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Writing the Big Book  By  cover art

Writing the Big Book

By: William H. Schaberg
Narrated by: Natasha Soudek
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Publisher's 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

What listeners say about Writing the Big Book

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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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Brilliant research and Fascinating information

Bill Wilson was a good man, & a great writer. And, he & his friends lived fascinating lives. They were religious evangelists, who preached a simplistic form of monotheism. To this day, millions of people, throughout the 🌎, follow their beliefs, & it makes them happy. If anyone, is interested in AA, to any extent, then they will definitely enjoy this 📖 📕 📘 📗 📓 📚.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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A must listen about early AA

Detailed information, great narrator, fascinating subject.

In my almost 11 years of sobriety, I've read the big book from cover to cover at least 2 dozen times. I was intensely curious about how it was written and how early AA evolved from the Oxford group, and this book was a thorough treatment of that topic.

My opinion on the big book has vacillated from it being perfect, to being terribly flawed, finally settling on it being an inspired work, heavily edited, full of parables - but ultimately Bill Wilson's best effort that has endured for 80 years and nearly 40 million copies.

The book is 37+ hours, and took me a month to finish, but it doesn't pretend to be anything other than an exhaustive chronicle of every available document from late 1934 through spring of 1939, as well as significant original text that was ultimately edited and discarded. It's an incredible glimpse into human nature, motivation, and consensus building that is very objective without being unnecessarily critical of some very flawed human beings and how they transformed the world.

Ultimately, after finishing this audiobook, I'm in even greater awe of Bill and those pioneering AAs because the concept, idea, and book succeeded IN SPITE of their human shortcomings. I think that proves a power greater than themselves was involved.

This book is not for everybody, but for me it was well worth the time to listen to it all.

1 person found this helpful

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Outstanding ACCURATE presentation of how the 1st edition of the AA Big Book came in to being!

Having been around now with a couple of days of sobriety under my belt and having read just about every other Conference approved literature, I am fascinated with these facts and how they don’t necessarily jive with what most of us think happened. In no way whatsoever does this exhaustive review take anything away from the program of action. It is just a very interesting presentation of the facts as they actually occurred.

1 person found this helpful

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finally the mysterious story unfolded

the time-line, narration, explanations are wonderful, clear, and easy to listen to. The narrator is terrific as using inflection and speech patterns to clearly differentiate between the different story tellers.
900+ pages explain how 164 pages were written. I see some humor in that. This book was a joy to listen to.

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May have new insights, but dull ,I didnt get any.

Clearly based on research, includes lots or trival to show it, not that interesting

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Deeply informative!

What an amazing history of the writing of one of the most important books ever written. Incredibly in depth, I am so happy to have listened to this, I think if a lot of members of AA only knew the amount of work that went into this and also the discussions and debates about the religious aspect people would understand how hard it was to write this book.

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An amazing historical literary book.

Shaberg’s writing style was great. I’m an art historian and a recovering alcoholic. I don’t know if that may have helped me with my total praise and enjoyment for the book. I read and listened to the book at the same time. Most of the time I would listen during my drive to and from work and read what I had listened to the day before. Soudek’s narration of the book at was perfect. She picked up on, and performed perfectly, Shaberg’s subtle humorous and sarcastic writing style. I loved it! It answered many questions and rumors I had about AA. Although, It also created many more questions. Bill Wilson was an amazing man in the book, however Hank Parkhurst was the unsung hero of the book. His life was an eye opener and very sad. Schaberg brings to life the many unknown people who really truly deserve to be remembered. If your a student of AA, like I am, it’s a must read. It’s a tough book, but like the real Big Book it’s a great book.

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Annoying voice

I like the story and most of it i had not heard before even though I have been a member for a long time. It is annoying to have a person mimicking Bill’s voice (or other males) just have a male read it.

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  • Alan Jobling
  • 12-06-21

A must for anyone interested in AA Big Book histor

Having studied the BB for many years. This was high on my history research into how the book came about and has become THE source of recovery for so many.

Full of in depth facts, that do sometimes go against what I thought I knew. Yes its quite lengthy but I highly recommend for any AA enthusiasts.

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  • Client Kindle
  • 06-16-20

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.