Sober People Buy Books

Recovery-related non-fiction is hot and many of you have a stack of books by your bed to prove it.

There’s tons of buzz about upcoming releases from Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen, too.

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Sober people buy books. 

The time and money we free up when we stop drinking can be transferred nicely to the healthier addiction of reading.

My hat is off to the authors listed above. (Did I miss one of your favourites? Please add it in the comments section).

What I feel is lacking is great FICTION that appeals to people in recovery. Not only for people in recovery or even necessarily about people in recovery but great fiction that shines a light on the lessons we learn along the way.

Novels about hopeless wrecks who turn their lives around can be unappealing to people in recovery because the drunken episodes are triggering. Some may think that those are the juicy, fun parts but we know better. 

If 8.5 years of sobriety and 200+ Bubble Hour interviews have taught me anything, it’s that the story starts long before the drinking and the healing beings shortly after. The years of numbing are just a placeholder for pain, all white noise and black outs.

I’ve recently completed my first novel and have high hopes of seeing it published. It’s a family saga spanning five decades on the Canadian prairies, exploring the impact of poverty, alcoholism and mental illness among family members in an era when such issues were hidden and misunderstood.

I sent early drafts of my novel to mainstream readers as well as people in recovery and received enthusiastic feedback from both demographics. Those in recovery can recognize the subtleties woven through the narrative and identify strongly with those themes, while mainstream readers enjoy the ride without realizing the extent of the underlying messages.

Some fiction writers currently weave recovery into their stories. Marian Keyes and Louise Penny come to mind. Do you know of others? Do tell. 


  1. Jean, were you able to get your novel out into the world since you posted this in 2019? I published a novel that focuses on opioid addiction last month (told from four different points of view, also set in Canada). Would be happy to compare notes. Info about the book at


  2. hey there,
    an interesting list of people shared and as a sober, i would say that all of them are amazing people to hangout with. i would just say that keep going on being sober and for strength please find such amazing people.
    thanks a lot.


  3. I listened to Kendra Ogdon on your podcast today could you please tell me the name of her book. I’m new to this and I found her story very inspiring. Thank you.


  4. I recently read Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane and it has a plot line that centers on a man’s growing addiction to alcohol and his recovery. It’s a really good book and, as an ex-drinker, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the plot line related to drinking because the struggle is so relatable. We want to see ourselves in the stories we read. I’m glad you went the fiction route and you make an excellent point. Looking forward to reading your novel!


  5. I have read Sober Diaries and Unexpected Joys of Being Sober. Loved both. Am reading This Naked Mind right now. Two other books I really liked were A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller and Stumbling into Sobriety by Tracy Collins. Great books. Looking forward to yours!


  6. Thank you. I’m new and reading all I can. I just got out of jail for violating my DWI probation. Did lots of reading. “Girl Walks Out Of a Bar” by Lisa F Smith is good.


  7. Hi Jean, Thank you for this sober reading list. I have read This Naked Mind, which was great and always adding to my sober reading collection. I am very excited for your new book to come out, it sounds like a great read. While I have really enjoyed reading and hearing about other people’s stories, I think it would be really interesting to read a fictional story and hope your book is published soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so funny that I stumbled across this today- I stopped drinking (for the millionth time) a week and a half ago and was devouring all things sober related- books, blogs, etc. But, in true addict fashion, I overdid it. I was reading three self help/addiction books at once and bouncing back and forth across many, many blogs. I got a little burnt out and had a really crappy day at day 9. I also work in the restaurant industry, which someone mentioned above, and ended up having a a drink, which turned into three. I’m starting over, but assessing where things went wrong. I love reading, but especially love fiction (of course, because it’s an escape). I didn’t have a good fiction book to escape into when I was having a bad day or to motivate me to come straight home from work and snuggle up with it. This time around, I will not neglect that- I particularly like to google lists of “unputdownables” – they have to really suck you in to take your mind off drinking! And I’m limiting myself to one self help book at a time and scheduling blog reading time into my day :).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Not a book, but the article in Bon Appetit by chef David McMillan about drinking culture in the restaurant industry and his recovery journey. He is a chef in Montreal with several amazing restaurants. He started a program to support hospitality industry workers because they’re working strange hours and don’t always have access to groups. Would be an amazing Bubble Hour guest too.


  10. Jean, Is there anything we can do to get word out to prospective publishers to let them know we can’t wait for your book to be published!?


    • Thanks for asking, Leslie. It definitely helps to show I have great connections on social media, so following me on , UnPickled and The Bubble Hour Facebook pages, and the twitter feeds for @thebubblehour, @unpickledblog and @jeanmccarthy_ca. Subscribe to The Bubble Hour on ITunes and leave a review. Share posts from any of these feeds that speak to you. These things help me out and I’m grateful for the support!


  11. A short book that helped make up my mind that I needed to stop was the 28 day alcohol free challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. They also do a book and website called OYNB. It appealed to me someone who was drinking a lot but hadn’t reached the so called bottom. Your novel sounds very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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