Mental Hygiene

Big Book Reviews

Mental Hygiene


Vol. 41(1), January 1957

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: New York, Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing Co., 1955. 2nd. edition, 575p.

This is the second and greatly enlarged edition of a book first published in 1939. Three hundred thousand copies of the first edition have been sold.

The second edition presents identical material for the first 164 pages. The second part, made up of personal records, has now been enlarged so that it contains 37 histories. These are divided into three sections. The first contains the history of 13 pioneers of Alcoholics Anonymous. Part Two, labeled "They Stopped in Time," contains 12 more histories. Except for additional introductory material and the changes in the case histories, the book is identical with the first edition.

For those unfamiliar with the first edition, the book starts out with an introduction, followed by historical material and a discussion of the aims of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is a good deal of detail about the program of recovery, and enumeration of the now well-known 12 points which express the fundamental beliefs of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are special chapters for wives, for families and for employers. The last chapter, titled "A Vision For You," is an appeal to the alcoholic to make use of Alcoholics Anonymous and adopt its procedures.

The book presents the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous, a philosophy which has had quite unexpected success, since the reviewer doubts that any of those who witnessed the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous had any concept of what it would achieve.

The personal stories of the 37 alcoholics can be recommended as reading to anyone who wants to get the first-hand history of alcoholics who have managed to overcome the habit.

The whole book presents the viewpoint of Alcoholics Anonymous, which can be considered as one approach, and one of the most successful, in dealing with the problem of the alcoholic. Reading the book may make it comprehensible to the reader why this program works with some persons and not others. It is a limited approach which takes in only certain aspects. It frankly admits its own inability to deal with certain types cases. It does, however, show a remarkable record of recovery for quite a large group, and on this basis has clearly won an important status in any plan in dealing with the alcoholic.

This book should be required reading for anyone who wishes to understand or deal with the problem of the alcoholic. Viewed as an approach which has been developed by a special group of alcoholics, it makes very interesting reading and gives a much better understanding of many of these cases.

- Karl M Bowman, M.D., San Francisco.


Saturday Review Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol

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