. It is really a brutal, hateful assault on the character of people who happen to have a drinking problem. Bill Wilson hated himself and his own character flaws, so he projected all of his own weaknesses and character flaws onto the alcoholics around him, and also onto a mythical stereotypical alcoholic, and then said, "Look at him. Look at how disgusting he is. We are all like that." This whole book is non-stop guilt induction.
    This book is included in the list only for those who want to really see the insanity of Bill Wilson and his Alcoholics Anonymous.

  28. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age     "anonymous" — really, William G. Wilson
    Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS), New York, 1957, 1986.
    Harper, New York, 1957.
    ISBN 0-91-685602-X
    LC: HV5278 .A78A4
    Dewey: 178.1 A1c
    This is Bill's history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It suspiciously differs from known history here and there.
    This book is included in the list only for those who want every nit-picking little detail of the falsified, sanitized, history of Alcoholics Anonymous.

  29. 'Pass It On'; The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world     'anonymous'
    Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS), New York, 1984.
    ISBN 0-916856-12-7
    LC: HV5032 .W19P37x 1984
    LCCN: 84-072766
    Dewey: 362.29/286/O92
    This is the official, council-approved version of the history of A.A.. Strangely enough, there is actually some very interesting stuff in here, including chapter 16, which describes Bill's spook sessions and séances, talking with the spirits of the dead, and communicating with spirits through spirit rapping and the Ouija board. See pages 275 to 285.
    This book is included in the list only for those who want every nit-picking little detail of the falsified, sanitized, history of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Top Ten Cult, Mind-Control, and Brainwashing Books

  1. The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements     Eric Hoffer
    Harper & Rowe, Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1951.
    Dewey call number 301.1582 H69
    This little book is a real jewel. Hoffer wrote it half a century ago, paying particular attention to the Nazis, but it reads like a description of this afternoon's latest cult. This is one of those beautiful all-time classics that we see too seldom.

  2. Brainwashing, From Pavlov to Powers,     Edward Hunter
    Originally published by Farrar, Straus, & Cudahy, Inc., 1956.
    Reprinted by The Bookmailer, Inc., 30 West Price Street, Linden, New Jersey, 1958, 1965.
    Library of Congress catalog card number 56-7817 and 60-53397
    Dewey call number 131.33 H91
    This book is very good. It will probably become another classic. It really gives you the feeling of being there and going through the brainwashing program to which the American, British, and other United Nations prisoners of war were subjected during the Korean War. It also clearly explains just how the brainwashing worked and how some men succumbed to it, and how some resisted. And the book is fascinating and a good read.
    Quotes: brainwashing.

  3. The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark     Carl Sagan
    Random House, New York, 1995.
    ISBN 0-394-53512-X
    Dewey call number 001.9 S129d
    This book is a beauty. This book is not about cults or mind control — it is the opposite: a book on how to clear your thinking of such stuff. Carl Sagan always was easy to read, highly informative, and clear, and this book lives up to his reputation. This book includes "the baloney detector", which is a list of deceitful propaganda techniques that gave me the idea for the "Propaganda Techniques" web page.

  4. The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power     Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad
    North Atlantic Books/Frog Ltd., Berkeley, California, 1993.
    ISBN 1-883319-00-5
    LC: BF698.35 .A87 K73 1993
    LCCN: 93-18494
    Dewey: 303.3'3—dc20
    A great book. Definitely makes the Top 10 list. Discusses the hidden, underlying authoritarianism in many religious cults and some other religions, too. Extensively quoted in the web page on The Heresy of the Twelve Steps.

  5. The Wrong Way Home, Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society     Arthur J. Deikman, M.D.
    Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 1990.
    ISBN: 0-8070-2914-9
    LC: BL2525.D55 1990
    Dewey: 302.3—dc20 or 302.3 D327w
    Fascinating. Recommended. Exposes how cult-like behavior and attitudes permeate a lot of our institutions, including our churches, corporations, and government. Dr. Deikman was on a Congressional committee that studied cults after the Jonestown mass suicide and the murder of Congressman Leo J. Ryan, and one of the disturbing facts that Deikman noticed was: The question of whether any particular group is a cult is not a black-or-white, yes-or-no, question. It's all shades of gray, and many of our organizations, institutions, and government agencies exhibit cultish behavior to some extent or other. This book is useful on two levels: First, it describes cults and cultish behavior in a clear and concise way. And secondly, it finds that cultish behavior, to varying degrees, in many of our common institutions.
    Deikman saw cults as pushing extreme degrees of these four behaviors:
    • Compliance with the group,
    • Dependence on a leader,
    • Devaluing the outsider, and
    • Avoiding dissent.
    And then he also found those behaviors contributing to government disasters like Kennedy's Bay of Pigs and Reagan's Iran-Contra conspiracy, which has very disturbing implications, because you feel like it can happen again next week, because the politicians are still doing the same stupid things, again and again.
    (It IS happening again. Now the agenda is, "Attack Iraq because Little Bush can't find Osama.")

