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Summary

In Writing the Big Book, William H. Schaberg presents an exciting, research-driven narrative of the history of the book, Alcoholic Anonymous, and the formative years of A.A. Granted extensive access to the group's archives along with several other sources, the author reveals the early Fellowship's conflicts and personalities, successes and failures, and dispels many of the myths found in such canonical texts as Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, and A Brief History of the Big Book.

The result of 11 years of in-depth research, Schaberg's history relies whenever possible on primary, real-time documents. He thoroughly investigates the book's authorship, illuminating the lesser-known contributions of figures like Hank Parkhurst and Frank Amos, and reveals how the spiritual side of the A.A. program evolved and was vigorously debated.

The book focuses primarily on the eighteen months between October of 1937, when a book was first proposed, and April of 1939, when Alcoholics Anonymous was published. During the span of those 18 months, the wealth of available archival materials provides for an almost week-by-week accounting of events, including an amazing amount of previously unreported details, resulting in a comprehensive and compelling story.

©2019 William H. Schaberg (P)2019 Tantor

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent academic work

Incredibly well documented, for the serious student of early AA history who wishes to dig deeper than the creation myth offered by AA literature.

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Profile Image for Annie Armstrong
  • Annie Armstrong
  • 25-12-19

This is a TEXT BOOK. Be aware!

This book is a TEXT BOOK, and not an easy read. If not for the narrator’s really pleasant voice it would have been really tough to get through it, because I’m just not the textbook type and personally prefer books with a faster pace (even when the content is so important, like in this book!) If you can handle reading complex medical textbooks and research manuals front to back, this will be no problem. There are a lot of really dense footnotes about things that were just too much detail for me and constantly pulled me out of the story. Again: I’m just not the textbook type.

That said, I am blown away by the care and effort and time the author put into researching and putting together this incredibly meaningful and relevant history, and for that reason I did not give up and listened to this audiobook all the way through. I am very grateful for his effort and care. Thank you. I learned some amazing new things about AA’s history and my perspective will never be the same, in a great way.

And again, thank you for the excellent narration, as well.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ray G.
  • 04-02-20

New (real) History

This is a well researched historical book. It's sure to ruffle more than a few feathers. A lot of misinformation passed down over the years is mainly because very few ever researched the information such as Schaberg has. They just took it as being true and never questioned much of anything when it came to Bill or Dr. Bob. The absolute truth will never be known so what we are left with is what was more likely rather than less likely. This is the "more likely". The author kept well within the bounds of the title leaving out any of the other questionable dealings going on at the time or as a result of the book. Thus the 5 stars for the Story.
Having a female be the voice of Bill and Bob is at the very least a major distraction if not a slight. Imagine a male narrator for HRC's book! They might want to redo this one.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chas4604
  • 03-01-21

Important history not so great narration

The narration is rough. For some reason makes every member of aa sound as if there an 80 year old man. Horribly distracting.

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  • M. Averett
  • 21-12-20

The reader is horrible. He intonations and voices are bad

Way too much time spent on trivial details. A wrong date. Sort of tears Bill down. History I love. Lots of work. I think better read than listened to

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  • AreJay Peters
  • 15-12-20

enlightening

research and a historians touch enlightens the reader to a different situation at the time and around the writing of the big book Alcoholics Anonymous

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-11-20

and then dipped history of AA early days

how about this book on a suggestion from a friend. I thoroughly enjoyed it it was very interesting there were a couple of parts in it that drug a little bit but I was able to skip through them through the Audio I would highly recommend it to anybody that's interested in AAA in the early days.

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  • Bldgdiva
  • 23-10-20

Interesting story with abundance of speculation

This long tale was obviously researched , and I dropped the rating due to the inflections and presumptions that take effect often to fill in where fact is lacking. I wanted somewhat less presumption than “it is likely that...” and “probably” and; although we don’t actually know, it seems supportable that this and so is what must have happened. I felt throughout that, while filled with so much information, I would have found it much more credible with authors assertions unbiased. Still, fascinating view of early days.

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  • Matt
  • 19-09-20

Just read please

Natasha Soudek does a nice job when she just reads. When she tries to act I find the voices sound roughly the same and. the voice she chooses makes it a bit difficult to distinguish what she is saying at times. Later in the book there is less of this and her performance is the better for it.

As far as the text is concerned it is a nice contribution to the lexicon of AA histories and like several of the works produced in the last couple of decades goes a good way to correcting much of the received view. There are times when Schaberg goes a bit far in making his point. That being said, this account is the most comprehensive as the existing dissertations, conference presentations, articles, online resources, and books produced to this point were each more economical in scope.

There are points where Schaberg falls short of previous work and these are mostly in the area of not addressing source material Wilson used in constructing the text. Instead we get regurgitation of the text. Nowhere is this more evident than his discussion of "We Agnostics." Looking forward to how he would show how certain parts were lifted from other spiritual texts, we get nothing but the "received view." This is particularly disheartening when one considers the extent to which he goes on to try to explain the identity of the typists for the myriad of letters he discusses.

I would suggest this text to AA members and all interested in learning about the fellowship. However, I would suggest that both the written and Audio copies be bought, because the parts that bring really new insights will be fitting to cite to others.

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  • fitz951
  • 05-04-20

Female voice with all male characters

If I didn’t want so desperately to listen to this book, I’d have turned it off in the first chapter. It was like chewing tin foil to hear the narrator gravel her voice to sound like a man. A book with 99% men characters should be done over with a male narrator. I know I’m not the only person to feel this way. NOBODY who I know who has bought the audible version has felt comfortable with her reading, including mostly women and including my wife.

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  • Wet
  • 16-03-20

Splitting Hairs

I found that the over is really splitting hairs and under the circumstances at the time this book was all they had to try and help the world with this incurable disease. I was dismayed why they used a woman narrator this is hard to comprehend especially when the narrator trys to emulate a deep mans voice. It seems the author wants more than anything to disprove the the timeline and the motives of most involved.