Book review of
the 4th edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous
as written up in The Florida Catholic newspaper of June 6, 2002:
All textbooks instruct, some entertain, and a few--and only a very
Alcoholics Anonymous, affectionately called the Big Book by
AA members is one of those rare textbooks that does all three. It
teaches, inspires and promotes life-altering changes. It also
resists qualitative judgments: no sensible reviewer would pass
judgment on this book any more than on the Bible or the Quran.
The first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous was published in
1939, a mere four years after the first meeting of Bill Wilson and
Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio, which gave birth to AA.
Traditionally the authorship of the first edition is credited to
100 of the earliest members of AA, but the actual writing was
done, for the most part, by Bill Wilson. In the first 164 pages,
the early members outline the spiritual program of the Twelve
Steps with other chapters devoted to the families of alcoholics
and their employers. These first 164 pages have remained unaltered
through all of the succeeding editions of the Big Book.
Oldtimers in AA, many with 30 and 40 years of sobriety, are no
less astonished than newcomers to the program that no one involved
in the compiling of Alcoholics Anonymous had more than four
or five years of sobriety. AA's insight into the nature of
alcoholism as a disease was particularly farsighted, as the idea
generally was not accepted by the medical profession in the 1930s.
Even more radical was the conviction of AA members that only a
spiritual awakening, a dependence on a higher power, could lead to
sustained sobriety and that each alcoholic might choose a higher
power of his or her own liking.
The changes in this new fourth edition come in the second major
portion of the Big Book, a collection of stories of individual
members of AA. In 1939 most AA members were male, white and
Protestant, but as the program grew, so did the variety of its
members. With each new edition of the Big Book, stories have been
added and older ones subtracted. Stories of African-Americans,
Native Americans, Catholics and women appeared in the in the
second and third editions. In this new edition there is a second
story of Native Americans and new stories of Jewish, gay and
to AA History