    Quotes: here, here, here, and here.

  6. Combating Cult Mind Control     Steven Hassan, 1988.
    Park Street Press, One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont, 05767
    ISBN 0-89281-243-5
    Dewey call number 291.0973 H353c
    This one is good. It is one of the fairest and most balanced of the anti-cult books that came out in the 'eighties. It also does not recommend the use of forceful abductions and reverse-brainwashing "deprogramming" that gave exit counselors a bad name.

  7. Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves     Steve Hassan
    Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville, MA, 2000
    ISBN: 0-9670688-0-0
    LC: BP603.H37 2000
    LCCN: 99-68918
    Dewey: 291 H353r 2000 or 305.62999
    This is good. This is the kind of book you want to have if you discover that a friend or relative has gotten sucked into a cult, and you want to know how to get them back alive.
    Quotes: here and here.

    Steve Hassan's web site:

  8. Cults In Our Midst, The Hidden Menace In Our Everyday Lives     Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalich
    Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1995.
    ISBN 0-7879-0051-6
    LC: BP503.S56
    Dewey call number 291.9 S617c
    This book is very good. It gives lots of good general background information on cults, and particularly exposes, in the chapter "Intruding into the Workplace", how some cults have insinuated themselves into the very fabric of our society, like how Werner Erhard's est hoax morphed into The Landmark Forum (and similar organizations) and sold "motivation enhancement seminars" to corporate America.
    (I wish she had paid a lot more attention to the children and grandchildren of Synanon, the abusive "confrontational attack therapy" drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation programs like The Seed and Straight, Inc., and the children's boot camps today, and how they have insinuated themselves into the fabric of our society, and pass off their fascist torture of children as beneficial to America...)

    I just have one bone to pick with her. She says on page 97 that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a cult, because

    Unfortunately, she got every single one of those points wrong. A.A. is guilty of every single one of those cult characteristics, and many more.

    In addition, in her earlier book, "Crazy Therapies", which criticized various fad therapies of the nineteen-sixties and -seventies, she warned of some common characteristics of fraudulent medical treatments:

    • the "Procrustean Bed" — an all-purpose diagnosis that can be stretched to fit any problem. That's A.A. and its Twelve Steps, which are the snake-oil that will supposedly cure anything.
    • "Unrealistic Expectations" — that's A.A. again, which teaches that a 12-Step panacea — listing and confessing your sins, and feeling powerless and guilty about everything — will fix alcoholism, keep you from drinking, remove all of your sins, and give you Sobriety, Recovery, Serenity, Gratitude, and even "Spirituality".
    • "Unexplained Workings" — the promoter cannot explain the theoretical basis of the treatment or its purported successes. That's A.A. yet again. There is no medical or scientific explanation for how the 12 steps are supposed to cure or treat alcoholism, or make alcoholics stop drinking. It's all vague hand-waving and claims that God will really like you and you will become "spiritual" if you do Bill Wilson's 12 steps, so then God will do a bunch of favors for you, like make you quit drinking and solve all of your problems for you.

  9. Take Back Your Life; Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships     Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias
    Bay Tree Publishing, Berkeley, California, 2006.
    LC: BP603.T62 2006,
    Dewey: 362.2—dc22
    Another anti-cult book from Janja Lalich. Good. Unfortunately, Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer has died, but Lalich is still continuing the good work with a new collaboration. This book is loaded with valuable information on how to deprogram and free yourself. Recommmended. Here is a sample:
    Frequently, at gatherings of former cult members, a lively exchange takes place when participants compare their respective groups and leaders. As people begin to describe their special, enlightened, and unique leader — whether a pastor, therapist, political leader, teacher, lover, or swami — those present are often surprised to learn that their once-revered leaders are actually quite similar in temperament and personality. It seems as if those leaders come from a common mold, sometimes light-heartedly called the "Cookie-Cutter Messiah School."
    Take Back Your Life; Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias.

