5 Books to Make You Consider Quitting Drinking

5 Books to Make You Consider Quitting Drinking

You’ve made it through the controlled-skid of heightened consumption that is the holiday season: office holiday parties (too much Pinot Grigio—check), family functions (two Grappas and Baba au Rhum—check), the excessively-priced dinner out to end the year on a high note (second bottle of Pinot Noir—check). January comes, and you’re wrecked, defeated—toxic. So, you pledge a “Janopause,” loosely defined as taking a booze time-out for that cruelest month, January ( T.S. Eliotnotwithstanding). Need to commiserate? Need a friend to go along with you for the bumpy, un-buzzed ride? Might be hard to find, so here are five books that will help you see that your abstinence might not be that bad of an idea—at least, until February 1 at 5:01 p.m.!

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    1. Drinking: A Love Story

    A young columnist for a Boston alternative weekly, Caroline Knapp’s outwardly appearing life seemed charmed: She came from a good family, was Ivy-league educated, and was living her dream as a writer. Inside, however, was a different matter, “roiling and chaotic and desperately secretive underneath, but not noticeably so, never noticeably so,” as she wrote. Harrowingly honest, Drinking: A Love Story was a New York Timesbestseller and became one of the most heralded confessional memoirs of the 1990s.

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    2. Women

    The lowlife can look not-so-bad after a whiskey or five. Charles Bukowski’s fictional doppleganger, Henry Chinaski, has finally made it as a known-quantity poet, pursued by the idle rich and younger hangers-on. Mr. Chinaski, unrepentant when it comes to his prodigious drinking, revels in his fame. The black humor and, um, “candid” sex scenes belie a broken man paralyzed emotionally by drink.

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    3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

    You probably didn’t expect to see an award-winning, illustrated young adult book among the books in this article, but that’s part of the genius of Sherman Alexie. Poverty, discrimination, and rampant alcoholism and drug abuse characterize the Native American experience in this book, which did not escape controversy by those who felt it was too harsh for younger readers. Alexie defended himself, saying, “I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book.” Shining a light on the realities of his own reservation experiences, he argues, might just help those suffering under those unresolved socio-economic problems now.

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    4. Money

    The subtitle of this 1984 novel is A Suicide Note, which should give you an idea that all the carousing, zany urbanity, and vice—it’s essentially a buddy comedy, a kind of perverted Mad Men set in the 1980s—serves to camouflage a group of sad, somewhat broken men and countless languid mornings. It has been said that legendary drinker and close friend of Amis, Christopher Hitchens, “helped research” the brothel scene. With over-drinking, over-eating, and over-consumption of just about whatever’s put in front of these characters, this is perhaps the seminal novel of the 1980s experience—and we all know how that decade ended.

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    5. A Million Little Pieces

    James Frey’s debut was an early 21st-century cause célèbre, as it went from Oprah’s Book Club Pick—as a memoir—to what it’s now largely considered as: a “semi-fictional” work. (The take-down happening at the hands of early Internet-era skeptics site The Smoking Gun.) The novel focuses on Frey’s stay in a rehab facility. A ten-year alcoholic and three-year crack addict, he’s told that he can stop using or die. But dying seems easier than fighting to kill the “Fury” within him, the violent force that causes his drinking. Despite sitting in a veracity no-man’s land now, the book paints a brutal portrait of the wasteland created around a person consumed by consumption.

Kelly Gallucci
Far too busy rereading the Harry Potter series, Kelly finds that her greatest literary sin is that she neglected to read classics like The Shining and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In between overseeing the editorial content for Bookish, holding interviews with authors like Leigh Bardugo and Victoria Schwab, and creating book recommendations for Kanye West—Kelly’s trying to catch up on the books she missed out on. She just finished The Great Gatsby and might be in love with Fitzg. Kelly received her B.A. in English Writing from Marist College and her M.A. in Screenwriting from National University of Ireland, Galway. She is a Gryffindor.

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