  10. Age of Propaganda, The Everyday Use And Abuse of Persuasion     Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, University of California at Santa Cruz.
    W. H. Freeman and Co., New York, 1992.
    ISBN 0-7167-2210-0 (hardcover), ISBN 0-7167-2211-9 (paperback)
    Dewey call number 303.375 P912a
    This book is especially clear and readable. Recommended.

  11. The Making Of A Moonie: Brainwashing Or Choice?     Eileen Barker
    Basil Blackwell Publisher Ltd., Oxford, UK, 1984.
    ISBN 0-631-13246-5
    LC: BX9750.S4B37 1984
    LCCN: 84-12414
    Dewey: 289.9 B225m
    Quite good. Rather than just sensationalizing the Moonies, or grandly proclaiming that cults can brainwash people in a few days, like some extremist anti-cult people and professional "deprogrammers" do, the author really delves into how the recruiting and indoctrination mind games work, and how much the victim cooperates with the program (or doesn't cooperate). The author also reveals things like that the actual recruiters' success rate is about 0.005% (page 147). The author even gets into psychoanalyzing the members, revealing that many of them had mental problems before joining the Moonies, and suggesting that that was why they joined. This book is a breath of sanity in a field that needs more.

  12. Escape From Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon     William F. Olin
    Unity Press, Santa Clara, CA, 1980.
    ISBN 0-913-30053-5
    Dewey call number 362.293 O46e
    — This is the story of Synanon, as it degenerated from a utopian social organization and also a successful drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, into a vicious nightmarish cult, ending with the arrest of the cult's leader Charles "Chuck" Dederich on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
    This story is especially good because it is told by a man who was an idealist, a successful architect seeking a utopia, one of the "life-stylers" who joined Synanon purely out of choice, rather than one of the addicts desperately fleeing from death by drugs. It gives his story a certain credibility, and it also means that it is the story of a life gradually going down-hill towards Hell over a ten-year period, as the organization gradually turned into a really bad cult, rather than the story of someone coming up from the bottom. Where some of the ex-addicts might have seen even the worst parts of Synanon as improvements in their lives, Olin didn't. He had a good bit more perspective on things than that.

  13. A Piece of Blue Sky; Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed     Jon Atack
    A Lyle Stuart Book, Published by Carol Publishing Group, 600 Madison Ave., New York, NY, 1990.
    ISBN 0-8184-0499-X
    Dewey call number 299.936 A862p
    — Very good, complete, chilling, and disgusting. I alternated between feeling sorry for the members for the abuse they suffered, and feeling contempt for their massive stupidity and blindness as they turned around and did it all to somebody else.
    This book is now available to read free online:

  14. Bare-Faced Messiah; The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard     Russel Miller
    Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1987.
    ISBN: 0-8050-0654-0
    LC: BP605.S2M55 1988
    LCCN: 88-2005
    Dewey: 299.9360924
    Excellent. Complete, detailed, thorough, and very interesting. Highly recommended.
    This book is now available to read free online:

  15. The New Believers; A Survey of Sects, Cults, and Alternative Religions     David V. Barrett
    Cassell & Co., Wellington House, London, 2001.
    ISBN 0-304-35592-5
    Dewey 291 B27n 2001
    Huge, encyclopedic, 544 large pages of small type. If you want one reference book about every cult in the world, this is it. Covers both the cults, and the phenomenon of cults, starting with the question, "What is an alternative religion, and what is a cult?"

  16. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why     Bart D. Ehrman
    Harper Collins Books, New York, 2005.
    ISBN: 0060738170 (cloth)
    ISBN: 9780060738174
    LCCN: 2005046326
    This is not a book about a cult. It is, rather, a scholarly study of how the Christian Bible was written, and rewritten, and changed, over the years, and who did it. The author is far from a skeptic; he is a professor of theology, and Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the heart of the Bible Belt. He is one of those rare souls who knows the truth about the Bible and early Christianity, and who will tell the truth — and without grinding an ax for some particular sect, or coming off as a fundamentalist.
    The author reveals some stunning facts, like that there are so many variations and differences in the existing historical fragments of the Bible that there are actually more possible versions of the Bible than there are words in the Bible.
    This book is thus very impressive, and important to anyone wanting to know the truth about a lot of erroneous doctrines. What is especially appalling is how many Bible-beating fundamentalist churches pick out a few lines of the Bible and emphasize them and base their entire theology on their interpretation of those lines, when in fact the lines are erroneous, or fraudulent inserts or changes, done by some well-meaning fool who thought that he would "correct errors" and fix things.
    Strongly recommended for anyone who wants a better understanding of the history of the Bible, or who wants to know what the Bible really says, or did once say.

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